Kicking them while they are down for Jesus

May 29, 2013 § 68 Comments

It has been suggested that it is morally acceptable for pro-life operatives to lie to abortion clinic workers, requesting an abortion that one does not intend to carry out, because clinic workers are already known to be formally cooperating in other abortions.

On top of the naked consequentialism in this approach to lying, it completely inverts the moral theology of scandal.

Under the moral theology of scandal even an otherwise morally acceptable behavior – which lying is not – can be sinful if it leads another person to sin.  Formal cooperation with evil – like a clinic worker agreeing to help someone get an abortion, or a slut agreeing to sleep with her seducer – is sinful.  Formal cooperation with evil is sinful even when the intention to do evil is thwarted by circumstances.  A tempter who is lying is just such a circumstance.

The moral theology of scandal is directed toward the protection of those who are vulnerable to temptation.  Even if an action is not evil in itself, it can become evil if it tempts another person to form an evil intention or perform an evil act.  The fact that a person may be a habitual sinner in general does not remotely begin to excuse specifically and deliberately creating the near occasion for a specific, new sin.

§ 68 Responses to Kicking them while they are down for Jesus

  • The Continental Op says:

    The running of “sting” operations by various “law” agencies falls into this category. I found it evil that the FBI, for example, would lead people into crime. “Let us do evil that good may come of it” is the exact reasoning offered.

    Since you’re back philosophizing, I have a related question: What about deception in the context of military operations and everything involved in intelligence work, including spying and counter-intelligence?

    These seem to me to be part of the Total War package.

  • CaseyAnn says:

    Oh, what a fantastic title! I can’t believe I’ve never thought about this issue before. If put in the position, I know my conscience would not allow me to go through with it myself, but I have watched videos previously of audio recordings from well-intentioned pro-life organizations and never recognized the error.

    The real issue is the angle by which these organizations try to expose the entire industry’s lies. They believe that by showing people how corrupt Planned Parenthood is, they will convert people’s hearts. I’m not so sure how effective that can be.

  • Jim Russell says:

    Hi, Zippy–I remain confused. Are you *really* asserting that someone who comes to work on a given day, ready and willing to sell you an abortion, sitting under a corporate logo that is equivalent to “Please, let me sell you an abortion” is “tempted to sin” by someone coming into this “sell-you-an-abortion” business and *asking* about the details of how they sell you an abortion?? And this is scandalous?

    Two other questions: 1) Are you willing to also accuse *every* client who comes into PP asking about abortion of “tempting” the PP worker “to sin”? I’d assume you must be, given that the PP worker has no idea who is undercover and who is not, and therefore has no way of distinguishing between being “tempted to sin” in one case and not the other. So, *every* client tempts the workers to sin?

    2) Why do you not assert the personal responsibility of the PP worker to avoid the near occasion of sin? Such a worker–particularly those experiencing even the slightest crisis of conscience over their job–has the moral *obligation* to avoid this near occasion of sin. In not avoiding it, whatever “temptation” to this sin they experience is a result of their own failure, *particularly* since the undercover investigators don’t arrive thinking to themselves, “Gee, I can’t *wait* to tempt this worker who wants to sell me an abortion by getting them to talk about selling me a *pretend* abortion that I have no intention of buying or agreeing to…”

    Yep, I’m confused….God bless,
    Deacon JR

  • Zippy says:

    Jim Russell:

    1) Certainly. Though, as I did in the OP, I would most likely use language characterizing acts not language accusing persons. That’s how I roll.

    2) Because avoiding the occasion of sin isn’t the subject of the post.

  • Zippy says:

    The Continental Op:
    Since you’re back philosophizing, I have a related question: What about deception in the context of military operations and everything involved in intelligence work, including spying and counter-intelligence?

    Generally speaking it is a fair question, but I intentionally took the tack in this post of stipulating (albiet in an unsympathetic way) whatever anyone wants to believe about the moral theology of lying.

    Even the “it isn’t lying unless the person has a right to the truth” types can’t avoid the fact that, quite apart from the question of lying, what is being defended is asking someone to do evil; and that one’s act will fail if the person asked does not in fact form an intention to do evil. If the “sting” is to succeed, the operative must convince his target to form an intention to do evil. This is therefore and necessarily formal cooperation with evil, which is always morally wrong.

    These seem to me to be part of the Total War package.

    Agreed, and good insight.

  • Jim Russell says:

    Interesting. Thanks for clarifying–now it becomes clear that even an unmarried pregnant woman, coerced by an abusive boyfriend, shows up at the PP office as a “tempter.” Who knew?

    Btw, it should be noted that, by the same logic, this conversation really shouldn’t be happening, as it represents a “near occasion of sin”–particularly the sin of *dissension*–for so many readers.

    You and I, Zippy, are “tempting others to sin” right now, at least according to the same reasoning employed above, in my view. How can we justify discussing such divisive issues when they present the near occasion of sin to others?

  • Zippy says:

    Jim Russell:
    now it becomes clear that even an unmarried pregnant woman, coerced by an abusive boyfriend, shows up at the PP office as a “tempter.”

    If she is voluntarily, of her own free will, asking someone to do evil, that’s right. Coercion is of course an entirely different subject, and therefore a red herring.

    You and I, Zippy, are “tempting others to sin” right now, at least according to the same reasoning employed above, in my view.

    I am not asking anyone to do evil right now. In fact, if people form evil intentions because of my speech acts that means my speech acts have failed.

    On the other hand the “sting” operative’s speech acts fail only when the target does not form an intention to do evil. In order to succeed, the sting operative has to prompt the target to form an evil intention.

  • Jim Russell says:

    Here is the problem–the intention to sell an abortion already *exists* on the part of the worker. It is this intention upon which the entire conversation is based. It is *never* the case that the client comes in and says “will you kill my baby” and the worker has not, until that point, already *formed* the intention to sell the abortion *prior* to the arrival of *that* client. The evil intention on the part of the worker–yes, the intention to assist with “this” potential abortion being discussed at that moment–existed well *prior* to the meeting. Otherwise there would be no *point* in the meeting taking place!

    Your reasoning is entirely backwards. The “conversation” begins with PP hanging up a sign that says “We want to sell you an abortion.”

    Furthermore, the formed intention to sell you *this* abortion and to commit the evil of *this* abortion is entirely conditioned upon whether you actually *pay* for the abortion being discussed at that moment. So, while the worker already possesses the precisely formed evil intention to sell abortion (including to sell *this* abortion IF paid for) looong before the meeting takes place, the willingness to participate in *this* abortion is entirely conditioned on whether it is *bought*. No purchase, then no avenue to realize the pre-existing intention.

    I presume it’s crystal clear that undercover investigators aren’t actually *buying* a pretend abortion? They don’t put money down for it, do they? So the worker *never* has the opportunity to properly form a specific evil intention to go through with “this” abortion. The pre-existing evil intention of “selling abortion” is all there is.

    Deacon JR

  • Zippy says:

    Jim Russell:
    Here is the problem–the intention to sell an abortion already *exists* on the part of the worker.

    Not the intention to kill that specific child carried by that specific mother.

  • Jim Russell says:

    Zippy–that’s just incorrect. The very *reason* for the meeting is *because* there already exists a properly formed, though conditioned by payment, evil intention on the part of the worker to *sell* “this” abortion to “this” mother carrying “this” child. Otherwise they wouldn’t be meeting. As long as there is payment, this is precisely the pre-existing moral intention of the worker.

    Now the kicker is that the undercover folks don’t actually pay for their pretend abortion, right? Which means that even this evil intention, being conditioned upon whether payment occurs, can’t even be properly formed in the case of investigators posing as clients.

  • Zippy says:

    Jim Russell:

    *because* there already exists a properly formed, though conditioned by payment, evil intention on the part of the worker to *sell* “this” abortion to “this” mother carrying “this” child.

    That is metaphysically impossible, because the clinic worker doesn’t even know that those specific people exist prior to the sting operation.

    I have a new post explaining the same thing in different words, if that is helpful. Basically the good effect sought by the sting operative is contingent upon an evil effect of his act qua sting operative – the formation of specific intentions on the part of clinic workers to kill that specific child.

    Any act such that the intended good effects are caused by and contingent upon evil effects fails double-effect, and is therefore morally illicit.

  • Zippy says:

    Of course someone might argue that an abortion clinic worker forming an intention to kill a specific child isn’t evil. But if someone starts arguing as much, I’d be inclined to simply say that my work here is done.

  • Jim Russell says:

    Zippy, you wrote: “That is metaphysically impossible, because the clinic worker doesn’t even know that those specific people exist prior to the sting operation.”

    This is incorrect. Play out the scenario in real time. The PP worker is somehow made aware, either through prior arrangement or via a walk-up appointment, that there is a potential client who wants to meet. Even without any other information about the client–whether pregnant, etc.–the clear intention of the PP worker is to enter the meeting room *ready* to sell an abortion to “this” client and kill “this” child, assuming there is a pregnancy and assuming the client will pay. The evil moral intention of the PP worker *must* exist prior to entering a meeting in which the potential outcome will be an abortion sold to a client. I mean, it’s not like the clients and the workers are there to play canasta, and whoa! out of nowhere comes the request “will you help me kill my baby”! The workers enter *every* meeting knowing–and fully morally intending–to sell “this” abortion to “this” client.

    PP is a *business*–selling abortion is how they make money. It’s inherently obvious that every worker goes into every meeting with a specifically formed moral intention to get money from “this” client by selling them “this” abortion that will kill “this” child.

    I’d assert that it’s almost metaphysically impossible to intend anything else….

  • Zippy says:

    Jim Russell:
    The evil moral intention of the PP worker *must* exist prior to entering a meeting in which the potential outcome will be an abortion sold to a client.

    Are you suggesting that when a serial killer chooses a specific target for murder, that – the choice of a specific target for murder – is not morally evil? Because the serial killer is already a murderer with generally murderous intentions, he does nothing morally wrong when he picks out his next specific victim?

  • Jim Russell says:

    Zippy writes:”Are you suggesting that when a serial killer chooses a specific target for murder, that – the choice of a specific target for murder – is not morally evil? Because the serial killer is already a murderer with generally murderous intentions, he does nothing morally wrong when he picks out his next specific victim?”

    Actually, I’m suggesting that the exact opposite of that scenario is happening in the PP worker example–the “serial killer” (the PP worker) has *already* selected his/her “next specific victim” *before* entering the meeting room. Any such worker meeting with any potential client has already “targeted” the next victim–again, assuming the money is there. In that sense it’s more like a hired assassin than a serial killer.

    E.g., the hired assassin is told that his next victim, job already paid for, is victim “X” in the next room. The assassin doesn’t care about “who” X really is, as long as X is really in the room, X is the “next victim”. The intention to kill X is vividly prior to entering the room. And it’s evil.

  • Zippy says:

    Those are a whole lotta words attempting to conflate specific and nonspecific, it seems to me, and to handwave away the concrete choice of a specific victim as an (apparently) morally acceptable act.

    Is or is not a serial killer choosing a specific victim a morally neutral act?

    In any case, the sting operator isn’t actually in the next room before the sting. So once again you run into the problem of the literal metaphysical impossibility of the specific intention prior to the sting operator’s own acts – acts intended quite precisely to elicit that specific evil intention, as a necessary prerequisite to the good effects the sting operator intends.

  • Jim Russell says:

    Here’s an idea, Zippy, why don’t you give some examples of some reasonable pre-existing moral intentions on the mind of a PP worker as he/she begins the day at work. What might be on a worker’s mind? Maybe not getting fired? Maybe doing the job assigned? Maybe realizing the corporate bottom line relies upon whether they sell abortions that day?

    I think I have proposed a perfectly reasonable scenario for a pre-existing moral intention necessarily involved in working in that environment. Maybe I’m missing some otherwise innocent intentions that permit such a worker to go into a meeting and experiencing the “temptation” to abortion.

    When your job, btw, is to kill or to sell the death of the unborn, your “target” is specific enough–whatever baby might be in “that” room that the mom wants to kill. Obviously that’s as “specific” as one can get with the unborn, isn’t it?

  • Jim Russell says:

    You also wrote: “In any case, the sting operator isn’t actually in the next room before the sting. So once again you run into the problem of the literal metaphysical impossibility of the specific intention prior to the sting operator’s own acts – acts intended quite precisely to elicit that specific evil intention, as a necessary prerequisite to the good effects the sting operator intends.”

    This is not so. What I am saying is that it is virtually metaphysically impossible that the *worker* would go into a meeting with *any* client–undercover or genuine–without *already* having formed the evil moral intention to sell an abortion. The worker’s very presence in such a meeting is the nonverbal equivalent of–before *anything* else is said or done–“I am here to sell you an abortion if you want one and can pay for it.”

  • Zippy says:

    Jim Russell:
    Best as I can tell, that is just an elaborate way of saying that choosing a specific victim is not immoral.

  • Jim Russell says:

    What can you possibly mean here by “choosing a specific victim”? How does one go about “choosing a specific victim” when the victim in question is an unborn baby? What has to happen? Does the worker need to somehow “see” the victim? Is an ultrasound necessary in order to “choose” the victim?

    No, Zippy, far from being an “elaborate way of saying” that choosing a specific victim is not immoral, what I’m actually saying is quite un-elaborate. The PP worker has already *chosen* the specific “victim” of “this” abortion before the worker even sits down to meet the unborn victim’s mother.

    In the LA case, it is actually a *relief* to learn that, in such a case of a pregnant undercover investigator meeting with the worker, the already-chosen “victim” is really not at risk because the mother is not there to pay for a real abortion.

    It’s simply absurd to claim that a worker is being “tempted to sin” when the worker is there–and *always* there–under the rubric of “I am here to take the money of any client who wants to pay us to kill her baby” or the rubric of “I fully intend to participate in the abortion of *any* baby whose mother pays us to commit the abortion.”

    *Every* time a worker meets a client, the evil moral intention *already* exists in that worker to help that mother kill the child, if the mother wants to and pays them for their “services.” No additional intentionality is needed, especially none arising from the actual conversation with the mother.

  • Jim Russell says:

    Here is an illustration of the absurdity of the “tempting to sin” claim in general. Your claim is that every mother who sits down as a client is “tempting” the PP worker “to sin” because the worker has to form a brand-new moral intention to help abort “this” particular unborn baby.

    What happens to this supposedly “specific” intentionality when the abortionist discovers during the abortion that the mother is actually carrying *twins* and did not know it?

    Was the mother guilty of “tempting” the worker “to sin” regarding the *second* child? The second child ends up just as dead as the first.

    Is the worker somehow absolved from being complicit in the abortion of the *second* child since he/she never properly formed the “specific intention” of killing “this” child, the second child?

  • Zippy says:

    What is absurd is the notion that discovering a twin and choosing to kill that new victim is morally neutral.

  • Jim Russell says:

    Certainly that’s absurd. That’s exactly the point. This *second* evil act of abortion would of course include the fact that both the PP worker and mother were completely morally complicit in the death of the second child. Despite not having formed *any* “specific” moral intention whatsoever regarding aborting this second child.

    Why are they complicit and culpable? Precisely because they possessed a pre-existing and NON-specific moral intention to sell/buy/commit abortion. This evil intention applies to a singleton, a twin, a triplet, etc., and it *precedes* any claim of being “tempted to sin” by a conversation about such an act.

  • Zippy says:

    Jim Russell:
    Despite not having formed *any* “specific” moral intention whatsoever regarding aborting this second child.

    I can almost believe that you really don’t see that deliberately killing the second child does, actually, require a new, specific intention to kill the second child.

  • Jim Russell says:

    “I can almost believe that you really don’t see that deliberately killing the second child does, actually, require a new, specific intention to kill the second child.”

    Upon discovery, the *abortionist* forms that “deliberate” intention–the PP worker and the mother have formed *no* specific “deliberate” intention pertaining to an unknown second childe and yet are culpable for this second death.

    Or do you disagree? Are the mother and the PP worker who sold the abortion complicit in the death of the second child, or not?

  • Zippy says:

    I do find it odd that you think this whole line of argument helps exonerate pro-life sting operations.

    Obviously, the people involved in the acts of the moment are the ones forming further and more specific intentions. The clinic worker may start her day with the idea that she will help whomever comes in the door with a “crisis pregnancy” get an abortion. Then when someone actually comes in, she forms the further, more specific intention to help that particular person abort that particular child.

    In order for the sting operation to succeed, the pro-life operative has to convince the clinic worker to form one of these further, specific intentions — to do various things to assist that particular mother in killing that particular child – as a means to the end of getting incriminating footage.

    Now, all of these intentions, from the more general to the more specific, are morally evil.

    But that doesn’t help any argument in favor of the moral liciety of the pro-life operative’s acts. In order for the pro-life operative’s acts to pass a double-effect test, it cannot be the case that achieving his intended end depends on any evil effects of his act. But it does depend on that: it depends on him convincing (through some means or other) the clinic worker to form and act on specific evil intentions, and will fail if the clinic worker does not do so.

  • Jim Russell says:

    The undercover investigator is not *required* to pass any double-effect test at all. And what makes you think the PP worker ever actually *does* form a “specific” intention to kill “this” child in the sense you keep referring to, based upon interaction with the mother? Many such workers do not consider the “products of conception” to *be* a child. These workers are focused on sales, not implementation. And it’s ludicrous to suggest they are being “tempted” to sell abortions.

    This “temptation to sin” accusation is just erroneous armchair theology at work here, to be honest.

  • Jim Russell says:

    Zippy–here’s my concluding thought–you assert that the undercover operative is trying to get the PP worker to form a specific intention to collaborate in an abortion. I emphatically deny that this is the case. Rather it is the pre-existing specific intention to collaborate in an abortion that is the very *reason* for the meeting in the first place. The “client” has no *need* to form this moral intention because the “client” already recognizes the intention is *there*.

    Further, the “client” cannot add a more “specific” intention to the already-present intention to sell abortion, because there really is NO abortion to be bought by the investigator. The “client” is no “tempter” because there is nothing left to “tempt” the worker with. The worker already *intends* to be a collaborator looong beforehand, and no actual abortion is purchased.

    Why would anyone try to make this flawed accusation stick? Why foment unnecessary dissension?

  • Silly Interloper says:

    It seems to me, JR, that you have chosen only to observe and acknowledge one small cross-section–or even just a point–of how an individual engages in and is tempted to evil, and have refused to acknowledge the plainly evident workings of evil in all of it’s dimensions and manifestations. And you have furthermore refused to believe that sin and evil can be observed in any other space than that infinitesimal point upon which you have your magnifying glass directed.

    I’m not sure how to help with that other than stating it.

    It’s as if you believe the demons at work will get the PP employee in the room and then quit. Their job is done, so there is no need to drag them into more specific evils, or other kinds of evils, or other opportunities for evil, or ways to *cement* that evil with more specific situations. I’m sure there are uncountable ways to temptation and evil that would still exist when I exhaust my own speculation. But you want to *only* consider one for the purpose of judging all others. That’s ridiculous.

    It seems to me, you are the proverbial blind man yanking on the elephant’s trunk and calling it a snake. But you’ve gone a step further and refused to acknowledge the stink at the other end might be part of it.

    Denying the actual incident of an actual person making an actual decision to do evil by claiming it is a part of a general decision is just plain denying reality that is plain and obvious.

  • William Luse says:

    Deacon Jim has trouble separating the inclination to commit murder in general from the definite intent to murder this very specific individual, as though the clinic worker were guilty of a disposition toward a thing rather than the thing itself. Consequentialists always have to work it like that.

    But I have to ask, Zippy: how is my scruple against lying supposed to overcome the delight I take in watching Lila Rose expose these murderous scumbags? Well, never mind. I guess that’s outside the scope of your post.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    I’m generally with your side of the argument, if for no other reason than when the pro-life operative has the option to ask the clinician to quit and repent, she chose to entrap.

    All I know is that I’m glad when my Sinner shingle was hung out (You know: Way back when; not like now. Ha.) somebody gave me the chance instead of just documenting proof of my evil.

    That’s Satan’s domain. He’s the original entrapment artist.

  • deaconjr says:

    Let’s review–the assertion being made is that it is possible for any PP client to “tempt to the sin of selling an abortion” any PP *worker* by merely having the client sit down to discuss the “service” they sell.

    It is not an overstatement to say that this is patently false for two reasons:

    1. The worker already possesses the precise intention to sell an abortion well before meeting with a potential client. One can no longer be “tempted” to commit a sin that one has *already* chosen to commit.

    2. No further “specific” intention to sell an abortion of “this” baby (in “that” mother’s womb) can be formed unless and *until* the *sale* has been agreed upon. Prior to the actual sale, there can be no further explicit and specific intention on the worker’s part to participate in the death of “this” woman’s child.

    I remain eager to learn just how much money is being spent at PP to procure fictitious abortions.

  • Zippy says:

    JR:
    Replace “tempt to the sin of selling an abortion” with “prompt to formally cooperate in evil.” When the clinic worker handed the sting operative a clip board to fill out in preparation for doing an interview to consider the possibility of abortion, the clinic worker did moral evil; moral evil deliberately prompted by the sting operative; moral evil that is part of the sting operative’s plans: a required means to her end.

  • deaconjr says:

    Well, no, Zippy–it should be self-evident that in the case of an undercover investigator who knows well beforehand that she’s obviously NOT going to procure a real abortion, she has *no* intention whatsoever to get the worker to cooperate in a *real* abortion. The woman posing as client cannot *possibly* form the intention to “prompt the worker to formally cooperate in evil” because she already knows there won’t *be* any evil to cooperate in. It’s absurd to conclude otherwise.

    Secondly, to claim that a “moral evil” is being done when the “clip board” is handed to the client–and that this evil is the *client’s* fault!–is equally absurd, given that the worker is *required* by the *employer* to hand the clipboard to the client.

    Prior to *any* consideration of what is or isn’t a “required means” to the end chosen by the operative, it is *already* demonstrated that this act is essential to the *worker’s* pre-existing evil intention and is prompted by the *worker* and not the client.

    There is no way around it–you can’t “tempt” somebody to do something they’ve already committed to do and are in the very act of doing….

  • Zippy says:

    JR:
    she has *no* intention whatsoever to get the worker to cooperate in a *real* abortion.

    Right. She very much intends – and acts upon the intention in various ways – to prompt the worker to intend to formally cooperate in what the worker thinks is a real abortion though. In fact she has to get the worker to intend that and to act upon that intention (clip board etc), or there won’t be any useful sting footage.

    So is it evil, or is it not evil, to intend to cooperate in what one thinks is a real abortion? If it is evil to intend to cooperate in what one thinks is a real abortion, then it is also evil to deliberately prompt someone to intend to cooperate in what she thinks is a real abortion, as a means to any end.

    Defense of the putative liciety of pro-life sting operations depends, quite manifestly, on it being morally acceptable to intend to cooperate in what one thinks is a real abortion; because if the worker doesn’t intend to cooperate in what she thinks is a real abortion, the sting operation fails. Therefore the worker intending to cooperate in what she thinks is a real abortion is a necessary means to the end of getting useful sting footage.

    So a sting operation’s success depends upon using deliberately prompted moral evil as a means to an end. (This applies to sting operations where the target is prompted to commit moral evil generally, not just anti-abortion sting operations).

    This is never licit, because it is not morally acceptable to do evil in order that good may come of it.

  • Jim Russell says:

    Once more: It is *absurd* to claim that someone can “get” someone else to “cooperate” in an act that they have already *committed* themselves to doing and are already in the *act* of doing.

    There is no “this” abortion in the undercover work. And there is no “tempting to cooperate in ‘this’ abortion”–no *possible* moral intention on the part of the investigator–if there is no “this” abortion.

    And again, it’s not even a remote possibility to “tempting to cooperate in ‘this’ abortion” unless and until there is a *sale* of ‘this’ abortion.

  • Zippy says:

    JR:
    We are back to the the dependence of your position on a metaphysical impossibility. Your position depends upon Beatrice Worker’s specific intentions in doing various specific things to help Sally Investigator prepare for an abortion preexisting her knowledge of Sally’s existence.

  • Jim Russell says:

    And when does Beatrice Worker get to shake hands with the fetus?

    You make it sound like it is not sufficient for the worker to know *before* going into a meeting room that there is a “client” in the meeting room who might buy an abortion. You make it sound like the worker must know that it’s a “woman named Sally” before being able to form the intention to help “Sally” buy an abortion. Does the worker also need to know the name of the baby?

    And no, it’s not “metaphysically impossible” for “Beatrice Worker” to have formed a *specific* intention to help “this” woman buy an abortion when “Beatrice Worker” has *already* chosen the moral object of “helping ANY woman buy an abortion”. To be sure, *each* abortion cooperated in represents, for *Beatrice*, another sinful act. BUT, for the client–any client–but particularly undercover posers, it simply cannot be claimed that they “tempt” the worker to the sin already chosen in advance by the worker….

  • Silly Interloper says:

    “To be sure, *each* abortion cooperated in represents, for *Beatrice*, another sinful act. BUT, for the client–any client–but particularly undercover posers, it simply cannot be claimed that they “tempt” the worker to the sin already chosen in advance by the worker….”

    As far as I can tell, you just conceded that the specific act truly is an evil act unto itself, but it can’t be considered that way for discussion (in particular how the client has intentionally engaged them in that evil act). I’m not in the habit of discarding truth for the sake of discussion.

  • Jim Russell says:

    SI–I don’t believe I have argued to the contrary regarding the fact that a specific act of abortion is evil in itself–who would?

    That’s not the question at hand. The assertion being made is that the PP *client* is the *tempter to sin* for the PP worker who *commits* sin by selling abortion.

    This is absurd on its face. See above. When a PP worker actually *participates* in actually *selling* an actual abortion, it’s sin. But it is NOT a sin arising from having been “tempted” by a client to commit it.

    And where there is no actual abortion actually being sold to an actual client, there is no actual new specific *act* of sin. Rather, the sin committed in the “heart” of the PP worker is the *same* sin the worker was committing well prior to interacting with the non-actual client about the non-actual sale of a non-actual abortion.

  • Jim Russell says:

    Zippy–it occurs to me to ask you: Are the PP workers tempting anyone to sin or not? Why/Why not?

  • Zippy says:

    What PP workers are doing is despicably evil. If I were king (and thank Heaven I am not) they would probably all be swinging from gallows.

    But that is off topic. The subject is the morality of the specific acts of pro-life sting operatives. And those acts are clearly immoral, quite independent of where one comes out on the moral theology of lying, because success depends upon deliberately prompting clinic workers to do specific evil.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    “SI–I don’t believe I have argued to the contrary regarding the fact that a specific act of abortion is evil in itself–who would?

    Okay. So what I think you are saying between gratuitously throwing around of the word “absurd” is that the general decision and the specific decision are exactly the same evil act (which is absurd on its face, if I may be gratuitous), and that a decision to do a specific evil act is not evil of itself unless one carries out the act (again–I gratuitously assert–absurd on its face).

    Because if the decision to do a specific evil act is evil even if it’s not carried out, nothing you have said makes any sense whatsoever. So I think that’s the crux of it. In your imaginary world, sin begins and ends with general decisions and general commitments, and there are no workings of evil in carrying out or decisions to carry out specifics. The devil has no more work to do to drag a soul to hell once a general decision is made.

    If that’s what you are saying, I find such blatant disregard for reality and unwillingness to move your magnifying glass absolutely absurd.

  • Jim Russell says:

    Zippy, the “morality of the specific acts of pro-life sting operatives” makes it completely ON-topic to ask precisely what the PP worker is busy doing before, during, and after (but particularly *during*) the interaction with the undercover investigator.

    And so it is worth asking again: Does the PP worker “tempt” anyone “to sin” *during* the interaction with the undercover operative, or not? Why/why not?

    I’d assert that the intellectual honesty of the conversation hinges upon taking a position on this very point and integrating that position into the conversation about the morality of what is going on with the investigator when conversing with a PP worker. They are *both* moral agents acting within the same sphere. Therefore we need to consider what *both* moral agents are doing–or not doing–in order to properly contextualize the moral quality of the act that both are engaging in.

  • Zippy says:

    JR:
    And so it is worth asking again

    No, it really isn’t. A person can be constantly and habitually doing evil things all day long (as PP workers are); yet that would never create a moral license to deliberately prompt the person to do a specific evil thing as a means to your own ends.

  • Jim Russell says:

    It is indeed an amazing paradigm of morality that would insist that a PP *client* is a moral subject who, by merely conversing with a PP employee about the possibility of buying an abortion, is in all cases “tempting” the worker “to sin by committing abortion,” while at the same time never *permitting* consideration of whether the PP *worker* can be said to be a moral subject doing the *exact same* thing to the client!

    Can’t you really see how this changes the moral calculus here?

    Perhaps you’ve heard of “Dueling Banjos”–let me introduce you to a little moral dilemma we can rightly call “Dueling Tempters”…

    If *both* parties meet the *same* moral criteria you are attempting to use exclusively to accuse the *client* of “tempting to sin”, and are clearly *simultaneously* meeting that criteria in the course of the very conversation you are using to make that accusation, then it immediately becomes an absurd proposition–a “metaphysical impossibility.”

    While you are not so easily admitting this to be the case, it is indeed easily admitted that the PP *worker* is engaging in the same “tempting to sin” (on the very same subject of obtaining abortion!) as the client you have so readily accused.

    Are you ready to assert that it is *really* possible for the PP worker to be *simultaneously* trying to tempt the client to the sin of abortion while being tempted to that *same* sin by the client?

  • Zippy says:

    JR:
    Are you ready to assert that it is *really* possible for the PP worker to be *simultaneously* trying to tempt the client to the sin of [formal cooperation with a specific proposed] abortion while being tempted to that *same* sin by the client?

    Sure. Fornicators (for example) do that all the time.

  • Jim Russell says:

    Zippy, fornicators who both *already* want to fornicate don’t actually *succeed* in being “tempters,” do they? If they *both* have already consented in the will to fornication as the object of their moral choice, the whole *point* is that it is impossible to “tempt” them to commit an act they’ve *already* chosen in the will!

  • Zippy says:

    I believe my work here is done.

  • Jim Russell says:

    It would be a service to your readers if you go ahead and answer the question: Does the PP *worker* simultaneously tempt the PP *client* to sin during the same conversation in which you assert that the *client* is tempting the *worker* to sin?

  • Silly Interloper says:

    Yeah. Unbelievable.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    Yes, Zippy. Would you do me the service of answering the question that you already answered so that JR can write the word “absurd” a few more times? It would really enhance my life experience.

  • Jim Russell says:

    SI–sorry, but I hadn’t realized the question had been answered. Where does Zippy acknowledge that the PP worker is simultaneously tempting the “client” to sin when worker and client meet? Sorry I missed it.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    Really? You can’t put forth the tiniest effort yourself to find it two comments up? Instead, you assign me the work of findig it for you? Zippy answered you directly. You can’t miss it.

    http://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/kicking-them-while-they-are-down-for-jesus/#comment-15196

    Do not ask me to do your work for you again. Especially when you obviously haven’t even tried.

  • Jim Russell says:

    SI–you appear to refer to this:

    [JR:] Are you ready to assert that it is *really* possible for the PP worker to be *simultaneously* trying to tempt the client to the sin of [formal cooperation with a specific proposed] abortion while being tempted to that *same* sin by the client?

    [Zippy:] Sure. Fornicators (for example) do that all the time.

    I stand corrected. You are correct that one can infer from this exchange that Zippy is affirming that the conversation between the PP worker and client is indeed an example of a *simultaneous* “temptation to sin”. I did not take it to mean as much because I found it so astonishing that Zippy *also* appears to affirm what I assert is impossible–that someone tempting someone *else* to a specific sin they *already* intend to commit is actually capable of being *tempted* by that same someone else to commit the sin they’ve already decided to commit–indeed they are already *so* committed to this sin that they are tempting this other someone else.

    While you are correct, SI, I can only marvel at the use of reason involved in making a claim that the PP worker who is ready to commit the sin of selling abortion and is (Zippy’s view) actually tempting the client to *buying* an abortion is actually, really, really, being tempted by the *client* to the sin of selling an abortion….

  • Jim Russell says:

    Simple summary: If an undercover investigator wants to meet with a PP worker to discuss a *fictitious* abortion, while at the same time the PP worker wants to meet with that “client” to sell the “client” a *real* abortion, there is no way, either subjectively or objectively, to claim that the “client” is tempting the worker to sell the client the “real” abortion that the worker already has in mind….

  • William Luse says:

    I am a clinic worker. I intend to kill babies. This is an evil intention. But I’m not going out looking for babies to kill. You have to come to me and ask me to kill *your* baby, at which time I will agree to kill *that* baby. Asking me to kill your baby, even if that baby doesn’t exist, is also evil, because I would not have consented to it unless you asked. Each act of consent to kill a particular baby is a thing unto itself. See?

  • Jim Russell says:

    Sure, consenting to an abortion is a thing unto itself. In the worker’s case, this consent takes place *prior* to the conversation. BUT, it’s also a *conditional* consent–the conversation isn’t as you describe. Rather, from the worker’s view, we can talk all day long about the “product”–abortion–that I want to sell you, but my moral intention to kill “this” baby is always conditioned upon getting *paid*–making the *sale*. You can’t just come in and say “yes, help me kill my baby.” The worker has *no* intention, moral or otherwise, of lifting a finger to “help” you unless and *until* you actually *buy* the abortion. Until the time of purchase, *neither* side is committing to participating in “that” abortion.

  • Zippy says:

    So it isn’t evil to seriously consider and start making plans to abort that unborn child right there? It is only evil to actually abort that child?

    Does this work for other sins? It isn’t evil to seriously consider and start making plans – including taking concrete preparatory steps – to sleep with your neighbor’s wife? It is only evil to actually sleep with her?

    I’m convinced, JR, that you aren’t really reading and thinking at this point, if you ever were. You’ve just decided to be the Great Internet Defender of pro-life “sting” tactics, despite the transparent fact that they involve deliberately convincing others to do evil (in order than good may come of it, of course).

  • Jim Russell says:

    Zippy–I’m merely responding to the issue as it has been framed by you and by others–namely, that the undercover “client” tempts the worker to the murderous sin of abortion. I have denied this and have adequately refuted this claim. If you want to discuss the *other* evils associated with this claim–such as the “planning” process, we certainly can. But that’s not how you have framed the issue thus far.

    To answer your question, *yes* of course it is sinful to plan for an abortion–but only *one* of the two subjects in the “sting” is actually there to do this–the *worker*. That’s the worker’s *job*. And it’s sinful. And if a PP worker must be “tempted” by a client before he/she will actually do his/her job, then PP also has a problem motivating its workers by the usual means–like a paycheck.

    And if pro-lifers need defending in the blogosphere, it’s only because of the woeful state of understanding moral theology that appears to be at work in the blogosphere. We need to confront this trend with a great deal of charity and patience and do everything possible to avoid division and dissension.

    It’s not easy. But we have an obligation to treat each other respectfully in this conversation.

  • Zippy says:

    JR:
    I have denied this and have adequately refuted this claim.

    You do realize that the conversation moved from the language of “temptation” to means and ends quite a while ago, right? I did that to better help you understand; but as in other matters, you don’t seem to have paused to read that part of the discussion.

    but only *one* of the two subjects in the “sting” is actually there to [plan for an abortion]–the *worker*.

    Right. And the sting operator, through her actions, deliberately prompts the worker to do this in the particular case, beginning the process of planning for an abortion for a particular client (the sting operator), as a means to the end of getting useful footage.

    Starting the process of planning to abort a particular child is evil. It doubtless involves all sorts of concrete acts – scheduling things, filling out paperwork, reserving the conference room, etc – each of which, every single concrete act in the process, is formal cooperation with evil, since it involves deliberately chosen concrete actions in preparation for murdering a particular victim. The pro-life ‘sting’ operator deliberately prompts the worker to do these (evil) things as a means to the end of getting useful footage — thus doing evil in order that good may come of it.

    But I’m pretty convinced at this point that you know this already. Your strategy here appears to be to just keep on talking, as if the simple ongoing production of endless words, any words, could make your position – that the sting operator isn’t deliberately prompting the clinic worker to do evil, as a means to an end – somehow tenable.

  • Jim Russell says:

    Asserting that a client’s presence in a PP office serves the function of “tempting” the workers there to do their sinful jobs is among the most absurd propositions to be found in the Catholic blogosphere.

    Thank you for the conversation, and I wish it had been more fruitful.

    God bless you,

    Deacon JR

  • Silly Interloper says:

    Yeah. Because “that’s absurd” is such a compelling and thoughtful argument.

    The Catholic blogosphere salutes you.

    God bless you, too, man.

  • […] a couple of provocative (as usual) posts up here and here. One compares what he calls ‘fornicationships’ with hookups, and the other examines […]

  • J.W. says:

    I propose that the roles are reversed; that it is the PP worker who is tempting the client to sin. If they are putting their “shingle” out that they offer the service of killing unborn babies, they are tempting a woman to kill her unborn baby. If there was no sign out front, offering the service within, the mother (or sting operative) wouldn’t be tempted to enter.

  • Zippy says:

    J.W.:

    Clearly it is both/and, not either/or.

  • Scott W. says:

    Clearly it is both/and, not either/or.

    We need to resurrect the phrase, “confirming in sin”.

  • […] is, not to put too fine a point on it, a *total* inversion of the Church’s teaching on Scandal. That teaching is as […]

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