Telling white lies: The reasons and its relation with the Sacrament of Reconciliation

Okay, the title of this thread is my thesis statement for my term paper in Theo 3: Christian Commitment.

I would just like to find some useful and reliable sources so that I could start writing my paper. Some insights and scholarly reflection would be greatly appreciated!

Not sure about the specific topic you mention, but as to lying in general and its moral quality, St. Augustine wrote a treatise on it, and there’s a section in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas. You may also want to look into a topic called “mental reservation,” championed by the Jesuits, which allows for lying or something like lying under certain circumstances.

Mental reservation is not lying. It is a matter of not giving information to someone who
should not be given the information. It’s to keep certain things to yourself when you know the information is not for general knowledge.

The first edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church included the statement that it is not wrong to keep information from those who have no right to it. The second edition eliminated this qualification much to the detriment of the text, making it ambiguous and insinuating that one must, under any and every circumstance, reveal truthfully anything demanded even by those with no right to the information in discussion. Hence, if an unjust aggressor is asking about the whereabouts of an innocent victim, you are (according to the Catechism) acting immorally by misleading the aggressor.

Intelligence and common sense tell us that we have a moral right and duty to protect an innocent from an unjust aggressor. New Advent has a good article on “lying” where it presents the different schools of thought on the subject. One school does not allow lying under any circumstance, while the other recognizes that it is sometimes necessary when a party involved has no right to the truth. In such circumstances, one must follow what the conscience dictates.

This link quotes the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” and also Saint Thomas Aquinas, (who has already been mentioned here) showing what they say about lying.
I know that other things have been said about this, whatever their merits (as what to do when someone has no right to know the truth), but the fundamental truth that lying is wrong is the most important thing about the question of lies.

So what have you found on your own so far for **your ** thesis statement?

You should be doing your own research.

Lying is never acceptable. In any form. Even if you really really want the birthday party to be a surprise. If one speaks against what he believes to be true, in order to deceive, when there has been no mutual willful suspension of the laws of communication (like being at a play), then this is sin. It is always a poor exchange - the merit won for doing something righteous, versus some temporal gain.

As for the specifics of your thesis… What on earth are you trying to do with such a topic? It seems very bizarre. White lies as judged and dealt with by the confessor? White lies as confessed? White lies as sins in themselves which need forgiveness? All of these things?

I would rather seek forgiveness for lying to an aggressor than for allowing someone to be harmed or killed. And that’s the truth.


Certainly. And that is the point about the impossible situation of always speaking truth. Sometimes, it simply isn’t the right thing to do.

I’ve got a few sources now, other than those listed above. Mostly, these sources of mine are local and mainly from interviews from moral theologians and confessors.

I came here to look for some ideas, like how mental reservation was introduced by reply #2 so I’m just looking for novel ideas or related topics so that I could get some help. My seminary library has extremely limited sources and since I’m in a seminary, I am not as free as other students.

I know you don’t mean bad but please try to understand my situation. Also please pray for my vocation

So you would rather offend God than allow someone’s life to be taken which is ultimately in His care? And then presume upon His mercy?

Not at all okay…

You think God is ok with innocent victims being unjustly murdered but is offended by a nuanced response to a question to protect their lives?

I don’t think I said anything about God being “ok” with that.

If the nuanced response is an intentionally deceitful untruth at variance with the mind, yes. It’s sin. If it is a broad mental reservation, then it’s fine.

Mental reservation is nothing but a justification for stating something that is not factually accurate. How is that any different than lying?

I don’t think I understand your concept of mental reservation. It is simply a truth that the hearer can understand multiple ways. Provided one of those ways is the true way, there is no sin. (A narrow reservation would not allow for that, only broad ones.) The speaker wants him to understand it incorrectly.

Is that not the inherent intention of a lie?

No. The liar wants the hearer to understand an untruth correctly.

Conversely, the “non-liar” wants the hearer to understand a truth incorrectly.

How are the two different? They both intend to mislead.

The means are completely different. We are not bound to keep people from error in matters not pertaining to salvation, but we are bound not to present as true that which is false…

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