Tiller: A Life He Was Entitled To Live

Read Elizabeth Scalia on First Things responding to the furor in the pro-life community over the killing of Dr. George Tiller.  Scalia also writes the blog The Anchoress.  "Slippery slope is a useful cliché, particularly on this issue. The same slippery slopes that call for the manufacture of those ever-increasing-in-size forceps exist in the idea that Bonhoeffer or Tiller's murderer, Scott Roeder, should be emulated. They should not. George Tiller's life may not have been a life any of us would have wanted, or admired, but it was the life he had, and he was entitled to it."  Her piece is called "Tiller, Long, Bonhoeffer and Assassination."

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James Martin, SJ

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8 years 4 months ago
Some of the remarks on this forum that trivialize the moral gravity of abortion seem to believe that because each individual act of abortion does not equate to the total amount of moral evil in the Holocaust there are then no moral parallels at all. Committing such illogic is known as the fallacy of the undistributed middle.   It matters not at all if Tiller did not seek out or personally coerce victims to come to him. Culpability in murder is not lessened if a murderer has accomplices or even widespread moral support within a dying civilization. Actually, culpability is increased when others share it through their tolerance, especially when such support comes from pro-abortion Catholics. If Tiller were the only human being in the world performing abortions, and he could not be stopped by any other means, than killing him would be a moral imperative. Killing him in a cultural context such as our own is clearly a moral wrong, but only because it has the effect of increasing future abortion, as witnessed by the manner in which moral turpitude and confident self-serving logic is increased among pro-aborts, including those on this forum.    
8 years 4 months ago
It is logically inappropriate to compare abortion to the Holocaust.  It is not necessarily inappropriate to compare it to murder, murder for hire, or conspiracy to murder.  However, none of these comparisons do anything to address the reasons people commit these particular so-called murders and so do nothing to solve the problem, if one views it as a problem.  Motivation is the most significant factor in determining whether the comparison is valid, and certainly, in some instances there is some misplaced animosity toward the unborn individual.  In other instances, where the primary motivation is selfishness and there is complete indifference to the fetus, these abortions too can be morally equivalent to murder.  However, in many if not most cases presented to Dr. Tiller, parents were motivated out of a desire to prevent suffering.  In these cases, the patients' hopes for a baby were already dashed and they were simply helping nature along by going to Dr. Tiller. I, in fact, know of an individual who was in such a circumstance.  I do not know if she went to Dr. Tiller.  However, her thinking was that the sooner she ended the pregnancy that was definitely going to result in a brainless, non-functioning body being delivered, the sooner she would be able to be pregnant again.  I would not consider ending a pregnancy in that circumstance to be the equivalent of murder or even mercy killing. In the end, the people who view abortion as immoral are the ones who have a problem to solve.  Since they are not the ones having and doing abortions, they have few means available to solve their problem.  If they engage in making inflammatory comparisons and pronouncing condemnations, they discard one powerful means they would have, which is the power of persuasion.
8 years 4 months ago
Well that is uncontroversial. No one ecept the nutters belive he actually deserved to be shot at church.
8 years 4 months ago
Trying to defend Tiller's murderer by equating him with Bonhoeffer is really, really offensive.It is not as though Tiller had sought out late term pregnancies in order to kill the fetuses, depriving them of their first breaths despite their loved one's objections and attempts to save them.  People came to Dr. Tiller to do what they thought was best in their circumstances.  In an email sent out by Father Frank Pavone yesterday, he too (again) equated abortion with the Holocaust and included the following:"Click below to hear Dr. Tiller's words to prospective abortion clients. Notice, he makes no attempt to deny that this is a baby, and offers the parents the opportunity to view their dead baby and say goodbye with religious and other rituals. (06:43) [url=http://www.priestsforlife.org/audios/george-tiller-1.mp3]http://www.priestsforlife.org/audios/george-tiller-1.mp3[/url] " and "Luhra Tivis Warren, who once worked at the Tiller abortion business, gave her testimony at a public conference of former abortion providers sponsored by the Pro-Life action League in Chicago on April 3, 1993. She described the crematorium on the premises which George Tiller used to burn the bodies of his victims, which included babies even in the third trimester of pregnancy. She states, 'I could smell the babies burning.'" Dr. Tiller treated fetuses the way we treat pets instead of the way we treat our human family members.  This may not have been the right attitude, but it is a far different attitude than the Nazis had toward the Jews.  Was Dr. Tiller's work necessary?  I think not.  I think nature would have done what he did in most cases and that this focus on Dr. Tiller has been completely out of proportion to what he did.  Elizabeth Scalia's being able to understand the mind of Dr. Tiller's murderer, but not the mind of Dr. Tiller should make her worry.  That her musing were written up in First Things is a discredit to that publication.
8 years 4 months ago
Marie, did you even read the article?  She is making no apologies for the murder of Tiller.
8 years 4 months ago
The Holocaust was a large scale well organized program to exterminate a whole people.  Such things continue to happen.  They are fueled by hatred provoked by imagining that people who share some common characteristic (such as a belief that abortion should be legal) are irredeemably evil and harmful to the world and need to be eliminated for the good of the world.  If someone wishes to compare the Holocaust to abortion and Dr. Tiller to Hitler, the only basis for comparison is the numbers of individuals who have lost their lives based on not having their humanity recognized.  However, the more accurate comparison would be to declare that the mother who chooses to abort is Hitler and that the Dr. Tillers of the world are the Nazis who carried out Hitler's orders.  However, since each mother only orders the killing of her one child and has not decided that all unborn children should be destroyed, comparing mothers to Hitler really doesn't work either.  If Bonhoeffer is to be compared to Dr. Tiller's murderer based on his motives, then Bonhoeffer would have had to have decided that all the Nazis carrying out orders should be killed in order to stop the Holocaust.  Similarly, if mothers are Hitler, then all mothers would have to be killed to stop abortion.  Would that make sense to anyone?  I think not, but maybe some readers think it does.  When someone claims to accept what the Catholic Church teaches about killing, then that person typically also accepts what the Catholic Church teaches about killing in self-defense or the immediate defense of others and about killing in war.  For that someone to say that all killing is wrong, but then to say that abortion is the Holocaust and to compare Bonhoeffer with Dr. Tiller's murderer, the point that person is making is that despite the breaking of laws and violation of Catholic teaching in this instance of murder, Dr. Tiller's murderer is a hero in defense of the unborn just as we would all view Bonhoeffer as a hero in defense of the Jews, and others whom the Nazis intended to eliminate, had he succeeded in killing Hitler. The point of someone's equating abortion and the Holocaust is to exploit the revulsion that remembering the Holocaust brings forth.  It is exactly the same process that the Nazi's used to fuel hatred for the Jews.  It is offensive in that way, and people who engage in this bear responsibility for the actions of those whose minds they inflame with hatred especially when that hatred is turned to action.  It is not sufficient to declare that killing is always wrong, but then to continue to aggravate people with comparisons that are illogical and designed only to arouse emotion. 
8 years 4 months ago
Brian, I do hope what you say is true. My gut tells me that what many say and what they believe are two different things. Only God know for sure.
8 years 4 months ago
In three semesters of moral theology in the seminary, we were always taught that the Church condemns the commission of an intentional, premeditated evil act even when the goal of that act is ''a good.'' Scalia's meandering essay clouds this and leaves the reader wondering. The murder of Tiller is unacceptable in the eyes of the Church and it may have tarred those of us who oppose abortion with the same brush. Catholics who oppose abortion should clearly and without any ''ifs, ands or buts'' condemn the murder of Tiller first of all because it was wrong and, secondly, so we can hold onto our place at the table in the rational discussion of the abortion issue.
8 years 4 months ago
Interesting is the comment by the Episcopalian priestess that Tiller was a martyr. What price ecumenicism, now?
8 years 4 months ago
I think I was a little harsh in my comments about Scalia's article too, Pam. As you say, she certainly makes no apologies for Tiller's murder. I think my first reaction to her article was actually the opposite: that she doesn't condemn Tiller's murder clearly enough or early enough in her commentary. But, you know what, she makes her argument in a nuanced and sophisticated, albeit rather convoluted, way. One of the things that has troubled me over the past couple of days is that quite a few pro-life commentators, including Pavone, have condemed Tiller's murder in one breath but then went into much longer discussions of the addmitedly grusome late-term abortions he performed. This is not the time for that. Emphasizing the latter opens the door to the the thought that the murder of Tiller is somehow ok and lessens the impact of the initial condemnation. It's as if a commentator were saying "yes, his murder was bad but now let's get on to what I really want to talk about, the grusomeness of late-term abortions." This is not the time for that. This man was just murdered. Scalia is not doing what those commentators who've peeved me have been doing, but she does present a pretty cloudy, convoluted and far-ranging argument and she does so with indentations instead of quotation marks which can seriously confuse readers trying to keep all her quotes straight. There's a very confusing slippery slope argument here too. While saying we should not fall for the slippery slope argument that could be used as a defense for Tiller's murder, she later employs a slippery slope argument in reference to contraception. That combination really weakens her argument. Scalia is making multiple statments at a time pro-life advocates should restrict ourselves to clearly condemning this very sad murder.
8 years 4 months ago
Yes, Pam, I did read her article.  The problem is that you take her at her word, while I pick up her perspective as expressed by her choice of comparisons and final conclusion.  She is invalidly comparing abortion to the Nazi campaign to exterminate Jews from the Earth and then using it to substantiate her position that even contraception is a grave evil.  This is at best inappropriately alarmist.  However, I consider it highly offensive.  Abortion is more like a phenonemon of nature than it is like a genocide. 
8 years 4 months ago
Marie is right that the equation of Abortion and Genocide is not correct or at least is not to be taken very seriously.One of them is a premeditated act to kill innocent life or at least life that does not fit in with your plans be they political or personal and Abortion clearly does not fit that bill. 
8 years 4 months ago
Would some one explain the difference between the holocaust, the slaughter at Srebrenica under the protection of the United Nations, the killings in Cambodia under Pol Pot, the massacres of Tutsis, the deliberate starvation of people in Darfur, etc., and abortion?  Aren't these murders equally and intrinsically evil? It's of little solace to the victims to know that they died for political reasons, for hatred, for fear, or for being inconvenient. In reading this blog one wonders if we've lost our sense of moral direction. Back in 1995 Mary Ann Glendon penned these words in the New York Times: "From abortion rights to euthanasia to indifference to the plight of the poor, the road has been paved with soothing words chosen to harmonize conscience with convenience." (NYT, January 10, 1995, page A19)

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