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Friday, November 27, 2009

Deceive, Inveigle, Obfuscate

Mulder, not everything is a labyrinth of dark conspiracy, and not everybody is plotting to deceive, inveigle and obfuscate. - Scully, The X-Files

Scully should have known better - after all, she was Catholic.

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There's a post at dotCommonweal - Dublin clergy-abuse report released - that brings up a kind of weird topic - mental reservation ....

[...] Church authorities used the concept of “mental reservation”, which allows senior clergy to mislead people without being guilty, in the church’s eyes, of lying .... Ah, mental reservation. The truth but not the whole truth so help you God. Is Father available? No, the secretary says, knowing Father is upstairs not doing much of anything. She has mentally reserved the rest of the truth: that Father is not available to the person asking. Clever concept. Perhaps it’s time to give it a proper burial ...

I remember reading about the doctrine of mental reservation when reading about the Jesuits in Elizabeth's England. Here's some of what Wikipedia has ........

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The doctrine of mental reservation, or the doctrine of mental equivocation, was a special branch of casuistry developed in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance .....

The doctrine of mentalis restrictio or mental reservation was most fully enunciated by the 16th-century Spanish theologian Martin de Azpilcueta (aka Dr. Navarrus). Navarrus held that mental reservation involved truths "expressed partly in speech and partly in the mind," relying upon the idea that God hears what is in one's mind while human beings hear only what one speaks. Therefore the Christian's moral duty was to tell the truth to God. Reserving some of that truth from the ears of human hearers was moral if it served a greater good. The user of the doctrine could reply "I know not" aloud to a human interlocutor, and "to tell you" silently to God, and still be telling the truth (stricte mentalis).

The doctrine of mental reservation was intimately linked with the concept of equivocation, which allowed the speaker to employ double meanings of words to tell the literal truth while concealing a deeper meaning. Navarrus did not by any means originate these ideas, but he gave them a far more broad and liberal interpretation than had anyone up to that time. Other Catholic theological thinkers and writers took up the argument in favor of equivocation and mental reservation. Though the concepts remained controversial within the Roman Catholic Church (which never officially endorsed or upheld the doctrines), the Jesuits came to favor these tactics for their obvious advantages ...

The linked doctrines of mental reservation and equivocation became notorious in England during the Elizabethan era and the Jacobean era, when Jesuit agents penetrating England to maintain the Catholic cause were captured by the authorities, and used these concepts in their legal defenses. Robert Southwell (c. 1561–1595), a Jesuit priest and agent (also a poet of note) who was arrested in England in 1592, defended the doctrines at his trial, to the predictable resistance of the authorities. (Southwell was convicted, and executed in 1595.) More famous in his own era was Henry Garnet (1555–1606), who wrote a defense of Southwell in 1598; Garnet was captured by the authorities in 1606 due to his involvement in the Gunpowder Plot. He used the same doctrines in his own defense, with the same result as Southwell: Garnet was executed that year.

The Protestants considered these doctrines as mere justifications for lies. Catholic ethicists also voiced objections: the Jansenist "Blaise Pascal ...attacked the Jesuits in the seventeenth century for what he saw as their moral laxity." "By 1679, the doctrine of mental reservation had become such a scandal that Pope Innocent XI officially condemned it. Other casuists justifying mental reservation included Thomas Sanchez .... Following Innocent XI's condemnation of strict mental reservation, equivocation was still considered orthodox .....

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I think the doctrine of mental reservation is indeed about lying, despite church protestations to the contrary.


6 Comments:

Blogger Susan said...

Crystal, I was thinking about you today when I decided to give up on the X Files movie. I found it difficult to track, and I didn't care all that much what happened. I knew the two stars would survive, because after all, the TV show had to continue.

I think part of the problem is that I never saw the TV show, and the other part is that I never watch a movie in one sitting. I gave up on this one after sitting No. 4. :-)

Was the movie well received in general? Did you like it?

Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving, Crystal.

(Did you notice how neatly I finessed all your post's heavy religious/philosophical stuff? :-))

7:32 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Susan :)

I was just thinking of you and womdering how your Thanksgiving was, how Wolfy was, how your sensory digits are.

I spent Thanksgiving fixing the tarps on the roof because it was going to rain last night and I'd taken part of the tarps off so the heater repairman could fix the furnace on the roof, which he didn't because he had to send away for the part. My sister and I were going to go to a movie but when we got there it was sold out. So I ate potato chips and watched episodes of Stargate Atlantis :)

There were 2 X-Files movies. One came out about 10 years ago called Fight The Future and the other just came out last year, I think, but I don't remember the title.

The first one was much better than the second, which I didn't like myself - pretty grusome. It does probably help to have been watching the series to get all of the backstory and the characters. Maybe if you try the first one (if that's the one you didn't see) you'd like it better - it has Martin Landau in it :)

9:48 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Sorry to say it's the first one I've been watching. Martin Landau....so that's why he looked familiar!

I must have watched it almost through to the end. All that remains is for Scully to be rescued. Maybe I'll give it another shot one of these days. Right now I'm hooked on Hulu.com. When I was sick (shingles) I started watching TV series on that website to distract me during the night when the pain kept me awake. I became quite devoted to Glee, Flash Forward, and Mercy. Pretty amazing for someone who so rarely watched television. :-)

What movie did you and your sister try to see?

6:34 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

I discovered Hulu too - I watched all the episodes they had of McGyver and Numb3rs. They also have movies. I love the internet.

The movie was 2012 - the trailer had some nice end-of-the-world special effects.

Oh - sorru about the X-Files. I think it's an aquired taste, but it helps if you think David Duchovny is irresistible :)

11:30 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

LOL Well, I might have . . . if I didn't already know he was a sex addict. I felt sorry for his wife!

11:37 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Yes, so I've read - poor guy and poor wife. But back in the day he was so cool as Special Agent Fox Mulder.

7:57 PM  

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