Can the defense of some false signification be squared with the traditional absolute prohibition of lying? A close consideration of the analogy with the use of lethal force and the taking of property should help us see that the absolute prohibition can be retained. Neither Aquinas nor the Church understands the use of lethal force in defense of innocent life to be an “exception” to the prohibition of murder. Nor does the taking or destroying of property belonging to another when necessary to avert some great evil function as an “exception” to the prohibition of theft. Murder is the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being. Theft is taking something against the reasonable will of the owner, and a reasonable owner would approve of taking property to protect important goods. Therefore, properly stated, although killing and the taking of property are sometimes morally permissible, the norms against murder and theft remain absolute, without exception. Similarly, I believe that the telling of some falsehoods and other forms of false signification are compatible with the absolute prohibition of lying.I found her argument quite convincing. After reading both sides of the debate I wasn't quite sure. My intuition told me that there should be cases where lies can be told morally. It just bothered me that the arguments of Aquinas that continue to be defended by many Catholics I respect never seemed like they were adequately dealt with. As a Catholic I want to think with the church and not just follow my private judgement. So I didn't want to just say the tradition is just wrong. I wanted something that takes the church's non-infallible teaching seriously. This did that well.
The mistake that Aquinas makes (and those words do stick in my throat!) is that he analyzes the question of lying with a prelapsarian understanding of the purpose of signification—an understanding that presumes the innocence of man before the Fall. He does not make this same mistake in respect to the protection of life and property: He realizes that behavior in reference to human life and property is necessarily different in the postlapsarian world. Before the Fall, man has no need to use force against another, nor need he destroy another’s property (or even possess property). But after the Fall, innocent life is often threatened, and property owners are often absent or unreasonable. Thus new forms of behavior are permissible given new realities, behavior directed towards defending human life and protecting other important goods.
I had trouble finding a quote because the whole thing gets quite involved. Yet if you read the whole thing it makes a very strong case without getting too hard to follow. I was listening to Peter Kreeft say that sanctity and sanity are never in conflict. Catholicism is both. In this debate there were time I was feeling like I had to choose one or the other. This is both sane and holy.