Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mental reservation is deception. and some lies are not only good, but a duty

Ten or so years from now when the persecution begins

and it's your turn to stand in front of the incinerator door. And you are asked “Do you renounce your Faith” And you answer “Yes”

With the mental reservation that you are not renouncing your Catholic Faith but are instead renouncing your faith in the government of this accursed land. And they throw you into the incinerator anyway after your renunciation. Will you go to heaven, because up until that renunciation you were in a state of grace? Or will you go to hell?

When I ask my daughter if she made this mess and she answers her sister did it-- while knowing full well she was also involved in the mess making-- is she lying? Or is she just making a mental reservation which is ok because that isn’t lying and it's my error for not making the correct deductions from her answer?

“She is my sister”. - - - -
But that wasn’t the question, and Abraham knew it wasn’t the question, and he knew his answer would deceive. Spin it anyway you want. It’s a lie no different than if he had said No, she is not my wife. Just as it’s a lie when our children try the same misdirection on us where the punishment just increased because of the deception.

Not that mental reservations cannot be used. But let’s get real, they are what they are, and pretending they’re not intended to deceive, which is what lying finally is, is just nonsense.

We don't put up with it when our own children try it, but yet we're supposed to consider it acceptable when Abraham does the same? Even when his mental reservation would have lead to an evil being committed which is far worse than anything our children could manage. To wit: "Behold, you are a dead man, because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a man's wife"

It would be better that many millions of children die of starvation in extremist agony, than that I should say to my daughter but once :

“I have seen fairies dance by rain light in the midsummer morn.” And this is a photograph of one who was off by herself and unaware of my presence until the shutter click caused her to evaporate into a dewy mist before my eyes.
“The Catholic Church holds it better for the Sun and Moon to drop from Heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremist agony … than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.”
by Cardinal Newman, a popular quote making the rounds in Catholic blogdom.

“One wilful untruth”?

And I just told several willful untruths about fairies. Did I commit a sinful act?

Are our folk traditions and courtesy built on sinful acts?

Is it evil for a father to say to his child, “the sandman put sand in your eyes” or for a mother to say to her toddler, “where’s Mary, I can’t find her”.?

Is it evil for a guest to say to his host that he enjoyed the dinner when he did no such thing? Or for a husband when asked by his wife how she looks in a dress to answer she looks perfect when she simply doesn’t?

Common sense tells us they are not evil but are actually good. Does anyone ever list these and similar among their sins resolving to never to do the same?
“Holy Scripture forbids us to lie even to save a man’s life. If, then, we allow the lie of necessity, there seems to be no reason from the theological point of view for not allowing occasional murder and fornication when these crimes would procure great temporal advantage; the absolute character of the moral law will be undermined, it will be reduced to a matter of mere expediency.”
by Pope Innocent III, another popular quote also making the rounds in Catholic blogdom.

Not "even to save a man’s life”?

Would a father stand by and let his daughter be raped and murdered when he knows full well with virtual certitude that her protection is within his power by telling a falsehood?

How would he be judged by his kin when it comes to light that he could have prevented her from being raped and murdered?

Would he be judged honorable? Or judged deserving of being thrown down a deep well?

I suspect he would be judged worthy of the bottom of the well because people by nature tend to see the spirit of the law when they use their common sense.

The same common sense which would guide a father to say that falsehood to save his daughter. Now common sense is not an argument according to principle, but it is an argument according to that which is first better known to us.

Common sense tells us that not everyone goes to hell except perhaps 5 people per year. Common sense tells us that God did not make men as vessels of wrath. Common sense tells us that its not a sin for women to show their elbows in public. Common sense directs us in everyday life to live as the social creatures that God made us.

Common sense tells a father what to say when his daughter's life hangs in the balance, (playing mental reservation word games are acceptable in the calm of the parlour), but they are not acceptable in real life when the stakes are your daughter's life and failure is not an option.

Not using common sense is why so many heresies spring to life. Someone finds some point of contention which seems unresolvable except by accepting some extreme notion which by all other reckoning lacks common sense. What is lacking is simple moderation.

As with virtue which is found in the mean between extremes, so as with much of life, correct action is found not in the extreme, but in the mean. A mean where a good first guide for discerning that mean is by using common sense.

What common sense does is tell us what those extremes and means are. Common sense is both intuitive and cultural.

As intuitive we have a sense of the moral limits and what willful falsehoods can be said and what willful falsehoods cannot be said. Just as we similarly know our duties, such as a father knowing his duty to protect his family.

As cultural, we are given the limits of propriety and folk traditions, we're taught how to act and interact with each other so as to know when lies which are not evil can be said because they are not only not evil, but are good because we cannot as social animals live without them.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Friend, Common sense cannot possible tell us how many souls go to Hell in a given day; that is a matter for Divine Revelation. And the Gospels quoted Our Lord as saying to enter through the narrow gate...few find it...