The Two Standards: Truth Incarnate or The Father of Lies.

Alternate Title:

Liars are children of the devil by imitation.

two standards - truth and lies
Recently, I saw a disgusting sight on Kevin O’Brien’s blog as people reacted to a post wherein Kevin exhorted people to tell the truth (he gives more examples in his post about this article). The comments are horrid and remind one that no matter how pious and clean the outside, like the Pharisees, it’s what one believes and does from the inside that matters. There is a side discussion going on there wherein they are parsing a Chesterton quote on whether one can deceive — the discussion seems to be missing the terms “open mental reservation” versus “closed mental reservations.” I’ll leave that part of the discussion for another day. Chesterton himself was referring to “Jesuitry” which was a misnomer for an error of the day that attributed Voltaire’s justification of lying as if the Jesuits taught it — this has never been the case as it was always the case that “The end does not justify the means.”  Back to the matter of telling the truth:

I’ve been working on the question of why nobody in the Church talks about telling the truth anymore, especially since I posted the Theology of the Body (ToB) in One Paragraph noting that one sure path to chastity is telling the truth (but you’ll never hear that from the ToB people — despite the fact that about 10% of JPII’s ToB talks were precisely on telling the truth). That’s because chastity is a mirror of inside and out — it is to the body what telling the truth is to the mind. It is here — the inconsistency between what is spoken and what is held in the mind where we see it:

Lies are hypocrisy of speech. Telling the truth is a matter of speaking all that one holds in one’s mind. Lying is saying something contradictory to the truth held in one’s mind. Lying therefore sows error in the minds of others. Error, recall, is synonymous with evil and sin (see here).

Jesus warned the Pharisees of duplicity, clearly stating the problem: “whited sepulchers, which indeed are beautiful on the outside but full of dead mens bones.” Liars are by the words they use to project false reality, making themselves different on the outside than they are on the inside. Such duplicity is abhorrent to God, and it’s unreal to see anyone attack someone for saying that lying in wrong.

Nevertheless, because nobody talks about the basic duty to tell the truth, I’ve compiled some motivational catechesis below. It goes without saying that God does not lie — He is truth. Thus, lying is not of God. It’s that simple. Yet, since people need to be reminded, here is a mini-catechism on truth.

1. The liar is like the devil and displeasing to God.

He who forfeits the confidence of his fellow-men causes a great deal of harm and is capable of committing all manner of evil [sub sinful or erroneous] deeds.

The liar resembles the devil, for the devil is a liar and the father thereof (John viii. 44). Remember how the serpent in paradise lied to Eve. Liars are children of the devil, not by nature, but by imitation. The liar is displeasing to God. God is truth itself, and therefore He abhors the liar. Our Lord did not speak as sharply of any one as of the Pharisees. And why? Because they were hypocrites (Matt. xxiii. 27).

Liars and Pharisees Are the only ones not Repented in the Gospels.  From every class of sinners He gave an example of one who was saved; e.g., Zacheus among usurers, the good thief among highwaymen, Magdalen and the Samaritan at Jacob’s well among profligate women, Saul among persecutors of the Church, but not one single individual among liars and hypocrites did He mention as having sought and found pardon.

Many a time God punished liars severely: witness Ananias and his wife Saphira, who for their falsehood fell dead at St. Peter’s feet (Acts v.) and Giezi, the servant of Eliseus, who was struck with leprosy for his lies and avarice (4 Kings V.). “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. xii. 22).

The liar forfeits the trust of his fellow-men. The shepherd who cried “Wolf” when no wolf was near, found he was not believed when his flock was really attacked; his comrades had been so often deceived that they did not heed his cries. A liar is not trusted when he speaks the truth; he is hated by God and man.

Liars often do a great deal of harm. The spies who went to view the Promised Land deceived the Israelites by their false report, and alarmed them so that they blasphemed God, wanted to stone the two spies who spoke the truth, and clamored to return to Egypt. See what mischief those men wrought: God declared His intention to destroy the people (Numb. xiii.). Jacob deceived his father and obtained his blessing fraudulently; his brother Esau threatened to kill him and Jacob was obliged to take to flight. “He that hath no guard on his speech shall meet with evils” (Prov. xiii. 3).

The liar falls into many other sins. “Show me a liar and I will show you a thief.” Where you find hypocrisy, you find cheating and all manner of evil practices. A liar cannot possibly be God-fearing. The Holy Spirit will flee from the deceitful (Wisd. i. 5). All the piety and devotion of one whose words serve to conceal, not to express his thoughts, is a mere sham; do not associate with such a one, lest he corrupt you with his ungodly ways. “Lying men are without honor” (Eccles./Sirach xx. 28). “The just shall hate a lying word ” (Prov. xiii. 5).

2. The pernicious habit of lying leads a man into mortal sin and to eternal perdition.

Lying is in itself a venial sin; but it can easily become a mortal sin if it is the means of doing great harm, or causing great scandal. He who indulges the habit of lying runs no small risk of losing his soul, for God withdraws His grace from those who deceive their neighbor. “The mouth that belieth killeth the soul” (Wisd. i. 11).

A thief is not so bad as a liar, for the thief can give back what he has stolen, whereas the liar cannot restore his neighbor’s good name, of which he has robbed him.
“A thief is better than a man that is always lying; but both of them shall inherit destruction” (Eccles. xx. 27). A lie is a foul blot in a man (v. 26).

The soul of the liar is like a counterfeit coin, stamped with the devil’s effigy; when at the Last Day, the Judge shall ask: “Whose image is this?” the answer will be “the devil’s;” and He will then say: “Render unto the devil the things that are his” (St. Thomas Aquinas). (!)

The Lord will destroy all that speak a lie (Ps. v. 7). Liars shall have their portion in the lake burning with fire (Apoc. xxi. 8). Our Lord uttered a terrible denunciation of the Pharisees because of their hypocrisy (Matt, xxiii. 13).

Lying is consequently forbidden, even if it may be the means of effecting much good.

St. Augustine says it is just as wrong to tell a lie for your neighbor’s advantage as to steal for the good of the poor. Not even to save one’s own life or the life of another, is a falsehood justifiable. St. Anthimus, Bishop of Nicomedia, would not allow the soldiers who were sent to arrest him, and who were enjoying his hospitality, to save him by a lie; he preferred to suffer martyrdom. We must not do evil that there may come good (Rom. iii. 8). The end does not justify the means, even if seems like it could.

This article, The Two Standards: Truth Incarnate or The Father of Lies. is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

John B. Manos

John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benziger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.
  • james B. says:


    This is an excellent piece. However, surveying the “lying debate” I might suggest supplementing your argument with the Church’s views on why ‘means do not justify the ends’, which many people just do not seem to register. Otherwise, good article.

  • Deacon JR says:

    Hi, John–thanks for the article. A few things to ask:

    1. How familiar are you with the history of the common teaching on lying?

    2. Are you aware that what Chesterton and Newman both wrote on this subject makes it clear that “Jesuitry” was a term that applied not only to the issues of equivocation and mental reservation but also to the issue of whether all lies so-called were sinful?

    3. I found your observation about TOB and truth to be very intriguing–any TOB passages that you would recommend readers take a look at?

    4. Finally, I assume it is self-evident that the lying “debate” is over *one* specific aspect of the morality of lying–whether lying so-called is always at least *venially* sinful (a “scale” of “venial to mortal” so to speak) OR is sometimes *not* at least venially sinful (a “scale” of “zero to mortal” so to speak). As such, even those proposing that the scale begins with “zero” rather than “venial” would *still* agree with practically everything you assert above about lying.

    God bless you,
    Deacon JR

  • Thank you for you comment Deacon,

    I am not sure of what you mean by referring to the “Common teaching”. I am familiar with the teaching of western and eastern saints who all begin the subject by comparing the Eighth Commandment to the New Law, wherein Our Lord says, “make your yes mean yes and your no mean no” — in other words, there must be no duplicity between your utterances and your thoughts. Is “common teaching” an Anglican thing? If by common, however, you mean of the universal Church, then let us start with the doctors of the Church. I gave St. Thomas Aquinas’s quote in the article. Here is my favorite from St. Augustine (which I was saving for a different article): says St. Augustine, “All sin is a kind of lying.”

    I am familiar with Chesterton and Newman on the subject and the exact cause: it was based on a statement of Voltaire (a lie is only sinful if causes mischief). To any extent that Voltaire is adopted by any Catholic, they do so at there own peril — If Our Lord says that your yes must mean yes, and St. Augustine that all sin is a kind of lie, neither of them appear to care about what becomes of the lie, but merely that you spoke falsehood, error, lies. Your speech must conform the to truth in your mind: I’ve never seen teaching to the contrary.

    I have given adequate examples on the matter here, on the topic of truth and chastity, and in the article linked, as well as the St. Augustine quote here. If you’d like to see another take, see Fr. Hardon’s meditation here:

    Regarding #4, while you may see such a small scope of the topic over there, it is obvious that the commenters have not abided by the scope, and have made general statements. Some of those statements, such as saying that Jesus lied, are not just wrong, they could only be inspired from the father of lies. I didn’t see anyone qualify such comments to be limited in scope. So, the discussion is on common understanding — or, in the case of statements I’m rebutting, common error.

  • james+B. says:

    *Ends do not justify the means

    I made a typo earlier

  • Harry Seldon says:

    I think that, as this debate ranges all over the internet, we need to keep in mind that we are giving very, very poor witness to the rest of the world.

    I am not married to either position, although I admit that I have more sympathy for the one embraced on this blog, it seems clearly more supportable from Church documents and Catholic history…however:

    Kevin O’Brien and his allies are doing a terrible, terrible job of defending that position. I am particularly using Kevin as an example here, but when one tells another Catholic in debate “Bite me” as Kevin did on facebook yesterday, and then posts multiple posts about how abused he is in online debate…that is a complete loss of perspective.

    Mark Shea, Kevin O’Brien and others on the anti-lying side will most likely win this debate in the end, although it might be a long time until the necessary clarifications emerge from Rome to remove any lingering doubt about the teaching…who knows. What will remain is the record of how poorly they have acted in this debate by crying so much about their personal suffering for the truth.

    These Catholic bloggers, if they truly want to serve the cause of truth, should look upon any abuse they receive as suffering for Christ…and don’t tell everyone about it. Suffering is borne gracefully silence. Further, they need to refrain from the use of ad hominem attacks against the pro-live action side. Mark in particular is skilled at verbally butchering his opponents and it’s not right nor does it win converts to the position AND that is what provokes abuse in the first place! There’s something here about reaping and sowing.

    Lastly, when they are taken to task by someone on the internet, they need to drop the pretentious act of labeling all attacks as the desperate actions of depraved liars driven by guilty consciences. Mark and Kevin (again, using these two bad actors as examples) make plenty of logical mistakes as they rapid-fire their insulting barbs at the digital world. Some of these things they write are just stupid and hateful, and of course they are going to get blowback. To then go on an extended theatrical “Woe is me, I suffer so much for the kingdom” trip is not really all.

    It would be better if the whole world were to end than for a single sin to be committed. Likewise, it would be better to lose this debate than to “win” it with tactics like these. I am personally embarrassed that I have to be allied with a “side” in this debate that is so rude, so unwise, so hypocritical, and so self-aggrandizing.

    All of these things of course are going on within the “other side” as well, but if we can’t even figure out that we have a responsibility to be better people for the sake of Catholic truth, then all of this is a sham and everyone should delete their blog accounts.

    But, that will never happen, will it? Because (and here is my real point) these people are “professionals”…Thank God Almighty I am not a “professional” Catholic. I don’t need that kind of temptation. I see what it does to people.

    Peace, Harry.

    • John B. Manos says:


      Thanks for your comments on the Internet debate. As I said in my post here, however, I am aghast at the errors being purported as if they are truth. But, I am also interested in making the topic of telling the truth as a basic command of Jesus more prevalent. For me, I see the battle against truth as the root battle, in the culture war – after all, we live in a country that believes in politically correct speech (as opposed to speaking one’s mind) and the idea that speech is a merely a means to “win friends and influence people”. If you combine those ideas and contrast them with the St. Augustine quote, you arrive where Fr. Hardon made the observation that “our world today is steeped in sin” and “thinks in sin.”

      Sin is error. Lies or falsehoods are error. Is it any coincidence then that lying is so prevalent?

      For myself, there is no opinion or “side of the debate” other than Our Lord’s: have no gall and make your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Every doctor of the church interprets that to mean speak only consistently with what is held in your mind, i.e.- speak only the truth. Thus, there is no real debate here. There is no matter for the Pope to decide – every pope and saint before him going all the way back to Our Lord decided this matter. The image I made for this post sums it up: there are only two standards: truth or lies. Pick one. If you wish to follow Jesus, then there is no place for lies, because, after all, and as He said, “you cannot serve two masters.”

      I hope I do not disappoint you. Maybe say a little Hail Mary for me that I speak well of truth.

      • Harry+Seldon says:

        Yes, there is a need to speak the truth boldly. We have to be able to recognize “bold” and distinguish it from “abusive” and “self-serving”.

        If we want to boldly be Catholic, we have a right to follow the teachings of the Church boldly and simply if we can. I have every right to refuse to lie, even if it means all sorts of awful temporal consequences happen. I have every right to attempt to live without sin.

        However, how can we, in the cause of boldly and simply following the teaching of the Church, in this quest for purity, be SO mocking, insulting, self-pitying, conspirational and (yes) dishonest?

        Answer – We can’t, not if we have a higher loyalty to truth than to winning, or blogging, or getting paid, or being popular.

        If “our side” is the side that is stumping for holiness even at the cost of perhaps bad temporal consequences, then we cannot be willing, as a group, to engage in all sorts of sinful practices to bring about the temporal effect of “winning” this debate. That is contradictory. And that is plain, as plain as the teaching of the Saints about lying.

        We must, right now, drop the ad hominem. We must, right now, drop the self pity. We must, right now, drop the false accusations. I think, practically, that means we call out members of “our side” for being bad soldiers, and I’m also taking you to task for giving a voice to Kevin’s improper conduct.

        NO more calling anyone a “liar for Jesus”. NO more saying anyone is attacking us for some private scandalous reason. NO more ad hominem against prominent members of the “other side”.

        What is happening right now is so far away from what the saints would do. There are real, good, solid points to be made in this debate, and they are getting very lost in the wailings and feigned offense and self-pity of the visible proponents of “this side”. Enough.

        If we can’t have this discussion in a Catholic way, we shouldn’t be hainvg it, because we’re supposed to be the ones saying that it’s not worth committing sin to win! So let’s hold our brethren accountable. Specifically, some people need to apologize to the world for things they’ve done in the course of this debate, and they absolutely need to quit insulting and bearing false witness against their opponents.

  • Deacon+JR says:

    Hi, John–you wrote “Thus, there is no real debate here.”

    To which I must respectfully ask: If there is no real debate here, then why does history record the presence of precisely such a debate in the Church from before the time of Augustine (which he himself writes about) until present day?

    Perhaps it is best to distinguish, again, where the common ground is on this question: namely, that the Church has always and without fail taught that there is prohibited by the 8th Commandment a sin against truth that is commonly called the sin of “lying.” This is indisputable. It’s an infallible teaching of the ordinary universal magisterium of the Church.

    Yet, what has been debated, in this context, since before Augustine and ever since, is the question “What *is* lying”?

    Maybe we can agree on this way to frame the issue?

    God bless you,

    Deacon Jim Russell

    • John B. Manos says:

      Thanks Deacon for this. I agree with you that there is a debate, but the framing of the debate would first require that we use the terms given to us by history. The question at hand pertains to the balance between two duties: the duty to always tell the truth, and the duty to keep a secret. Both are exact and complete.

      Where you find debate is where people make hypotheticals around two extremes: the first extreme works around the question of whether the person demanding to know something we know is entitled to know. The two twists on this barb of the debate (one must be careful to avoid the pitfalls of situational ethics and relativism in this type of discussion) circle on favorite extremes: the Nazi or Marxist hunting the Jewish child on one side demonstrates a dilemma wherein the person asking for information is likely to use it for harm to another. The other end of this barb attempts to minimize the meaning of telling the truth, by positing a true assertion with information withheld.

      Both of those situations have been roundly analyzed by people smarter and more learned than us. You end up with the teaching on open and closed mental reservations. The open (or broad) mental reservation leaves a clue that you are withholding information because you estimate that the person asking is not properly allowed to have it. A closed (or strict) mental reservation on the other side is sinful, and is where the person leaves no clue whatsoever – it is a lie.

      The other extreme exploits sympathy for the situation where the secret seems trivial. These are variations on Voltaire’s erroneous assertion that lies are only wrong where they cause mischief. Such talk is lunacy.

      I find that we do not need to reinvent the wheel — we should merely use the terms of Catholic teaching on this matter. The historical debate, as I see it, is caused by people theorizing the fringes of the teaching — so this is not so much a debate as much as it is proper examination of concepts In other contexts, such as with Voltaire, it is merely a child of Satan attempting to masquerade as a child of truth. In the internet debate to which I am referring, it is largely caused by people speaking from ignorance on the matter as if they were authorities on it. That’s not a debate as much as it is foolishness, because it gives such hellish lies as the one I keep repeating: that someone actually asserted that Jesus lied. How can Truth Incarnate lie? never. anathema sir.

      If you like an easy FAQ on mental reservations, see, e.g. near the bottom is a series of questions on mental reservations and hypocrisy (as these concepts are directly related).

      And from Fr. Hardon’s Catholic Dictionary:

      STRICT MENTAL RESERVATION — Speech that limits the meaning of what is said but gives no clue to the particular sense intended. This type of mental reservation is actually a lie and is never allowed. Thus if a person says that he or she is going to a distant city, meaning that this person is going there only in imagination, he or she is lying because no clue is given to the sense intended.

      BROAD MENTAL RESERVATION – Speech that limits the meaning of what is said but contains a reasonable clue to the sense intended. No lie is involved, because what is said really has two meanings. The two meanings are present either by reason of the words themselves or by reason of the circumstances. One who employs a broad mental reservation expresses what he thinks and uses words according to the meaning they really have. His words have another meaning also, and the speaker foresees that in this other meaning the one listening will not understand. For a sufficient reason, it is permitted others to deceive themselves by taking the wrong meaning of what is said, and this remains true although the listener, because of his ignorance, does not know there is another meaning to what he had heard. The main reason that justifies the use of a broad mental reservation is the need for preserving secrecy, where the value to the common good is greater than would be the manifestation of something that is sure to cause harm. Such reservation must be used with great prudence, at the risk of creating suspicion and mistrust if people cannot be sure that what they are being told is what they hear.

  • Harry, I obviously agree that we should boldly agree to speak the truth. That’s the point of this post, after all. I’m not sure about talking about other people not present here and for conduct that I can’t see on this post. If you have trouble with the way someone has conducted themselves, please go tell them directly. If I have done the things you lists here, please tell me. Otherwise, let’s keep these comments on the subject at hand. Thanks!

    p.s. — I’ll still take that Hail Mary!

  • Deacon+JR says:

    Hi, John–thanks for your reply.

    Here is part of the problem with understanding the “history” of this issue–we have to be comfortable realizing that the Magisterium permits us to wrestle with the theology of what constitutes the “sin” of lying (or more appropriately said, what does *not* constitute it), which is why many theological proposals have surfaced through the centuries, including the whole realm of “mental reservation” which resulted in the Holy Office condemnation of “strict” mental reservation in 1679 while permitted the “broad” version.

    But the whole arena of mental reservation is but one proposed means of responding to the question. The Magisterium has not ruled out the possibility of not only proposing–but acting on–other frameworks that would, for instance, permit the so-called “lie” employed in undercover police or investigative work.

    As a result, the exploration of what it “means” (both essentially and morally) to “lie” continues, even to the point at which some have wanted to look at the words and deeds of Jesus–NOT to assert that He might have sinfully lied, but rather to see how his words/deeds compare to any given definition of what it “means” to lie. So, in light of Harry’s very beautifully stated cautions about how we proceed in the conversation, we do have to “hear” each other and really listen for what is being asserted. The Jesus-as-liar scenario *is* blasphemous if it involves someone asserting that He committed a sin. But rather, what has happened is that what is “inferred” is different from what is “asserted.” And the conversation falters each time we “mis-hear” what the other has to say.

    If we get the full “history” correct here, we have a much better opportunity to reflect on the theology–and the history is clear–the Magisterium remains open not only to the common teaching on lying but also to other proposed frameworks–even future ones–that may more adequately address the extremes and dilemmas so often brought up with this issue.

    God bless you,

    Deacon Jim R

    • John B. Manos says:


      I’m not really sure what you are saying because they appear to be mere platitudes, which are ambiguous by their very nature, as Chesterton likes to states in his essays compiled with that title.

      Does Mother Church allow us to discuss, hash out, and understand? Of course. She goes so far as to use the anathema which is the most limited way of ruling out error thereby leaving the widest portion of the field to be explored.

      To say that there is a “history” of discussion seems to imply that all discussion is equal, It is not. We should prefer the well accepted positions of those most authoritative on the subject and verified by tradition. Rather than remake the wheel and history, I have used the definitive authority on the catechism, Fr. Hardon, who did the work of compiling history for me and making a clear representation of the voices in history that matter versus those random mumblings.

      Where I find a problem with your reply is that you do not give a certain critique, but just point out to the sky and tell me that there are other voices. Sure there are. But what do I care of those voices, be they from hell or from the ignorant? I am unaware of significant criticism to the mental reservation model of balancing the duty of secrets and to always tell the truth. This line of reasoning descends from the development of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, and others. Germain Grisez is known to follow this path as well and explore the fringes of it.

      I stand corrected on one point: I am aware that Charles Curran had criticized such methods. But, like I said, I find his criticism insignificant.

      Rather than talk about history in a vague sense, it would be helpful if you’d provide whatever ball you’re hiding to the conversation that we may discuss it.

      For now, I rest assured that Fr. Hardon’s summation of the body of history is reliable and accurate, and that I have done a full job with good diligence to rely on it. If you believe otherwise, please tell me specifically how his explanation is deficient. I’d love to hear it. I’m sure he would, too, provided, of course, that he’s getting reports on such matters where he is.

      I don’t understand how you’ve managed to change the definition of lie. If you are going to use meanings of words beyond the dictionary sense, or from the theological definitions, please let me know. Given the definition of a lie as “deliberately speaking against one’s mind” (Fr. Hardon dictionary citing Aquinas) then it is blasphemy to say that Jesus lied. There is no exception.

      I gather that you are using some other definition. It would be helpful to know that definition you are using.

      the full definition from Fr. Hardon’s dictionary:
      LYING – Speaking deliberately against one’s mind. The speech is any communication of ideas to another person, and may be done by means of words, spoken or written, and by gestures. By speaking deliberately is meant that the speaker must realize what he is saying; it is not a mere matter of ignorance or misstatement. When a person tells a lie, he or she says something that is contrary to what is on that person’s mind; there is real opposition between what one says and what one thinks.

      • Harry+Seldon says:

        I submit that, because there are two sides to this debate and they have been talking past each other, most of us who really would like to know about this topic have been left out in the cold.

        When someone brings up a case, such as Jesus telling the
        Canaanite woman “I was sent only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, instead of getting good discussion of the matter, we get only alternating accusations of blasphemy. How long has this been going on? Is it the best we can do to engage in same semantical difficulties again and again and again?

        • John B. Manos says:

          I don’t understand how this reply is related to the topics we’ve been discussing. Nevertheless, are you saying that what Jesus said to her was a lie? Or are you saying someone else said that? You did not say in this reply.

          That sounds like an interesting discussion, but I’m not sure how it relates to this discussion.

      • Deacon+JR says:

        Hi, John–let me know what you may think of the summary below. It is largely intended to help folks understand how the common teaching on lying relates to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but it may help fill in some gaps regarding how/why I view things as I do. Probably the most important thing to point out relative to our conversation is the manner in which Ludwig Ott defines “common teaching” as belonging to the field of the “free opinions.”

        Btw, Fr. Hardon does a rock-solid job of expressing the common teaching on lying, no doubt about it.

        God bless,
        Deacon Jim R

        1. What “weight” does the teaching on lying possess? It is the common teaching of Catholic theology. How do we know this? Because sources too numerous to mention say so—check out, for example, the article on lying at the online Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent.

        2. What is the definition of “common teaching”? Ludwig Ott states: “Common teaching (sententia communis) is doctrine, which in itself belongs to the field of the free opinions, but which is accepted by theologians generally.” (p. 9 Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma) Note that the category belongs to the “field of the free opinions.”

        3. What “weight” does the Catechism itself possess? Cardinal Ratzinger says “The weight of the Catechism itself lies in the WHOLE.” Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 26-27.
        So the WHOLE of the CCC (not each *part* of the CCC) is considered an official product of the ordinary papal magisterium. But just as with Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, to which we owe the assent proper to a document of the ordinary papal magisterium while *simultaneously* owing the teaching it contains, which is infallible, the assent proper to an infallible teaching, with the CCC, as a WHOLE we owe the assent proper to the document taken as a *whole*. But to its *parts*, we owe the assent proper to *each* of the parts.

        4. How do we know what assent to give the *part* of the CCC that teaches about lying? Cardinal Ratzinger says: ““The individual doctrines which the Catechism presents receive no other weight than that which they already possess.” What “weight” does it “already possess”? See #1—the “weight” of common teaching.

        5. Does “common teaching” belong to the “field of the free opinions”?

        6. So what kind of assent do we give to this *part* of the CCC—the assent due to the “ordinary papal magisterium”??? NO. We owe *that* kind of assent to the *whole* of the CCC as a product of that magisterium—meaning that we are not permitted to reject the *whole* of the CCC but rather are obliged to give the assent proper to every *part* of the CCC. The assent proper to this *part* of the CCC is what is proper to “common teaching”—it means we can either accept it *or* consider other “free opinions” of other theological schools. This freedom adheres *particularly* to the question of how we should *define* what lying is.

        Therefore we can choose to give assent to the “common teaching” on lying found in the CCC, or we can opt for a less rigorous but still reasonable alternative theological view. We can do this as long as we continue to give due assent to the *whole* of the CCC as a product of the papal magisterium, as Cardinal Ratzinger says.

        • John B. Manos says:


          I’m trying to figure out if those quotes are out of context from Cardinal Ratzinger, or if you didn’t catch his reference in that section to the deposit of faith. The concept around which you are dancing is known as the deposit of faith, and it is a concept the Ratzinger compares the Catechism to as a standard, we must agree to the whole thing, and if anyone rejects the whole, he is essentially rejecting the deposit of faith. It’s pretty obvious that Ratzinger was clarifying what latitude of authority is meant in terms of how far one can go in questioning the catechism as an expression before one suffers juridical penalties.

          here’s the whole quote:

          canonically, it falls under the special jurisdiction of the Pope, inasmuch as it was authorized for the whole Christian world by the Holy Father in virtue of the supreme teaching authority invested in him. . . .

          This does not mean that the catechism is a sort of super-dogma, as its opponents would like to insinuate in order to cast suspicion on its as a danger to the liberty of theology. What significance the Catechism really holds for the common exercise of teaching in the Church may be learned by reading the Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum, with which the Pope promulgated it on October 11, 1992–exactly thirty years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council: “I acknowledge it [the Catechism] as a valid and legitimate tool in the service of ecclesiastical communion, as a sure norm for instruction in the faith.”

          The individual doctrine which the Catechism presents receive no other weight than that which they already possess. The weight of the Catechism itself lies in the whole. Since it transmits what the Church teaches, whoever rejects it as a whole separates himself beyond question from the faith and teaching of the Church.

          On the other topic, that you raise from Sir Ludwig Ott of “common teaching” is also related to the notion of the deposit of faith.

          Let me ask you a question or two that I might try and understand:

          Did you understand Cardinal Ratzinger’s introduction to be saying that the catechism is a super-dogma, best statement, or perfect expression of Catholic faith?

          Did you think he was saying the Catechism was the “most rigorous” statement of faith?

          What weight do you place on Commandments and direct commends of Jesus as stated in the Gospels?

          Can someone chose to do something less than what Jesus commands and say they are following him?

          • Deacon+JR says:

            John–your having characterized me as having “danced” around the deposit of faith seems unnecessary.

            I guess I had assumed you had read Jimmy Akin’s blog post from last week at the Register, “Pope Francis and Lying to Save Life.” His post certainly corroborates the understanding of Cardinal Ratzinger’s words as I have conveyed them. He is clearly referring to the fact that a universal catechism (including the CCC) is merely a vehicle for the *repetition* of existing teaching.

            This affirms what common sense would dictate–that we give the proper assent to each teaching in the CCC according to its *origin*. This is what the Cardinal Ratzinger quote is saying.

            I’ll respond to your questions in a moment.

            God bless,

            Deacon JR

          • Deacon+JR says:

            Q=Did you understand Cardinal Ratzinger’s introduction to be saying that the catechism is a super-dogma, best statement, or perfect expression of Catholic faith?

            A=No. I understand the introduction to affirm the primary purpose of the CCC as intended to show the organic unity of the teachings of the faith. As such it proposes each teaching without reference to any degree of “certitude” associated with the teaching—no expressions of what is infallible or not, no notes regarding the “weight” of individual teaching.

            Q=Did you think he was saying the Catechism was the “most rigorous” statement of faith?

            A=No. It is a “sure norm” that articulates Church teaching from infallible dogma through common teaching, which would necessarily be included where there is no definitive teaching of the Magisterium to be had on a given subject. (E.g., the salvation of unbaptized infants)

            Q=What weight do you place on Commandments and direct commends of Jesus as stated in the Gospels?

            A=The content of Scripture is the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and authentically interpreted by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, which is its servant.

            Q=Can someone chose to do something less than what Jesus commands and say they are following him?

            A=No. We should be obedient to the commandments of Christ and the Word of God as authentically interpreted by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

          • John B. Manos says:

            Deacon, we seem to agree on interpreting Ratzinger’s meaning about the catechism, and we’ve gone down this rather long road about history and such to get there. The question is that you haven’t really told me what specifically is wrong with the analysis I gave above — nor have you offered a challenge to the quotes and subjects above.

            So, that I might understand better: Do you agree with me that a lie is never right? That God expects us to always tell the truth, in every circumstance?

          • Deacon+JR says:

            Hi, John–it’s really good to hear we agree on the Ratzinger quotes re the Catechism, which I presume means that you concur that the teaching on lying contained therein is the “common teaching of Catholic theology”?

            Regarding the assertions and quotes you mention above, the reason I have not offered any challenge to them is because I believe you have every right to affirm the common teaching as expressed by those quotes, as well as the right to affirm what we already have said we agree upon–namely that the moral category we usually call “lying” is really a wrong prohibited by the 8th Commandment. My point is not to argue against the common teaching, but merely to assert that other less rigorous views are permitted by the Magisterium.

            You asked:”So, that I might understand better: Do you agree with me that a lie is never right? That God expects us to always tell the truth, in every circumstance?”

            To the first question: If by “lie” we both mean what I describe above–that which is an offense against truth and prohibited by the 8th Commandment, yes, we agree that there is such a category that is never right.

            To the second question: This is the part that has been debated for centuries by the Church’s theologians, with differing views expressed by different Fathers, Doctors, Bishops, Saints, and theologians. It gets to the heart of the question of “what is a lie?”

            The CCC makes clear that of course we are not required to always tell the truth in every circumstance, since our obligation to safeguard truth also involves *discretion* as well as honesty. Depending upon the nature of the truths involved and the relationship of the persons involved, a discreet concealing of truth is considered virtuous. The moral question, ultimately, is whether or not one may conceal some truths via false assertions as well as by silence, evasion, equivocation, and/or mental reservation. If one can “mislead” via these other choices, can on “mislead” via a false assertion depending upon the nature of the truths involved in a particular case?

            Seems to me that is the heart of the theological debate, once we’ve cleared the air and can acknowledge that the debate itself is legitimate and permitted by the Magisterium.

            God bless,
            Deacon JR

          • John B. Manos says:

            I don’t agree with your use of “common teaching” – first, because that’s not the impression of it I have from Ott, and second, because the matter is pretty well settled. We must always tell the truth. You are describing discretion, secrets and types of truth. I don’t recognize variance in truth. You seem to think there is a variety. A thing is true or it isn’t.

            By conflating the object of speech, which is between at least two persons, to be only a matter of the speaker, as opposed to considering to whom the speaker is speaking, you necessarily must make a variance of truth in order to account for the qualities of the audience. That sort of analysis seems less refined and incomplete. For instance, consider a child being asked to report on his future whereabouts. The child knows the answer, and it is the truth. That truth does not change based on who is asking – the truth is the truth. Yet, the child will have different duties depending on who asks. For his parents to ask, he is not only bound by the eighth commandment, but also by the fourth. To a stranger, who has no right to know the whereabouts, the child should answer differently, especially saying that they can’t answer because the person is a stranger. Did the truth change? No. The audience did.

            Second, if you are going to rely on Ott’s compendium, recognize that it is a compendium – as is the CCC. There is a compendium of the CCC compendium as well.

            As with all things, the compendium, like a pipe wrench, is not exactly the best tool for every situation. While I find nothing wrong with what it says, it’s obvious that the word “discretion in speech” means two different things to us. For me, it means a consideration of who asks or wants to know, and I must tell the truth. By your words, truth can be different by your discretion. I don’t understand that. Sounds relativist or dehellenized. By any chance, are you a Platonist or a Pythagorean? They said things like that. 🙂

            I make light, but I think we found the difference here. Have you ever heard a real lecture on mental reservations? I don’t consider some of the articles on the matter I’ve seen online to be very good, many leave me with the impression that the author was making it up based on casual research. There is a great lecture set by Fr. Hardon on the matter for sale from If there was a free one online, I’d link to it.

          • Deacon+JR says:

            Well, the immediate difference we’ve discovered is that you disagree about calling the CCC’s teaching on lying the “common teaching of Catholic theology,” which is of course how it is described in the online Catholic Encyclopedia article on lying and in multiple other sources.

            So let me ask this, and let me ask it specifically regarding the *definition* of lying one finds in the Catechism:

            If this definition of lying does not in your view possess the “weight” or theological certitude associated with Ott’s description of “common teaching,” then would you please specify exactly what “weight” or certitude (feel free to use Ott’s list if helpful) the definition of lying possesses, in your view? Is it infallible? Magisterial? If so, how so? Or is it something else?

            Everything else discussed will likely hinge upon how we each answer this question.

            God bless,

            Deacon JR

          • John B. Manos says:


            I don’t think changing the subject at this point makes much sense. You’ve used Ott’s “common teaching” in a way that I said above was different than I understand. I also gave definitions and analyzed your words indicating a “Variety of truths”.

            Since you introduced a term that I cannot find in Ott, the CCC, or in Fr. Hardon’s catechism or Catholic dictionary, I tried to render that concept as best I could. I also gave you an analysis as to why that term is incompatible with the definitions I’m using.

            But let’s not shift the burden over to me — it is your term — you said it.

            Please tell me where the catechism gives a “Variety of truths” concept — I’d like to read that in print. So far I’ve only seen such a concept in in the sources I mentioned above.

            Meanwhile, are you aware that the de facto standard Catholic Catechism prior to the issuance of the CCC was Fr. Hardon’s?

          • Deacon+JR says:

            Hi, John–

            Your use of the term “variety of truths” and your insistence that I explain it puzzles me, as it is your phrase. I referred to the “nature” of the truths that may be involved in our obligation(s) to truth. You might wish to review Aquinas etc. on this aspect of “Truth”. E.g., the “truth” associated with the question “what time is it?” and the truth associated with the question “Is Jesus God?” fall in completely different categories of truth.

            Btw, Fr. Hardon’s Catechism, as good as it is, cannot be considered a local or universal catechism per se. No, the predecessor to the current CCC was not Hardon’s but was the Catechism of the Council of Trent–the last “universal” catechism produced by the Church.

            Finally, I am puzzled about why you are choosing not to respond to the key question in our conversation: What level of authority (or certitude or “weight”) is possessed by the definition of lying found in the CCC?

            Asking this is far from a change of subject–it *is* the heart of the matter. If the definition of lying found in the CCC is a non-negotiable and authoritative statement of the Magisterium, then I need to shut up and go home. I have no business challenging a teaching of the Magisterium. And if you think this is what it is, you should tell me so and explain why.

            On the other hand, if it is *not* an authoritative teaching of the Magisterium, then by having *both* of us acknowledge that it is not, we can move forward into a debate over the *merits* of various *theological* opinions regarding what constitutes the sin of lying so-called.

            You see why this is a crucial step?

          • Deacon+JR says:

            John–a few points for you and your readers to consider regarding the authoritative value of the definition of lying.

            1. The definition directly quoted in the CCC is that of Augustine, expressed in at least two other distinct ways in the CCC, but clearly derived from the Augustine/Aquinas understanding of “lying” which I claim is the “common teaching.”

            2. The definition is obviously not an infallible teaching, thus ruling out the conciliar and extraordinary papal magisteria.

            3. It is obviously not derived from an act of the ordinary papal magisterium.

            4. This leaves only the “ordinary and universal magisterium” of the Pope and bishops in communion with him to consider.

            5. Has the definition been taught “universally” by the magisterium? Obviously not, since the Augustine definition could not have been taught “universally” *before* Augustine wrote it, and both during and after Augustine gave his definition, theologians continued proposing alternative views.

            6. There has never been a point since Augustine in which the ordinary universal magisterium can be shown to actually affirm this definition as having been universally accepted as an authoritative magisterial teaching by the Pope and bishops in communion with him. Rather, it continues to be a teaching, recognized as the common teaching of Catholic theologians, that is *repeated* by the Magisterium in accord with the following statement:

            “2033 The Magisterium of the Pastors of the Church in moral matters is ordinarily exercised in catechesis and preaching, with the help of the works of theologians and spiritual authors. Thus from generation to generation, under the aegis and vigilance of the pastors, the “deposit” of Christian moral teaching has been handed on, a deposit composed of a characteristic body of rules, commandments, and virtues proceeding from faith in Christ and animated by charity. Alongside the Creed and the Our Father, the basis for this catechesis has traditionally been the Decalogue which sets out the principles of moral life valid for all men.”

            So I continue to assert that the *definition* of lying is clearly one of the “works of theologians” relied upon by the magisterium to help articulate something from the Decalogue–the 8th Commandment. But the definition itself therefore is clearly part of the “common teaching” of Catholic theology and among the field of the free opinions.

            Do you or your readers wish to agree with this or disagree with it and offer an alternative proposal regarding the “weight” of the definition of lying?

          • John B. Manos says:

            This is very entertaining comment, Deacon. I’m trying to figure out whose imprimatur you bear.

            Are you intentionally ignoring the definition that I gave earlier, which is the St. Augustine definition?

            I gave you an opportunity earlier to correct a mistake you made when giving a definition of lying wherein you conflated the factors of culpability (CCC 2484) – I told you it was imprecise and I told you why. Rather than correct it, you’ve gone into some sort of inquisition as to whether I give mental ascent to the deposit of faith.

            Now, you have some sort of strange demand on me and the thousands who’ve read this to answer to you.

            Since you insist on using the Catechism and fail to see that the definition of lying I posted in several places herein are in fact the same, I’ve taken the effort to post the relevant Paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church below. Please tell me what is gained by this ad the definition of lying is no different than I gave.

            Meanwhile, I don’t find it necessary to state the obvious. By posting what I have posted and by making the graphic I made, there should be little doubt as to where my allegiance lies (I had to make the pun! LOL).

            If you’d like to challenge the (using your terms here) “weight” of the definitions, go right ahead. I’m confident, however that the definitions I’ve used and relied on are identical as all are derived from St Augustine (who I’ve cited above). If there is some other deficiency, please state it clearly.

            2482 “A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.”280 The Lord denounces lying as the work of the devil: “You are of your father the devil, . . . there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”281

            2483 Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth. By injuring man’s relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord.

            2484 The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.

          • Deacon+JR says:

            Hi, John–I am fairly sure that one does not need an imprimatur when pointing people to a source like the Old Catholic Encyclopedia article on lying (, and noting that it refers to the subject matter we are discussing as the “common teaching” eight times, according to my count. Nor if I pointed you to numerous other resources to make the point would I need an imprimatur.

            I am sorry if I have been unclear regarding my request for your view of the “authority” associated with the teaching on lying, particularly the definition of the term “lying.” But, without knowing whether you view the definition to be among the “free opinions” as noted by Ott’s description of “common teaching,” then I can have no way of knowing whether you are merely arguing the merits of one of two different permissible views on the subject or whether you are effectively denying the validity of the “non-Augustine-Aquinas” view on the basis that this alternative view is *not* permitted by the Magisterium.

            Is our conversation about two Catholics in good standing discussing two permissible views about lying, or is our conversation about one Catholic taking the *only* permissible view (you) and the other (me) effectively “dissenting” from the Magisterium?

            Surely you can understand how important this question is.

            God bless,

            Deacon Jim R

          • Deacon+JR says:

            Am I *really* supposed to infer that, based upon what you have said (and not said), that we are each, respectively, arguing the “two standards” you delineate above, with you arguing for the good and me arguing for the evil? Really?

          • John B. Manos says:

            Even more entertaining, Deacon. I’m sorry that I can’t join you on a inquisition. I’ve limited my participation in those to only third Wednesday of the month or by special order of the albino monk and even then, only when accompanied with authenticable documents.

            Could you please tell me the deficiency of my definitions? Otherwise, I’ve said what I’ve said and with good sources. Perhaps you’d like, as I told you to do earlier, to give the precise deficiencies you find in Fr. Hardon’s works?

            Otherwise, I’m not really interested in exploring digressions into Ott. I prefer to read him on German, if I must.

          • Deacon+JR says:

            John–it intrigues me that one who is claiming we must always tell the truth has opted not to reveal one’s view on the authority attributed to the definition of lying.

            As to the deficiencies of that definition of lying, there are indeed many.

            A great many of them are to be listed and considered in an ancient treatise titled “On Lying.”

            It is by…St. Augustine.

            Wherein he explains the great many complications and conundrums associated with considering whether something actually is a lie, or not. After which he proceeds to consider for the sake of discussion the one human act that he personally believes “everyone” considers to be a lie–speaking falsehood with intention to deceive.

            Even Augustine himself offers his definition only in the context of already having conceded that it is not sufficiently applicable to a great many acts that may or may not be lies, but instead settles on it based on the rhetorical statement that “everyone” must agree that all spoken falsehoods with intent to deceive are lies….

            I find that to be an interesting origin for the definition in the CCC…

          • John B. Manos says:

            Have you a better definition than the one Mother Church has used for 16 centuries or so? I’d love to see it!

            Meanwhile, I’ll stick with what I’ve written and relied on.

            I’m not sure how any reasonable interpretation of what I’ve written could lead you to think and ask what you said of the picture. It does make me wonder if you recognize the reference of “the two standards”.

          • Deacon+JR says:

            Well, the malleability of the definition takes immediate center stage in the Catholic Encyclopedia article I reference above, which states:

            “Lying, as defined by St. Thomas Aquinas, is a statement at variance with the mind. This definition is more accurate than most others which are current. Thus a recent authority defines a lie as a false statement made with the intention of deceiving.”

            And then it goes on to explain how the Aquinas definition is *superior* to the definition of the “recent authority” (which of course is actually the Aquinas definition we now cite in the CCC!).

            So the lying definition of Augustine, which you now apparently claim has been the definition used by “Mother Church” for about 16 centuries, was labeled “less accurate” than the Aquinas definition by a premier Catholic publication of last century. What are we to think?

            Is the definition of “lying” really a “settled” issue? If so, “settled” when, where, and by whom?

          • Deacon+JR says:

            typo alert: not: (which of course is actually the Aquinas definition we now cite in the CCC!).

            BUT: (which of course is actually the AUGUSTINE definition we now cite in the CCC!).

  • Athanasius says:

    The debate here is outstanding. I think the vitriol in other places is really a straw-man set up to defend or attack the greater motives and/or morality of Ms. Rose and her exemplary pro-life work.

    Fr. Hardon should be a source we always refer to in most every matter.

    There is a theological opinion, I believe, though I am at a loss to remember where, that allows for a party not to know the truth if they do not NEED to know it.

    The example would be of the many kinds of information that would pass the desk of The Pope, a Bishop, or even The President. Would anyone make the argument that we should know ALL the information that is known, to any of these parties, if we merely ask?

    Other examples include Rahab lying to the Jericho soldiers in the hiding of the Jewish spies prior to Jericho falling. Elizabethan England necessitated the same. There is also the case of hiding Jews during the time of The Holocaust. Pius XII forged documents to save up to 100,000 Jews in WWII.

    Today’s underground Church in China requires the same sort of care as well.

    There may soon come a day where the holders of Holy Orders here require hiding and sufficient mental gymnastics to save their lives and, thus, the distribution of The Sacraments to The Faithful.

    My place isn’t very big, but you are welcome to hide here, just let me worry about the bad guys at the door! =+)


    • John B. Manos says:

      Athanasius, Thanks be to God for the praise!

      You are referring to secrets. There are many kinds of secrets. The one kind that can never be broken, ever, is the seal of confession. That is a secret. Nobody has to right to know what was confessed to a priest. nobody. period. Thus, a priest is never lying if, when someone asks what was confessed, he replies, “I cannot tell you because of the seal of confession.”

      The next kind of secret is a professional secret — traditionally, “professional” only applies to doctors and attorneys. A court has the power to break the secret here, for instance.

      Then there are other secrets of lesser permanence.

      Just as there is a duty to always tell the truth, there is also the duty to keep a secret, according to the terms of the secret (secrets are a type of oath and may be conditioned).

      Most of the debate as to whether someone is lying, because people today are conditioned towards situational hypotheticals, revolve around a scenario where a person holds a secret, or something that appears to be a secret, and someone who has some level of a right or need to know is asking for that secret. Analysis of these situations must always include consideration of the nature of the secret and the circumstance of the need to know. All of it must be considered in light of the duty to always tell the truth. See the example at the end of my post for how one saint handled it where the lives of others were at stake.

  • […] B. Manos Posted on May 23, 2013 • 23 Comments Facebook John M. DeJak liked this […]

  • Chris says:

    Touche to Deacon JR: the definition found in the CCC is authoritative. Whether it is an irreformable definition or infallible is obviously another question, which it is probably not, but this does not mean that something is not authentic and authoritative, which is perhaps the confusion. Authoritative means that something/someone speaks in the name of Church and presents the Magisterium’s teaching on the subject. Authentic means that something/someone is in communion with the Church. It is clear that the Catechism and JPII in issuing it, speak in the name of the Church and represent Magisterial teaching in general. As to the level of assent owed to it in general, a religious submission of intellect and/or will is owed to the contents (see canons 752 and 753 of the code of canon law.) As to any individual teaching, this will obviously depend on the fallbile/infallible nature of it, whether it is proposed definitively, etc.

    This is to say that the CCC is not simply a collection of theological opinions or the statement of one conclusion just as valid as another. That would be nonsense. Rather, as JPII stated in the Constitution publishing it, it is “a statement of Catholic doctrine,” “a sure norm for teaching the faith,” it faithfully and systematically presents the authentic Magisterium, and “This catechism is given to them that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms.” It is simply erroneous to claim that it does not confirm and elevate a particular teaching. At the very least it indicates that what is stated therein is the more probable and accepted teaching. Something that is an authentic reference for doctrine, that presents the authentic Magisterium, cannot be just a collection of theological conclusions and opinions just as valid as any other. Likewise, how could it be a guide for teaching and preparing local catechisms if it did not contain authentic and authoritative conclusions or at the least universally accepted teaching. That would be folly.

    According to accepted rules of theological interpretation/methodology as well, a teaching on faith and/or morals that appears in a universal catechism, especially when that teaching involves an intrinsic evil, by its nature again has at least the authority of being the accepted and more probable position.

    Here, someone may object about the definition in the prior edition. But, the normative text is now what it is, and it is precisely THE normative text; which is to say it is the one to be used for reference in disputes, not the prior edition. Furthermore, it an erroneous principle to state that because some prior definition, edition, or what have you, has not been expressly abrogated or any explanation later given indicating that the old definition is no longer applicable, then the latter is still in force. For one, that contradicts the whole point of issuing a new normative text, the object of which is to replace or reorder the prior one.

    To sum it up, when one is in the position of having to explain away or demote the teaching found in a universal catechism, one is on thin ice.

    • Deacon+JR says:

      But Chris, in my current conversation with John, he and I have already *agreed* that the proper interpretation of Cardinal Ratzinger’s comments on the CCC indicate that the “weight” of each teaching contained therein is the *same* going “into” the CCC as it is coming “out” of the CCC. Being in the CCC does *not* alter the authoritative value of *any* of the content contained in it, even though it is a product promulgated via the papal magisterium.

      If it really is “simply erroneous” to claim what Cardinal Ratzinger has claimed, then your argument is with the Pope Emeritus and not with John or me, since we’re merely agreeing with what the Cardinal said.

    • John B. Manos says:

      Thanks Chris! I agree with everything you’ve said here.

    • Deacon+JR says:

      Chris–a simple test.

      Please cite for me anything official or authoritative that makes the claim you make: namely, that the teaching on lying found in the Catechism is itself “authoritative” and is owed a “religious submission of intellect and/or will” and presents “the *Magisterium’s* teaching on the subject.”

      I can cite for you multiple resources claiming that the teaching on lying is “common teaching” and therefore the “safest” theological opinion among all theological opinions but *not* considered authoritative or “magisterial” in “weight” or origin and is part of the “free opinions”.

      A question for all my fellow Catholics: Does everyone remember that there really *is* such thing in Catholic theology as “common teaching”? Does this come as a surprise to anyone?

      As a comparison, we could recount the history of the “common teaching” on the “limbo of the infants.”…

      But seriously, does anyone think I’m just making up stuff about the meaning of “common teaching” here? Everything I am saying is historically demonstrable.

      To deny that the teaching on lying is “common teaching” is simply and straightforwardly to deny the *history* of the Catholic Church.

      • John B. Manos says:


        Do you really mean to imply that the definition of a lie is like limbo, and create an expectation that someday, like limbo, falsehood and lies will be defined away?

        As a lawyer, I can promise you, that day will never exist – if lawyers haven’t been able to define away lying, no theologian will.

        The definition I gave from these sources is reliable and true.

        • Deacon+JR says:

          Well, no, John–that’s not what is implied, and the “limbo of the infants” has not in fact been “defined away”.

          In fact, one may *still* hold the theological opinion on the limbo of the infants, including the necessary accompanying root opinion that unbaptized infants who die cannot be saved. One may still do this despite the fact that the CCC today says we entrust such unbaptized infants who die to the “mercy of God,” with the implication that they may indeed be saved.

          The Church permits the faithful to hold *either* view despite the fact that the “common teaching” for centuries was that unbaptized infants who die could not be saved and would not go to Heaven.

          Compared to the lying issue, I am saying that the Church *also* permits a “more rigorous” and “less rigorous” view on what constitutes the sin of lying, since the teaching on lying is *also* common teaching.

          • Deacon+JR says:

            Keep in mind the importance of this comparison–Chris’s view above is that we owe the content of the CCC nothing *less* than the assent of “religious submission of mind and will.” But if this is true, then it means that *every* Catholic *must* believe that unbaptized infants who die *can* be saved.

            Which would of course mean that the Church’s 2007 International Theological Commission statement on this issue, which reaffirms a Catholic’s right to continue accepting the “limbo of the infants,” is wrong….

  • Jan Baker says:

    In a sci fi novel I’m sixth sevenths through, I have a group of Catholics hiding in a darkened mining pod ship on Earth’s first space colony, debating what to do in the circumstances in which they find themselves, in which a priest has found his way to the colony and immediately been taken by the authorities during the celebration of mass because the act is in defiance of the new One World Religion just the day before declared by the World President. A Muslim was taken elsewhere at the same time because on his mining run he discovered the existence of the Perfect Asteroid, not only rich in all things terra-formable but also nicely hidden in the Oort Cloud, which distorts snoop drones and masks location, but he did not disclose this asteroid to his superiors. He still hasn’t, in custody–yet. The Catholics are hiding in the mining pod debating their options. Actually, they have a kind of directive, since their leader got through to the Holy Father on earth, just as storm troopers are breaking in his Vatican apartment to kill him, and his last word to them was: Run! Of course they think of the rumors about the asteroid.

    But how to run? They could break out the priest, and the Muslim fellow, too, because one of them knows the ventilation system in the detention area having led the team that built it, and thinks he can get through. But how to escape the colony with all their people and necessary supplies and gear?

    Isn’t it just like escaping Egypt?? And I have a chase, and a parting of the sea planned that’s going to engulf the new Pharaoh’s Army. But here’s the problem: how can they run? They could steal the mining pod they’re hiding in, its captain is one of them. But they’d have to steal it.

    By the way, the Muslim, and his fiancé, and some other Muslims, are going with them in agreement to live in a new Catholic state on the asteroid, because life in a Catholic state that tolerates other Faiths even when it does not equalize them, is preferable to life in secularism. That’s what they argue.

    But I’m stuck on the stealing part. I’ve been stuck for weeks.There’s no plausible way one of them could own it, an ark like that would be billions. Only the Company could possibly own it.

    What to do?? Anyway I’ll read the comments carefully, maybe there’s a clue.

  • Deacon+JR says:

    John, Chris, et al.:

    My hope is that we have arrived at a point in the conversation at which we can all acknowledge that there are things in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that are being proposed to the faithful as “safe” to believe *without* proposing that they *must* be believed.

    This is clearly the case with the CCC teaching that permits the faithful to believe that unbaptized infants who die may be saved. We don’t *have* to believe that they may be saved–we are still permitted to believe in the theological opinion on the “limbo of the infants.” Why? Because *both* of these views remain among the “free opinions”–the case can clearly be made that what was once the “common teaching” on this matter (limbo) has been overtaken by a different “common teaching” (hope of salvation) which is now presented to the faithful in the CCC as “safe” to believe.

    Likewise, with the common teaching on lying. This common teaching is proposed to the faithful as one that can be safely held but without mandating that the faithful *must* accept this and *only* this view of what constitutes the sin of lying.

    If we all can consciously acknowledge that this is the truth of the matter, then we can consciously maintain the bonds of unity that are so vitally important to the Body of Christ–we instead can acknowledge that, while we may form conscience differently on this issue, we are permitted to do so and in doing so we remain brothers and sisters in Christ.

    God bless you,
    Deacon JR

    • John B. Manos says:


      Thanks for this comment because you’ve finally made it clear what you were trying to say all along. With regard as to whether there is a better definition of lies available in the future, I will agree, that particularly in English, there is room for improvement. I would have less agreement for certain other languages.

      None of the quotes I selected for the article above are affected by an expanded and more precise definition, however – a lie is still evil and sows error in the minds of others – it is, as I put for the alternate title, a method of imitating the devil and becoming a child of the devil.

      It doesn’t take high level parsing of words to determine whether a particular act was a lie – truth is truth and people know.a lie when they see it. I this regard, the definition that are used are best to instruct children and such as to what a lie is and how it deforms the utterer.

      Thus, apart from the mechanics of the definition and it being able to capture all aspects of what a lie does, there is room to improve.

      Thus, no level of future definition is going to change the moral import of lying: lying is falsehood and evil. It is the work of the devil.

      If one is to follow Christ, there is no lying. You don’t need a refined definition, following Truth and imitating Jesus Christ is exclusive and clear: no lying.

      • Deacon+JR says:

        It looks as though we may agree, then, that the Magisterium permits us to take different views on whether certain human acts constitute the sin of lying, despite the definition employed in the Catechism?

        “People know a lie when they see it”–which I would like to believe. Yet the “dilemma” examples constantly arise:

        1. Does the undercover narcotics cop “sin” when he says he’s a drug dealer?

        2. Did the US “Ghost Army” of WWII “sin” when speaking falsely about who they were to village folk?

        3. Does someone “lie” when he *refuses* to communicate a truth in order to falsely implicate someone else in a crime?

        4. Does someone “lie” when he communicates the *truth* in order to deceive someone else?

        And lots more examples in which it is not always clear that “everyone” agrees that what is done is a sinful “lie.”

        Which is why it is my hope that we each do what we can to form our own consciences while refraining from calling out our fellow Catholics (not saying this of you)for attempting to do the same while coming to different but still-permissible conclusions.

        God bless,

        Deacon JR

        • John B. Manos says:

          I disagree in so far as you keep leaving analysis as an indefinite science. God gave us brains and we are to use them to determine the rightness or wrongness of an act.

          I also think that the analysis afforded by the mental reservation method (as taught by Fr. Hardon) is a reliable method, one that I believe is the most precise, as I said above. While there may be competing analytical tools to determine whether an utterance is a lie, there ought to be little variance between them overall, and where there is, the faulty model should be limited to avoid such shortcomings.

          The preference under all of it is that we are to always tell the truth (all of it). The other preference is that we ought to keep in mind that all those who do evil hate the light and avoid it, for fear that their actions should be exposed. But the man who live by the truth, steps out into the light, that it may be plainly seem that what he does is done in God.

          Now, with that said, is it wrong for people to analyze whether your hypotheticals are right or wrong? No. We are to use the minds God gave us to ascertain understanding.

          Even if a situation appears to be wrong, everyone should realize that they do not know what the individual did or did not know, see, or do. Thus, even if it is plain that a person did the wrong thing, we cannot impute culpability to the individual.

          Good for them to discuss it. Bad for anyone who sincerely believes that Jesus lied- unless they repent of such error, it won’t go well for them.

          • Deacon+JR says:

            I’m content, as it appears we have arrived at a point where it is clear that the teaching on lying found in the CCC is the “common teaching of Catholic theology” and is not a teaching that originates with the “ordinary magisterium”, and that the Magisterium permits the less rigorous view that the falsehoods utilized in undercover work are not sinful.

          • John B. Manos says:

            I don’t think I’d agree with the way you’ve re-characterized my conclusion. Please do not tell others that I agree or endorse the statement you made.

            I would need to know more facts and I’ve said over and over that the basis and first foundation is to always tell the truth. At no time have I said that intentional falsehood is OK. I’d say the opposite, in fact. Lies and falsehood and sowing error in another is the work of the father of lies.

            Perhaps I’ll cover spies and such at a later date in its own post. As a teaser though, I should note that there is no such thing as a “righteous lie”.

          • Deacon+JR says:

            John–to be sure, I was not re-characterizing your conclusion at all, just offering my own. And I was careful not to mention whether you agree at all with what I think has been made “clear.” I really didn’t figure you would agree.

  • Chris says:

    Deacon Jr,

    This is a lengthy reply, but as for references to the level of assent owed to the catechism, I cited one already, canons 752 and 753 of the code of canon law. At the least the CCC would fall under 753, requiring religious submission (obsequium) of mind. See also canon 754 and even if it were as weak as that, there is still an obligation to observe such teachings found therein(obligatione tenentur servandi). As for an explanation for the theological reasoning behind them and their correspondence to the profession of faith required by various persons in the Church, see the M.P. Ad tuendam fidem by JPII, particularly nn. 2-3. Off hand I can also think of the Doctrinal Commentary accompanying the latter, Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei, esp. #11 onward( See also the Instruction, Donum Veritatis, on the ecclesial vocation of the theologian, #17-23. See also Lumen Gentium, n. 25. It is true that you will not necessarily see the CCC mentioned by name, but if you are actually going to deny that it falls in the category of at least an authentic and authoritative magisterium, and thus its contents generally being authoritative, then I give up.

    It is a logical fallacy and thus contrary to accepted theological interpretation to say that because the exact definition has not been explicitly labeled as being from the ordinary magisterium then it is not, as will be examined below. A teaching or proposition or definition does not have to be labeled explicitly as such in order to be so, any more than a doctrine has to be expressly declared to be infallible or definitive in order for it to be so. That is like a dissenter claiming that because some teaching has never been expressly stated as infallible then it is not so, and asking someone to show them exactly where it says it is infallible.

    There is perhaps misunderstanding of the whole notion of teaching levels and the level of assent owed to various teachings, while the two are not to be mixed. Read the doctrinal note mentioned above to understand some of the differences. E.G., your comment on the contents of the CCC as being safe to believe with the fact that they must be believed. An individual doctrine which is of divine and catholic faith must be believed; other truths which are not divinely revealed but so connected with such truths are to be firmly embraced and retained; however, because they do not demand belief that does not mean they are not infallible, because the latter category does contain infallible, definitive truths and to reject them is to be opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church. One difference lies in the fact that the virtue of faith is not what brings about adherence. Faith/belief is only strictly operative for truths divinely revealed and proposed as such. Likewise, because an assent of faith may not be required to other non-definitive teachings not found in the above 2 categories, but a religious submission of the intellect and will, this does not mean that someone does not have to still adhere to it. The erroneous equation of the basic categories of must be believed with submission of mind and will is rather telling. Submission is owed to propositions flowing even from an exercise of the authentic magisterium, even if not ordinary.

    There also seems to be confusion over the exercise of the magisterium with the level of teaching, i.e., that an exercise of the ordinary magis. coincides with teachings that must be believed, as well as confusing authoritative with definitive or infallible. In addition, even something that may not be of the ordinary magisterium is not un-authoritative.

    It is interesting that one finds in the constitution promulgating the CCC some key phrases associated with the ordinary and even extraordinary magisterium, e.g. JPII says he is exercising his task “of supporting and confirming the faith of all the Lord Jesus’ disciples (cf. Lk 22:32)”, traditionally accepted as a formula actually used with promulgating definitive doctrines. For example, cf. ordinatio sacerdotalis n.4: “in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32).” Although he goes on to expressly say this is definitive, this is one reason why we can’t say that because something is not explicitly labelled as being in such and such a category, then it is not so. There are other such traditional formulas that are used as “tip-offs” that a teaching is at a certain level, when there is no explicit label.

    There also is a confusion of common teaching and ordinary magisterium, which are not mutually exclusive, i.e. a common teaching can be taken up and accepted by the magisterium, and without some explicit explanation ever being given- okay, we are now expressly stating that teaching X is being assumed by the magisterium. That may be implicit by such very actions as being reproduced in a universal catechism.

    As I said in my initial post, the CCC cannot be reduced to a collection of theological conclusions, as though the inclusion of one proposition/definition is just as good as another. The inclusion of one in a universal catechism is arguably even a de facto acceptance and recognition of one definition as being the preferable and more probable conclusion. This is perhaps demonstrated here especially, as a change occurred between editions. If there was no acceptance or approbation of one definition over the other, and the one to be used for teaching and analysis, then why make a change? That makes no sense. One definition was discarded/modified and another adopted, and we are to believe this really makes no practical difference as to which is preferred and authoritative?

    Furthermore, there is a misunderstanding of universal, which means, for example, that it is taught/accepted by the pope and college of bishops, that it is presented in something such as a universal catechism, which is itself an expression of universal collegiality. Universal does not simply refer from whence a particular definition comes, i.e. because it was taken from Augustine but other definitions were later proposed then it is not “universal.” A definition, regardless of its source, which is taken up and given a form of recognition by the magisterium can become, by that fact, universal.

    Here I would comment that Ratzinger’s statements cited earlier seem to be aimed at the fact that simply being in the CCC does not change the doctrinal weight, e.g. a non-definitive teaching does not become definitive, not divinely revealed does not become revealed . (Here again consider the difference between doctrines and other teachings.) It would be interesting to see the context of his comments and the particular question he was asked. He does not seem to be dismissing the fact that something included in the CCC may not thereby receive a form of approbation, especially as this would be contrary to accepted principles of interpretation.

    Yes, the definition of lying may not be something to be believed, may not be definitive or irreformable, but that does not in any way mean that it must not be given obedience of mind and will, and/or that it is not authoritative and thus the preferred and accepted definition. It may even arguably be of the ordinary magisterium or at least the CCC as a whole may be, although the former is certainly not clear. Because one may not find the current definition labeled explicitly somewhere as coming from the ordinary magisterium, or as enjoying exactly the weight you want it, and that it can just as well be exchanged in favor of another definition, is to be at the point of straining hairs. In fact, I’m sure you would rightly scold a dissenter who uses the same arguments you are trying to use, e.g., the teaching on such and such is not infallible, I don’t have to believe it, that particular paragraph/definition in the CCC has not been explicitly named as being of the ordinary magisterium, etc. Yet you have made an exception with these tactics for yourself. (Let’s be quite clear I’m not trying to label you as a dissenter.)

    • Deacon+JR says:

      Hi, Chris–my very brief answer to your long-ish post is to reply: If everything you assert above is true, then please offer a reasonable explanation as to why we Catholics are completely free to believe that infants who die before Baptism are *not* saved when the CCC clearly affirms that we can hope that they *are* saved?

      If everything you say above is true, then we Catholics are *obligated* to stop believing that unbaptized infants who die are *not* saved. We are obligated to stop believing the universal Catechism of the Council of Trent and now *must* believe the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition.

      Please explain.

      God bless,

      Deacon JR

  • Chris says:

    Deacon JR,

    Interesting that you sidestep addressing any of the actual points. But, your question is a straw man and contains errors I have already noted: the teaching on limbo is not a matter of “must”, as this is not a divinely revealed doctrine, and that is not my argument for accepting the CCC’s definition of lying. This is also to say that it is not a matter of believing, for an assent of faith is not involved. If you are unaware of or don’t understand such concepts and distinctions, please say so. The parallel is also not the same, for the issue of limbo has been expressly admitted to be a theory, a hypothesis.

    Also, limbo was not directly addressed in the Roman Catechism, so it is not clear if are you paraphrasing the teaching regarding baptism therein and then stating your own conclusion as to what the Roman Catechism would have said? (Part of your scenario clearly involves a supposed opposition between two universal catechisms. The Council itself did make a statement on it, but the language is that we are allowed to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism [session 6, n. 1261]. See below for more on this language.) I will assume the misrepresentation is unintentional.

    Even so, the actual positions, which are arguably mischaracterized, are not necessarily contrary: The CCC emphasizes how someone is allowed to hope in salvation of non-baptized infants: The actual latin text broadly says we are permitted to hope: nobis permittunt sperare. It does not say we have to hope or believe or even suggested or exhorted to hope. And notice that the operative virtue is hope, not faith/belief. The ITC statement says that there are “reasons to hope” that they may be saved, not that they are, in fact, saved. If it is merely said that we are permitted to hope that they may be saved, it would not be contrary for someone to argue they are not saved. Perhaps that is why such extensive language was used in the CCC, so as not to conflict with earlier conclusions? As noted above, however, the decree of Trent uses similar language: we are allowed to hope.

    Your standard of proof keeps shifting- first the emphasis was on the CCC not being authoritative, but when that was addressed, the emphasis was on the definition therein not being definitive or infallible, then not being explicitly labeled as a teaching of the ordinary magisterium, then you posed the limbo question. Then you asked for references to show that submission of intellect and/or will is required to the CCC, and I did so; but you apparently may not have even read them, given your quick reply. And now you ask the limbo question, and arguably misrepresented at that, instead of addressing any of the points. This is also to say that you seem to be more interested in clinging to our own opinion rather than a search for the truth. Don’t be surprised if I offer no further comment.

    • Deacon+JR says:

      No, I have not sidestepped any of the errors you have asserted in your previous post. I merely seek to illustrate them with an economy of words.

      And so I will ask for merely one word–either a “yes” or a “no”–from you regarding the following text:

      Baptism Of Infants Should Not Be Delayed

      “The faithful are earnestly to be exhorted to take care that their children be brought to the church, as soon as it can be done with safety, to receive solemn Baptism. Since infant children have no other means of salvation except Baptism, we may easily understand how grievously those persons sin who permit them to remain without the grace of the Sacrament longer than necessity may require, particularly at an age so tender as to be exposed to numberless dangers of death.”

      Is the text above part of the universal catechism of the Council of Trent, the Roman Catechism? (yes/no)

      If yes, it stands in opposition to the text of the current CCC, just as I correctly stated, as it clearly says “infant children have no other means of salvation except Baptism.”

      If yes, then my previous request stands. It is an error to conclude that the common teaching of Catholic theology on the subject of lying is not comparable to the common teaching of Catholic theology previously expressed about the limbo of the infants.

    • Deacon+JR says:

      Chris, you wrote:

      ***Your standard of proof keeps shifting- first the emphasis was on the CCC not being authoritative, but when that was addressed, the emphasis was on the definition therein not being definitive or infallible, then not being explicitly labeled as a teaching of the ordinary magisterium, then you posed the limbo question.***

      I don’t believe you have read carefully enough. My standard of proof has not shifted at all. I never said the CCC wasn’t authoritative. I said the teaching on lying was common teaching. I never objected to the definition of lying on the basis of it being non-definitive or non-infallible. I said it was the common teaching. I *did* say it’s not a teaching of the ordinary magisterium *because* it is the common teaching of Catholic theologians. I *also* compared this common teaching with the common teaching on the limbo of the infants.

      That, my friend, is an UN-shifting and consistent expression of the truth of the matter.

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