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BROAD MENTAL RESERVATION

Speech that limits the meaning of what is said but contains a reasonable clue to the sense intended. No lie is involved, because what is said really has two meanings. The two meanings are present either by reason of the words themselves or by reason of the circumstances. One who employs a broad mental reservation expresses what he thinks and uses words according to the meaning they really have. His words have another meaning also, and the speaker foresees that in this other meaning the one listening will not understand. For a sufficient reason, it is permitted others to deceive themselves by taking the wrong meaning of what is said, and this remains true although the listener, because of his ignorance, does not know there is another meaning to what he had heard. The main reason that justifies the use of a broad mental reservation is the need for preserving secrecy, where the value to the common good is greater than would be the manifestation of something that is sure to cause harm. Such reservation must be used with great prudence, at the risk of creating suspicion and mistrust if people cannot be sure that what they are being told is what they hear.

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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