We know how it goes. The murder of Dr. George Tiller, the late-term abortion provider, elicits condemnation from all but the fringe of the pro-life movement. Of course, at the near end of the fringe, there’s Randall Terry, who sticks to his guns, expressing no regret for the killing other than what would be said on behalf of any convicted murderer who suffers a sudden, fatal accident:
George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not
have time to properly prepare his soul to face God. I am more
concerned that the Obama Administration will use Tiller’s killing to
intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and
actions. Abortion is still murder. And we still must call abortion by
its proper name; murder.
But what of the likes of Bishop Robert Finn of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, who in April spoke on the subject of “Warriors for the Victory of Life” at the 2009 Gospel of Life Convention in Overland Park, a couple of hundred miles up the road from where Dr. Tiller was shot to death? Quoth Bishop Finn:
We are at war. Harsh as this may sound it is true–but it is not new. This war to
which I refer did not begin in just the last several months, although
new battles are underway–and they bring an intensity and urgency to
our efforts that may rival any time in the past.
But it is correct to acknowledge that you and I are warriors –
members of the Church on earth – often called the Church Militant.
Did the good bishop mean to suggest that his warriors go out and murder? Not hardly. He was at pains to say:
Our battle is ultimately a spiritual battle for the eternal salvation
of souls–our own and those of other people. We are not engaged in
physical battles in the same way military soldiers defend with material
weapons. We need not–we must not–initiate violence against other
persons to accomplish something good, even something as significant as
the protection of human life.
But using the language of violence has a way of begetting violence. As one respondent to the speech put it a month ago on the NCR website:
As long as no one sentient creature is killed in this war, we’re cool.
It could be worse. I remember back in the summer of mercy days when a
western Kansas priest called on Gov. Joan Finney to call up the Kansas
National Guard to shoot the U.S. Marshals keeping Dr. Tiller’s clinic
open in Wichita. He wanted “a battle for life on the streets of
Wichita.” Thankfully, they sent that guy packing soon after. So, this
could be worse. We could have some dead politicians on our hands from
some of these crazies.
Now, of course, we’re not cool. A sentient creature was killed in this war. Is none of Dr. Tiller’s blood on on Bishop Finn’s hands? I wouldn’t presume to say so. Will any responsibility be shouldered by Bishop Finn? I’m not holding my breath. But somebody in the pro-life movement should have the decency at least to entertain the possibility that what happened today in Wichita is a consequence of the heating up of anti-abortion rhetoric since the election of Barack Obama. And to urge that it be cooled down.