Can lying be okay in certain circumstances? In this bonus episode, I host a debate between Fr. Gregory Pine and Dr. Janet Smith about this very question. Along the way they raise important points like:
– What is the definition of lying?
– If you deceive someone to bring about a greater good, is that still a sin?
– How does saying false things affect yourself and the people around you?
Listen to this fascinating discussion and see what you think!
BIO’s of Debaters:
Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P. is a doctoral candidate in dogmatic theology at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). He served previously as Assistant Director of Campus Outreach for the Thomistic Institute. Born and raised near Philadelphia, PA, he attended the Franciscan University of Steubenville and entered the Order of Preachers upon graduating. He was ordained a priest in 2016 and holds an STL from the Dominican House of Studies. He is the co-author of Marian Consecration with Aquinas (TAN Books) and has published articles in Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and Angelicum. He is also a regular contributor to the podcasts “Pints with Aquinas” and “Godsplaining.”
Janet E. Smith recently retired from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, MI. She is the author of Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later and A Right to Privacy. “Self-Gift” is a volume of her already published essays on Humanae Vitae and the thought of John Paul II. She edited Why Humanae Vitae right: A Reader, Life Issues, MedicalChoices (with Christopher Kaczor) Living the Truth in Love: Pastoral Approaches to Same-Sex Attractions (with R.Paul Check) and Why Humanae Vitae is still Right. Prof Smith served three terms as a consulter to the Pontifical Council on the Family and also served as a member of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission III for 8 years. She has a regular column in the National Catholic Register. She has received three honorary doctorates and several other awards for scholarship and service. She has appeared on the Geraldo Show, Fox Morning News, CNN International, CNN Newsroom, Al Jazeera and has done many shows for various series on EWTN. More than two million copies of her talk,“Contraception: Why Not” have been distributed. Her materials can be found at janetsmith.org and for copies of her talks.
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Marek Zaręba says
just direct thoughts after the debate. Dr. Smith presentation is a little bit dangerous but very comfortable for justification of sinful life. She goes on with one story and spells it through all the cases of declination.
Probably we have to make the difference between my personal loss and sacrifice and witness to the truth but not on expense or harm of other people and already said when other goods of other people, for example life, are involved. Dr. Smith had very easily given absolution to the moral evil act and discharged a person from the moral effort. But in this cases we talk about heroic acts to which as Christians we are called and at this point the personal choice plays the major role. If we won’t put it from the personal choice, loss, sacrifice then I will be only dodging in life looking for better pieces of meat for me. Dr. Smith simply socially is right but as a Christian she chills my Christian heroism.
Thank for your programs and God bless you
Eric Dellinger says
I have often wonder about the “lie” in John 7. Dave Armstrong had this helpful reply:
Eric Lyons on the Apologetics Press site (one I have used many times) makes the following arguments (which sound perfectly plausible to me):
First of all, several early manuscripts of the gospel of John, including p66 and p75 (believed to be from as early as the late second and early third centuries), have Jesus saying, “I am not yet [oupo] going up to this feast,” rather than “I do not [ouk] go up to this feast.” Thus, it may be that the correct rendering is found in the KJV, NKJV, and NIV, rather than the ASV, NASB, and RSV.
Second, even if Jesus did say at one point to His brothers, “I do not go up to this feast,” but later He went, that still does not mean that He lied. Suppose a co-worker saw me leaving the office at 2:00 p.m. and asked me, “Are you going home?” and I said, “No,” but later went home that day at 5:00 p.m. Have I lied? Not at all. When I left the office at 2:00 p.m., I went to run a quick errand—I did not go home. When I departed the office at 5:00 p.m., however, I went home. “No” is often truthfully used in a time-sensitive manner. Simply because at 2:00 p.m. I said I was not going home, does not mean I could not go home at 5:00 p.m. My “no” meant “I’m not going home at the present.” Similarly, if Jesus used the term “not” [ouk] rather than “not yet” [oupo], He could just as easily been implying the same thing: “I am not going to the feast at the present.”
At the proper time, after Jesus “remained in Galilee” for a while (7:9), He did go to the feast. The proper time was not when his unbelieving brothers told Him to “depart” (John 7:5), but when the Son of God said it was time—a God-appointed time. Furthermore, His attendance at the feast was not for the purpose that His brothers envisioned (to show Himself to the world—7:3-4), rather Jesus went to the feast “not openly, but as it were in secret” (7:10, emp. added).
Just as we often say, “I am not going,” but mean “I am not going yet,” Jesus had every right to use that same kind of language. Although Jesus embodied truth (John 14:6) and always told the truth (1 Peter 2:22), He still used figures of speech and language men commonly understood—some even today. (“Did Jesus Lie to His Brothers?”  )
Hey Matt! Thank you for yet another very interesting discussion between respectful and wise intellectuals. I would not have thought this topic was that prone to debate. Listening to your guests, I discovered how much I was myself divided and unable to answer the question.
After finishing the podcast, I looked up the definition of lying in the Catechism since Dr. Smith made an important point about that and its modification. Can you imagine my surprise when I stumbled across numbers 2488 and following? I believe they do support Dr. Smith’s definition, in that “The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional” and “No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it”. What are your thoughts on that? Did I miss anything during the conversation which led to this part of the current Catechism? Both Fr. Pine and Dr. Smith seemed to be unaware of these paragraphs. I would love to have a follow-up on that on their side. Maybe while meeting Fr. Pine in Switzerland someday soon, fingers crossed!
Keep up the good work Matt, all the best from Europe!
Matt Kuefler says
I really enjoyed this debate! This has been a topic of debate between my wife and myself as well, so this was an incredible, and, with humility, much more intellectually rich, enactment of our conversations. Fittingly, I take Fr. Pine’s position, and my wife, Dr. Smith’s. You guys even covered the Santa Claus issue, which we also discussed in my home!
Thank you very much for the time and effort that all three parties have invested in this production. And, of course, thanks be to God for the opportunity to discuss these ideas in a free and open forum.
My humble contribution to the conversation is that in any situation of extraordinary moral dilemma, the Holy Spirit is free to guide our actions through motivations in thought and conscience. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is free to act in any way He chooses. Empirically, I don’t know any action that may be absolutely judged as always permissible, or always forbidden, other than the actions God himself has explicitly detailed. This objective understanding is beyond my subjective perception. I would love to see a follow-up discussion. This has been incredibly intellectually satiating!