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Sunday, May 31, 2009



"Those who call abortion murder are implicitly or indirectly responsible for Tiller's death."

The response in sound-bite format;

I am (we are) pro-life, Tiller's killer was not.

And we'll have to keep saying it.


So an Afghani citizen would be wrong to kill Osama bin Laden if he should find him show up in his mosque one day?


Mark Shea laments, "In our present cultural climate, it is quite possible that the man who did this just murdered the pro-life movement." I'm not ready to go so far, but I understand where he is coming from.

Mark Shea is known for hyperbolic bluster.


Okay, this is terrible. No one has a right to take the life of another, no matter how grave their sins. It still seems strange to me that this would happen right now, after we have been branded domestic terrorists. I'm sorry but the world is full of Judas type of traitors (Father Cutie comes to mind). Money is a powerful thing. Maybe not, but still so convenient this happening now, especially after the latest polls showing a pro-life majority. Can't help it, hard to trust anything or anyone anymore. Sad but true. What a ball our opponents will have spreading their lies and deceit. May God have mercy on us all.

Eric Giunta

In this line of thinking, would it then be morally justified for pro-life demonstrators to barge into a clinic and incapacitate the abortion provider, in order to prevent the murder of the child?

I would think not, and that this would be an example of an evil we (pro-lifers) have to tolerate, lest our actions result in greater evil (i.e., the discrediting of the pro-life cause).

What about blowing up the clinic when there's no one in it? Legitimate? I would think not, and for the same reasons.

John Herreid

BillyHW, cool it. I think you may need some time off here, perhaps to meditate on the Catechism.

Matt C

I agree with BillyHW.

If I truly believe that someone has the intention of going to my house and killing my wife or children, am I going to wait until they walk in the door? The catechism doesn't say that pre-emptive action is immoral. The problem with pre-emptive action is the possibility of acting (perhaps in a lethal manner) on an incorrect assumption. Prudential judgement is required.

Thomas More

Three points:

(1) The murder of Tiller cannot be justified as self-defense becuase in a country where abortion is legal a woman will just be able to go to another abortionist to have the baby killed. So no one knows for a fact that anyone was saved.
(2) The state has the authority to execute justice, individuals cannot take the law into their own hands becuase they do not have the authority to do so.
(3) Pro-lifers should not apologize for Tiller's killer, we have never advocated killing abortionists. We can agree to its wrongness but we need not apologize for it. We are not responsible for it. It is a trap laid by the pro-abortionists to start apologizing for the shooter. This shooting was a product of the culture of death promoted by abortionist like Tiller who advocated killing another human being to solve your problems. That is abortion in a nutshell. This is the culture that the pro-abortionist must apologize for. They must explain how it is that citizens are expected to behave rationally in a culture that teaches the murder of some is a profitable business but the muder of others is wrong. Pro-lifers have not created this legal system or culture of death and confusion. The pro-abortionist have done this.

Michael Jaffray King

By shooting an abortionist, the killer has played a major role in promoting the abortionist's wicked cause. Very sad!!!
The above article although rather long winded in my opinion has put the case clearly and is right

Ed Peters

Maria. I doubt you meant to say "No one has a right to take the life of another, no matter how grave their sins". That is not sound, although practically speaking it is, I grant, the positio tutior in context.

MattC. Before you agree with BHW (or anyone else) you should clarify your own thinking. Your self-defense example has a number of bluured/botched points in it. C.a.a.

TM. Re your (1) the murder of Tiller cannot be justifed, but not for the reasons you offer. Your (2) substitutes rhetoric for precision and so I can't tell whether it is right or wrong, but it is virtually tautological as offered. Your (3) is basically sound, but you have made so many points in (3) you risk losing sight of your main argument there.

Matt C

'St. Thomas, quoting St.
Augustine, said that "`a man who, without exercising public authority, kills an evildoer, shall be judged guilty of murder, and all the more, since he has dared to usurp a power which God has not given him"' (Summa Theologiae, II, II, q. 64, art. 3).'

The above quote refers to an individual who takes it upon himself to execute justice in the name of the state. That is not the same as say a father killing an intruder in defense of his family and his own life. The man who shot Dr.Tiller may have been acting as a self-appointed arbiter of justice, or, perhaps his motivation was to save the lives of the unborn children scheduled to be disposed of that day.

Only God knows what was/is in his heart, and to what degree what he did is immoral. That being said, I'm not too concerned about how the secular press paints the pro-life movement. Abortion isn't legal because of a lack of arguments opposing it. Christ performed many miracles while on earth, and yet people still rejected Him. Abortion is legal because many people are simply opposed to the Truth. Nature abhors a vacuum, and those who say no the truth (to the degree that they recognize the truth) will naturally accept a lie.

The root of the problem is spiritual and the solution is spiritual as well.


1. The ends never justify the means.
2. One cannot do evil to bring about a good-never return evil with evil.
3. By killing Tiller, one merely becomes the very evil that Tiller did. Based on this convoluted logic, the killer would also fofeit his right to life since he returned evil with evil.

Ed Peters

RP. This phrase "1. The ends never justify the means." is often misued. The ends frequently (I'd say, usually) justify the means. It's just that, the ends don't ALWAYS justify the means. As here.


So an Afghani citizen would be wrong to kill Osama bin Laden if he should find him show up in his mosque one day?

This shouldn't need to be said, but yes.

Matt C

"MattC. Before you agree with BHW (or anyone else) you should clarify your own thinking. Your self-defense example has a number of bluured/botched points in it. C.a.a."

Ed Peters,

I agreed with a comment BHW made regarding Osama Bin Laden which has since been moved to another blog on this website. BHW's question/view was not regarding self-defence but rather retribution whereas my comments were regarding self-dense in particular pertaining to pre-emptive action (You incorrectly assumed that my comments were further to his). Your confusion might be a result of assuming that my agreement with BHW was regarding one of his other blog entries.

That being said......I think the example I provided was written clearly, although brief. To clarify, I'll expand on it as follows....

Everyone has the moral right to defend themselves using force if necessary. What amount of force is morally justifiable, as well as when and how to use it, involves prudential judgement. Pre-emptive action (which the Catholic Church DOES NOT state is intrinsically immoral) involves the 'how' and 'when' justifiable force is used. To repeat my example I gave above, "If I truly believe that someone has the intention of going to my house and killing my wife or children, am I going to wait until they walk in the door" until I act (assuming all other avenues have been exhausted)? Of course not. The problem is, what if my interpretation of the situation is incorrect? What if my interpretation of the individual's (i.e. the intruder) intentions are wrong? Acting pre-emptively involves prudential judgement.


Matt C: You aren't allowed to go around killing people in situations where they aren't an immediate threat.

Ed Peters

MattC. My main point about was about yours: You are misreading the CCC, most moral theologians, and the laws of all states (as far as I have looked at them) on self-defense. Again, consult the approved authors, start with the difference between 'intent to kill an aggressor' and 'intent to defend against an aggressor.' They are not the same thing. On top of the prudential problems you correctly outlined. Best, edp.


Ed Peters, I can see how in situations that evil means can never be used to justify a good end. But, could you elaborate more on your point where the ends justify the means in terms of a practical example? I always thought that one must look at the means and the end in terms of a moral act and only act if both are good.

James M. Jensen II

I would only point one little pinky finger of blame to those who say "They got what they deserve" when an abortion doctor is killed because (a) it might push somebody already prone to fanaticism to take the law into their own hands and (b) it's false, as Rice points out in the article (no matter how heinous your crime, you deserve a jury of your peers, not someone playing judge, jury, and executioner).

Other than that, I'm quite saddened that my fellow pro-choicers would be so reactionary as to suggest that pro-lifers in general are responsible for this, just as we are all saddened that Tiller's murderer would sink so low as to kill him on his way to church.

Ed Peters

RP, sure: the end of crossing the narrows safely justify the building a bridge, unless it's a bridge to nowhere, in which case the end no longer justifies the means. ok? no end EVER justifies the utilization of an EVIL means, but that's not the same thing as saying, "the end never justifies the means" (which is how most people put it.) best, edp.

Robert Miller

What I think is most distasteful in the majority of pro-lifers' responses to date to Tiller's death, is their tendency to equate the act of his killer with the murderous acts of the monster who was killed.

I defer to those more learned than I in moral law -- I sincerely do (my taste always has been more for metaphysics and history). I would never suggest that it makes any practical sense to try to advance the pro-life cause by popping caps on even the most disgusting police state-protected mass murderers. I would have offered the same caution, if I'd been around in Germany in the 1940s, to anyone who proposed knocking off Adolf Eichmann or Joszef Mengele. And I certainly agree that neither action would have advanced the pro-life or anti-Nazi causes.

But please, let's not equate the actions of Tiller's killer with the actions of Tiller the Killer. That grovels and stinks. It's beneath us, and it will hurt our cause far more than anything Tiller's killer did.

Hoss Gardner

You are walking down the street. A man with a knife is approaching a woman with her baby. The man says, I'm going to kill your baby." You intervene trying only to use enough force to prevent the man from killing the baby. You are struggling with the man. You cannot prevent him from getting to the baby with the knife so the only choice you have is to take out your gun and shoot him. The man dies. You might night have the "right" to kill the man, but it was the only way to protect the innocent. You may have no "right" to kill the man, but what you did was morally right. I think on this isse we need to return to common sense and the older catholic teachings on the morality of protecting the innocent.


I think that it's important to note that Fr.De Lugo disagreed with Thomas Aquinas; he believed that it was justifiable to deliberately kill an unjust agressor, and the last time I checked, this position still had equal validity within the Church. De Lugo says,"We may intend whatever is necessary for the defense of our life. Sometimes the striking of blows alone is insufficient for this purpose, but the death of the adversary is necessary. His stubbornness is such that he will not cease from attacking you, either by himself or others, unless he dies. Therefore, you can intend his death, not merely as the striking blow [from which death may follow] but as death, because it is useful to your safety not otherwise than as death ... The death of the aggressor is not merely connected with another means than is intended, but it itself, and as death, is useful and judged necessary to your defense." And even under St. Thomas' formulation, it would be justified to kill an abortion doctor in the act of performing an abortion, or at least seriously wounding him, if that was the only way to stop him.

Obviously, Tiller's killing is still wrong, bucause the threat was not immediate; for all we know, Tiller had a revelation in church a few minutes before he was shot, and was going to perform no more abortions. But if abortion is murder (which, to be frank, I'm not sure about), then at least a limited amount of force can be used to stop it, including lethal force. This is the logic of the position, whether people want to accept it or not.

Oh, and by the way, Osama bin Laden is a combatant in a war against Afghanistan. This changes the status of shooting him somewhat.



Hoss: I don't see what's wrong with your example, given that the assailant constitutes an immediate threat in that case.

The difficulty is principally people suggesting that, as a private individual, it is okay to preemptively kill someone who isn't an immediate threat. (It's not.)


Re Islam, I would urged readers to read "War and peace in the life of the Prophet Mohammed" by Zakaria Bashier. The writer appears to be a liberal muslim and he writes to convince that Islam is not a violent religion. I would imagine it is pitched at muslim readers. The western reader (who see God in the face of Christ, the Lamb of God) will be flabbergasted that sacred violence is put again at the heart of religion and Mohammed plays a key part in this violence.

The Garden of Gethsemene

When the Innocent One was about to be arrested by the Roman soldiers Peter drew his sword but Jesus told him to stop. It has always seemed to me Jesus wants us to refrain from using violence as a solution to injustice.
Prayer pennance and continuing to spread accurate information about abortion is the slower path but slavery was once legal and gradually people came to realise what a gross abuse of human rights it was and change was achieved. Killing abortionists is not a helful response It only helps the pro abortion cause.In the meantime I will be praying for the Tiller family and Scott Roeder.

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