The National Catholic Review

There are two powerful, sobering elements to the slaying of the doctor who performed late-term abortions in Kansas.

The first is that he was gunned down in his church, shortly after the service had begun, in front of his wife.

The second is that it happened on Pentecost.

Pro-lifers have rushed to condemn the murder, and to voice understandable fears that it will be used to tar the pro-life movement as extremist.

But how will Christians face the probability that, when the killer is apprehended, he will turn out to be a Bible believer claiming to have a divine mandate -- as so often before? The last murder of an abortionist, the 1998 killing by James Kopp of Dr Slepian, was carried out by a Lutheran turned Traditionalist Catholic.

What Dr Tiller did was appalling. But he had his humanitarian reasons for doing it. He was a churchgoing family man.

The hostility and violence directed at Dr Tiller made him even more determined to carry on doing what he did. He was showered with pro-choice awards and is now, in death, a pro-choice martyr.

The violent fury directed against him led to more late-term abortions and culminated in a murder.

Fr Jim asks: "The Spirit is always at work in the church and in the lives of believers ... But are we listening?  Or are we too busy blaming to hear her?"

That question was asked over Notre Dame. It is being asked with more urgent force tonight.


Anonymous | 6/4/2009 - 12:26pm
The slaying of Dr. Tiller in church, in front of his wife and cngregation is a horrendous act of violence and is rightly condemned.  Mr. Ivereigh describes Dr. Tiller as family man...churchgoing....with humanitarian reasons for killing the most defensless of human life so close to birth. The fact that these words can be strung together and imply that they belong together suggests a real disconnect in Christian thinking so prevalent in our culture. This is truly unfortunate.
Anonymous | 6/2/2009 - 2:56pm
Anyone out there, in solidarity with the Pro-Torture folks, who are willing to justify this act of violence with the "we saved lives" defense?  Are we who are consistently Pro-Life, from conception to natural death, willing to say "no" to all acts of violence against any of God's children.  No to abortion, torture, war, death penalty, environment abuse, euthanasia, poverty, hunger, and more.  Say "yes" to any of these, and you grant permission to others to say "yes" to any of these.  Cardinal Bernardin, when will we wake up? 
Anonymous | 6/2/2009 - 8:31am
The reaction to the murder of Dr. Tiller should not be influenced by one's attitudes about abortion. Dr. Tiller complied with the law of this country and of the State of Kansas. The campaign of hatred conducted by certain groups and individuals virtually begged for the killing, and the open delight over his death  by some of those same groups and individuals is the moral equivalent of a KKK celebration. History teaches us that calls for vigilante justice will always find willing listeners prepared to serve simultaneously as judge, jury and executioner. In the past we called them lynch mobs. Now guns are the favored instrument of self-righteous vengeance. There are many ways to change laws we believe to be morally repugnant. Lynching is not one of them.
Anonymous | 6/2/2009 - 3:47am
W. W. O'Bryan writes: What would Jesus have said about the self-righteous posturing from the so called Right To Life radicals in the wake of the outcome of their constant demonizing of anyone who does not believe exactly as they do?    This would mean you are condemning the Catholic Bishops, and anyone following Christ's Commandments.   And who do you consider a "Right To Life radical[s]"??   And thirdly: do YOU know what Jesus would have said? Would you please let us know, too?     I find Eduardo Garza's dramatization,...[img]wlmailhtml:{72ADC3FE-8459-4CCE-98B4-32B9FBB2C4AB}mid://00000044/!x-usc:file:///C:/DOCUME~1/Otto/LOCALS~1/Temp/DefaultEmoticons/Emoticon1.gif[/img]   Otto
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 10:54pm
Does "humaritan reasons" also mean that when we approach the end of our lives, some doctor is going to give us a fatal injection???
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 8:14pm
Let’s see how this reads: “By handing over Jesus to be crucified, the Sanhedrin did an appealing thing, but they had humanitarian reasons for doing it (e.g. needed to protect the people against false preachings). They were law-abiding, temple caring family people.” Or how about this one: “Bt allowing Jesus to be crucified, Pontius Pilot did an appealing thing. But he had humanitarian reasons for doing it (e.g. preventing a revolt that would have resulted in a blood shell). He was a law-abiding public servant family man.” To me, the above reads repulsive and an unmistakable effort to justify a most criminal action: we have to be clear cut in what we believe. It saddens me that America Magazine allows itself to be used as a forum by articles as the one above. Is America Magazine’s allegiance still to the Catholic faith?
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 6:05pm
As many others have already noted, it is revolting and puzzling to read words that soften the act of the merciless killing of the smallest and less protected among the children of God. Only God will judge us, but we know well that abortion is a most evil act.
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 5:53pm
What would Jesus have said about the self-righteous posturing from the so called Right To Life radicals in the wake of the outcome of their constant demonizing of anyone who does not believe exactly as they do?  "Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,' when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?  You hypocrite!  Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will be able to see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother's eye."  And, in another place, Jesus said: "You are like whitewashed tombs which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men's bones and every kind of filth.  Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evil doing."
Anonymous | 6/5/2009 - 1:25pm
One of the causes of the most terrible crimes is thinking that fellow human beings are "less-than-human," whether due to their religion, cultural heritage, race or born/unborn condition. Even though some may honestly believe that those who have certain differences are truly "less-than-human" (equivalent to a family pet or to a creepy-crawly bug), this does not have an effect on the true human condition of all the children of God.
Anonymous | 6/4/2009 - 11:13pm
Quite clearly, judging from Dr. Tiller's own words and practices, his perspective on the unborn was that they are no different from the family pet.  (Ending their lives is wrenching for the family, but often in all their best interests.)  This is not the Catholic perspective as it is articulated, but nothing in Catholic practice contradicts it-Does the Catholic Church have funerals for fetuses that die in utero?  If not, why not?  If so, then is there a certain age of fetus that receives this treatment and an earlier age that does not?  The problem people seem to be having is that they have predetermined that anyone who does an abortion must be a total hypocrit unless everything he does, says, and thinks conforms to the definition of evil.  However, the reality is that Dr. Tiller was simply a person with a different perspective on the value of the fetus as compared to the value of the mother than is professed by those who demonized him. He was murdered, not because he was that much of a danger to the unborn-most of them would have died not long after birth anyway.  He was not even murdered because he put the well-being of the woman ahead of the well-being of her child when the two were in conflict.  He was murdered because he became known due to his association with Kathleen Sibelius whose bishop had told her not to go to communion because she was insufficiently prolife.  He was not the only doctor in the United States doing late-term abortions, but no one knows the names of the others, do they?
Anonymous | 6/3/2009 - 8:29pm
"I'm asking the question of how, if he is not to be ignored, he should have been treated." How would you now treat the abortionist who aborted your baby?  If you had been informed about what he was about to do, would you have chosen differently?  I ask not to be confrontational, only as someone who was there, made the wrong choice and lived to regret it.
Anonymous | 6/2/2009 - 8:02pm
Demonizing or dehumanizing the provider of abortions, and hurling tired and predictable arguements at each other is a futile waste.  Until we convince the world-at-large of the sanctity of life from conception to beyond the grave, until we value all life, the sacred gift of our planet and can articulate, evangelize and model for the world the compelling truth of this sacramental world view, we will be frustrated, lost and failing of our God.  Common Ground is not a pie-in-the-sky platitude.  It is our only hope as Catholic Christians to fulfill our call to save the world, to manifest the Reign of God .  We must join our efforts.  We must love one another.  We must be one.
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 3:44pm
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. No one asked you to be the judges, certainly not God. Paul committed murder. Do Catholics still follow him and celebrate him this year? And what of the pedophile priests? Their victims, innocent children, and yet the Vatican and Bishops looked the other way and allowed them to continue in their ministries. Shall we condemn the Vatican and the Bishops and call for their demise. I think not. Am I pro abortion? Hardly. I try to ask the question what would Jesus do if he were here. Would he ask someone or himself to commit the murder. I know he wouldn't do either. He would sit with the sinner and beg him to discontiue, but never commit more killing to justify its end. Read some of these comments; you really think God approves of your hate?
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 5:04pm
Sorry, this will be long...:) Something Austen Ivereigh (and others) seems to be forgetting:   Dr. Tiller was ''a churchgoing family man'' , and so may be his killer be claiming.   Let's look what this means: ''church going'', meaning: going to church on Sundays, and being preached to by their pastors, - about the Christian Faith. And yet,  'despite' being told about Christian principles, Dr. Tiller found his (''simply to state the facts'') ''humanitarian reasons'' for doing all the baby-killing (in the name of what?)  principles. There is a gap, a discrepancy here, which is unfathomably great: One can be a Christian, AND be a baby-aborter??   Either Dr. Tiller is a perfect specimen of  ''Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde'' or the preacher (pastor) to whom he is listening is not teaching the Christian Faith. Pick your own choice! I am at a loss here.   I understand that some dissident Catholic priests and some theologian are preaching borderline Christianity. And looking from a Catholic point of view, to be honest, - Protestant are also dissidents, - going back to their founders a few hundred years ago, some even from a later date.   So it is conceivable that the preaching in some churches is not Christian (Catholic) anymore. This fact would explain the seemingly uncontested connection between a horrendous activity and a professed and seemingly pseudo-Christian religion. Or, can someone show me the connection?    If only the pastors and religious teachers had tightly followed the Catholic Church and her Teachings in this matter (abortion), , then more people would have been properly instructed, and catechized to recognize abortion for what it really is. Pray for all the priests and theologians, who have misled the flock, in order to align themselves wit the ''modern world'', - because, in general, they have burdened themselves with a heavy load of guilt, as did all who wouldn't listen to the true Teachings of the Holy Spirit.    Further: ''humanitarian'' (as in ''reasons''), is not necessarily Christian, it appears to be a secular term for charitable compassion, - not to follow Christ's commands, but to follow some worldly credo.   To apply Fr. Jim's saying (''The Spirit is always at work in the church and in the lives of believers ... But are we listening?  Or are we too busy blaming to hear her?'') is also inappropriate here. That murder and the murders of the murdered doctor have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, although I do agree that He is ''always'' present in our lives.   Did (do) we listen in our lives?  Did Dr. Tiller listen, did his pastor? Did his murderer? Did we vote for a perfect promoter of abortions, with a perfect record in all legislative tests? This would make us co-conspirators against the Holy Spirit, wouldn't it? Especially, after most bishops (of the U.S.) taught us that abortion is an absolute evil. Did we listen?   If we employ the Holy Spirit in this situation, then we need to thoroughly pray and think much more about it. The answer isn't simple, - and yet, at the same time, it is.   Lastly, to mark God as ''violent'' or ''non-violent'' is using God for a certain agenda, making Him part of our own thoughts. God's revelation and Christ's words are enough. Let's not put God into our little preferred boxes.   God is the only one who knows exactly the participants in this ''plot'' (yes it is a plot, run by both sides and through many instances and dimensions), and their amount of guilt. We unfortunately never will know, although the media will pretend they know, and have an unending feast over their evil martyr-icon.
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 4:34pm
There is absolutely no justification for the muder of Dr. Tiller. None. I can understand, however, how a deranged individual might believe that he is executed this man for killing those thousands of unborn children in his clinic. He is to be pitied for believing that two wrongs add up to a right. We who uphold the sanctity of life will now have to endure the taunts and condemnations of the media and the proponents of abortion who hold themselves up as morally superior. While the slaying of the eight or so individuals associated with abortion over the past many years is dead wrong, are the proponents of "choice" likely to raise their voices lamentation over the 40+ million unborn human beings whose lives have been extinguished since 1973? Not on your life.
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 4:10pm
I am in agreement with those who question the use of "He did it for humanitarian reasons".  What is humanitarian about killing an innocent baby who has absolutely no defense mechanism during the "deed"?  Another thought crossed my mind as well.  What did this doctor's Lutheran Pastor think about his well-known activity as an abortionist?  Is abortion accepted in the Lutheran faith? Did the Pastor ever counsel him on what he was doing killing these babies?  My sympathy goes out to his wife who witnessed his murder.  How many times did she welcome him home with "How was your day, dear?"
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 4:03pm
To John Stangle - perhaps it would be good for you to read Fr. Martin's entry about our ability to hear the Holy Spirit over the shrillness of our own preaching. 
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 3:53pm
What happened on Sunday was appalling. It is evil to solve a problem by taking a life. This is what pro life people have been saying all along. Indeed George Tiller was a family man. So was Rudolf Hoess the commandant of Auschwitz.
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 3:50pm
I think that the response to the ''humanitarian reasons'' comment illustrates in a small way how difficult the abortion debate is.  So ready are we to be critical of any statement that does not meet our specific criteria for purity on the issue that we miss nuanced truth. Does anyone doubt the Holy Spirit wills that we all know the truth?  Can we afford to override truth stated in ways we do not expect, condemning those words and ''Babel-ing'' past one another?
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 3:32pm
Mr. Ivereigh: This is a tragedy for all: the family, the church to which Tiller belonged, and to the pro-life movement. But it is disappointing to read: "What Dr Tiller did was appalling. But he had his humanitarian reasons for doing it. He was a churchgoing family man." Probably not quite what you meant, but let's also note that he was a prominent member of that church, apparently usher and benefactor. One must wonder what the moral/ethical obligations of that church were with respect to a business that permitted him to be benefactor. Isn't there some moral incongruity here? Whatever the incongruity nothing justifies his murder.
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 2:18pm
Okay, so apparently we misunderstood the nuance about humanitarian reasons, Mr Ivereigh, you meant to reference Tiller's personal rationale not to mitigate his guilt. Sorry I misunderstood, and I do mean that, its difficult to not make that sound sarchastic in text.
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 12:58pm
The first thing that popped into my mind when I read ''But he had his humanitarian reasons for doing it.''  was ''The road to hell is paved with good intentions.'' I have not resolved completely my own thoughts about the wrightness/wrongness of abortion in all cases, but to turn this man into a martyr for ''the cause'' is more than I can stomache.
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 7:27am
So what's your point? Whatever you're getting at, I hope it has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit wanting us all to sit around a table discussing abortion endlessly while the unborn are being butchered, all in the name of ''Dialogue.''
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 12:19pm
"...but he had his humanitarian reasons for doing so." Forgive me for saying so, but this addendum just doesn't seem to fit the article.  In the context of the whole article, it is weak and excuse-minded.  We as Catholics can and should be appalled at Tillman's murder, at the alleged hands of Scott Reoder.  However, to offer such an explanation/excuse of Tillman's own appalling career rings hollow to me. “’Vengeance is mine, I will repay’ says the Lord” – Romans 12:19 Peace, Tomcat
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 1:46am
Humanitarian Reasons? Church going family man? You apostates at this Magazine are committing fraud in calling yourselves Catholic.
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 10:35am
I'm not remotely or for a moment suggesting that anyone should have ''ignored'' a man who performed late-term abortions (or indeed any abortions). I'm asking the question of how, if he is not to be ignored, he should have been treated. The fact that Tiller was a churchgoing family man who justified what he did on humanitarian grounds is simply to state the facts. My point is that the hostility directed at him only served to make him more determined to do what he did. And in both cases - the abortionist, his killer (I'm guessing) - you have people claiming to be Christians. On this side of the Atlantic, I can't tell you how much this kind of thing - fanatically religious pro-lifers murdering churchgoing abortion doctors - is used against religion. And it IS scandalous. So I'm suggesting that the Holy Spirit is pointing to another kind of witness, the kind of pro-life stance that deplores violence (actual or implicit) and points to the true, ie nonviolent God.  Which is not (to answer the last post) sitting around engaging in dialogue.
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 1:31am
That is quite a sentence:"What Dr. Tiller did was appalling. But he had his humanitarian reasons for doing it." In other words, he destroyed the most innocent, helpless of God's creatures, but "he had really good reasons for doing it." I am angry and sad that he was killed, but let's not allow this tragedy to turn a blind eye to what the man did for a living. As for the rest of the article, the author believes we should have just ignored what he was doing, i.e. the Holy Spirit would have preferred it that way? I can only believe Mr. Ivereigh wishes we should just ignore the whole abortion question and not give witness according to what our Catholic faith proscribes. I'm not "hearing" that, and I doubt it is what the Holy Spirit intends.
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 12:02am
"What Dr Tiller did was appalling. But he had his humanitarian reasons for doing it. He was a churchgoing family man." It seems that "churchgoing family man" and "what he did was appalling" conflict. Like those who developed huge nuclear weapons that can destroy whole cities but went to the local Catholic Church (or other church) in Los Alamos - hopefully those days are over.  Is there a point at which what one does is just not acceptable to calling one"s self a Christian? Surely this is the case. One cannot do gross wrongs and continue in them and be a member of the Christian Church. One cannot bomb civilians in Afghanistan or Iraq or Pakistan and unrepentedly remain in the Church. One cannot participate in the Holocaust and claim membership in the Church. Some things are unacceptable. So is violence against those who do violent acts; this is not the way of Jesus. Violence is a temptation of Satan; sure, we often feel the urge but know that it is not the way of God.
Anonymous | 5/31/2009 - 11:23pm
"What Dr Tiller did was appalling. But he had his humanitarian reasons for doing it." No, no, "But". What Tiller did was apalling. Period. No defense, no false tolerance, just apalling. What his murderer did was also apalling, perhaps just as or more apalling than what Tiller did; murdering the totally innocent is terrible, but denying the perpetrator of such an apalling crime the chance to repent is unspeakably evil. Murder cannot be answered with murder. Indeed that is the whole idea behind the consistent ethic of life (we Catholics oppose execution for example, saying to a murderer "what you did was so evil, we dont even have the authority to do it to you") I have and will pray for his soul: Lord have mercy Christ have mercy Lord have mercy
Anonymous | 5/31/2009 - 7:44pm
The world and some within the Church will have a field day in crucifying the pro-life movement because of this.  So, to Kmeic and all the Democrat Catholic pro-abort supporters, bring it on. If the movement is from the Lord then it will withstand persecutions and persist. My hope is that the abortionist repented before he died.  God has the sin but not the sinner.

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