Theologian Dares to Ask: Why Was Tiller's Murder Wrong?
By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Pinging around the blogosphere today is a provocative essay by R.R. Reno, theologian and editor of the Catholic journal First Things, on justifying the murder of abortion provider George Tiller. No, he's not justifying the killing. But Reno steps beyond the "all violence is evil" condemnations we've been hearing over and over again and, using Christian teachings, lays out just why Tiller's murder was wrong even though, for many Christians, Tiller himself was a murderer.
First, though, Reno says he thinks some of the expensive denunciations of the murder by anti-abortion leaders to the murder sometimes went too far. Speaking for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for example, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia said the bishops "have repeatedly and publicly denounced all forms of violence in our society." Reno says the blanket condemnation of "violence" seems "unhelpfully expansive."
Reno notes that anti-abortion leaders have rushed to condemn the killing and the killer. But then he dares to ask--why is the killing wrong? The reasons, he says, "are not as simple as they seem."
If you're not jazzed to read essays by theologians, Catholic blogger David Gibson does a nice job of summarizing this one.
But what interests me almost as much as the essay are the comments. I know, blog comments have acquired a bad reputation as being overwhelmingly racist, offensive, nauseating and repugnant. But these comments, at least so far, are eloquent even if you don't agree.
"The method of Tiller's death was wrong," argues one commenter, "but not the result."
Another: "No one hoped for this man to be killed, but for him to be converted. The man who killed George Tiller had despaired that God's graces could reach this individual. Those who despair that those who advocate abortion shall never have their hearts move, doubt the power and depth of God's abundant lavish grace."
There is a lively discussion about the Nazi resistance that rose against Hitler. Wasn't the resistance's methods justified because it was acting against evil? What was different here?
Powerful stuff, whether or not you agree.
Jacqueline L. Salmon
June 3, 2009; 2:37 PM ET
God in Government
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