On May 31, Scott Roeder walked into a Lutheran church in Wichita, Kansas, approached George Tiller, and shot him to death. I join with every rational, law abiding American in condemning this vicious act of murder. I pray for Tiller, his family, his church, his community, and others affected by his senseless death.
In-and-of itself, a murder of this sort is not particularly newsworthy outside of local media. Only one person was killed, and that person was obviously targeted. This was no random act, or mass shooting, or act of terrorism. These kinds of murders happen every day in the United States and, indeed, in almost every country, but they do not normally have reach outside of the local news reports.
Tiller’s murder, however, is unique in that he was one of the most prominent practitioners of abortions. In his Wichita clinic, untold numbers of unborn children—each possessing unique, human DNA—were put to death (see ‘The Notre Dame Controversy‘ for a more in-depth look at the moral issue of abortion). Tiller’s clinic was one of only three in the United States to practice ‘partial birth’ abortion, formally known as ‘intact dilation and extraction’, which made his clinic a flash-point for pro-life protesters and Tiller himself a target of violence.
I cannot say it loudly or powerfully enough: the pro-life movement is a peaceful movement, and those who would commit acts of violence in the name of this movement are usurpers of the worst order. A movement dedicated to the protection of human life, by nature, cannot be a movement that would accept or endorse violence. The ends do not justify the means. We believe that an unborn child is a human being entitled to its own life, and aborting that child is murder. Murdering abortionists, however, is just as immoral, and is absolutely unacceptable.
But even as we condemn Tiller’s murder, we have a responsibility not to whitewash how Tiller lived his life. To do so would be akin to condemning Jack Ruby for killing Lee Harvey Oswald—as we should—but without acknowledging that Oswald himself was an assassin who had killed President John F. Kennedy (D).
If you have a conscience, listening to Tiller describe his ‘medical practice’ (MP3 link) is absolutely heart-wrenching. He referred to the children, correctly, as babies. He provided his clients with religious and psychological counseling and gave them time to mourn the children they had acceded to killing, even including ‘family portraits’ with their dead babies if they wished it. What is striking to me is that Tiller did not pretend—as many abortion supporters do—that the fetuses are merely a ‘collection of cells’ or ‘part of a woman’s body’. Tiller, quite chillingly, conceded the humanity of these infants, and yet had no qualms about killing them. I have no words sufficient to describe the abject evil that must have hidden behind Tiller’s eloquent defenses of abortion.
Tiller also practiced partial birth abortion. Most people have some vague idea of what this is, but it’s important to understand the reality. In this procedure, a viable fetus (i.e., one that could potentially survive outside of the womb) is pulled feet-first from the womb. Everything except the head is delivered through the birth canal. The abortionist then punctures the baby’s skull and uses a vacuum apparatus to suck out its brain. The skull, now empty, is collapsed and the remainder of the carcass is removed.
If this doesn’t turn your stomach, I’m not sure you’re human.
Does any of this forgive Roeder’s actions? No. Absolutely not. Roeder is a murderer, and sooner or later he will have to answer for his actions—civilly in this world, and spiritually in the next. But the evil act committed by Roeder against Tiller does not and should not lead us to forget the evil committed by Tiller in his life . . . an evil he will have to answer for as well.
Fr. Frank Pavone wrote eloquently on The Catholic Exchange saying, “Let the outcry against Tiller’s murder be loud and clear. And let the outcry against the murders he committed—and that other abortionists commit—be loud and clear as well.”