As the title says, is it morally permissible to engage in undercover police work? Such activity would likely require a great deal of lying and deception, along with possible cooperation in criminal activities. It might be tempting to adopt a “the ends justify the means” kind of mentality in regard to this sort of thing, but I do not think such an attitude would be appropriate for any Christian. May a Catholic police officer engage in undercover work, with all the deception and lies that go with it, without being guilty of sin?
Of course, it’s morally permissible. Are we to allow such valuable work only to non-believers? One always has to look at the context. The context here is that the work is police work and is engaged in to protect the innocent. We certainly do not expect the police to risk the safety of the innocent by doing or saying anything that would divulge crucial information to criminals. Their intention is not to withhold information that criminals have a right to, but to advance their own advantage in their pursuit of behavior that is harmful to society. Christian morality is based on the will and what one intends.
Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.