'Mental reservation': church concept

Fri, Nov 27, 2009, 00:00

THE MURPHY report outlines the church concept of "mental reservation", which allows churchmen to knowingly mislead people "without being guilty of lying".

Cardinal Desmond Connell explained the concept to the commission as follows:

"Well, the general teaching about mental reservation is that you are not permitted to tell a lie. On the other hand, you may be put in a position where you have to answer, and there may be circumstances in which you can use an ambiguous expression realising that the person who you are talking to will accept an untrue version of whatever it may be - permitting that to happen, not willing that it happened, that would be lying . . . So mental reservation is, in a sense, a way of answering without lying."

The report cited use of "mental reservation" by church authorities in the cases of Marie Collins and fellow abuse victim Andrew Madden.

In the latter case, Cardinal Connell said he did not lie to the media about whether diocesan funds had been used to compensate abuse victims. He explained to Andrew Madden he had told journalists "that diocesan funds ARE [ report's emphasis] not used for such a purpose; that he had not said that diocesan funds WERE not used for such a purpose. By using the present tense he had not excluded the possibility that diocesan funds had been used for such purpose in the past."