The murder of the notorious abortionist, George Tiller, has been justly condemned in all quarters and we at The Interim add our voice to that chorus. Although every violent death is a tragedy, the murder of an abortionist is especially painful to us, because there is no greater setback for our movement than violence that falsely claims to advance the pro-life cause. Such violence not only takes us further from our ultimate goal of living in a peaceful society in which all life is protected, but also flagrantly contradicts our deepest principle: respect for the inherent sanctity of every human life. Our message of peace is obscured by such rare and heinous acts and our noble end can never be achieved by violent means.
But, for the perennial critics of the pro-life movement, Tiller’s death is just one more occasion to allege ideological links between outrageous crime and our powerful, peaceful message. They fail to understand that violence against abortionists is the antithesis of the pro-life message.
In the suspicious and fantastical minds of some journalists, however, such violence appears to advance the pro-life cause. In an op-ed piece in the National Post, Colby Cosh observed that Tiller’s slaying will have “pro-life” results: fewer late-term abortions will be performed and the fear of similar violence, rather than their natural moral qualms about the brutal business, will prevent medical students from pursuing careers as abortionists.
Cosh argues that if abortion is murder, and abortion-on-demand is equivalent to genocide, then any violence that halts or limits abortion is not only justified, but is, indeed, required of pro-lifers. He goes on to suggest that we should condone such violence, since these drastic means would further our ends; he evidently thinks we should embrace that primitive principle of justice that seeks eye for eye, tooth for tooth and life for life.
In the Sermon on the Mount, however, Christ says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’” (Mt 5:38). This, indeed, is the logic we are told to embrace: to remedy the unjust violence of abortion, we are told to embrace violence as our solution, as if justice was no more than an endless cycle of vicious reprisals.
To this foolish counsel, Christ replies: “But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well” (Mt 5:39). The absolute rejection of all violence is at the very heart of the pro-life message; thus, the position Cosh dismisses as paradoxical is, in fact, a deep truth, which he evidently does not understand.
In the Garden of Olives, Peter momentarily succumbs to the illusion that violence can lead to justice. In trying to prevent the murder of an innocent victim, he draws his sword and strikes a guard. Significantly, the last miracle of Christ is the healing of this guard, reminding his disciple that “all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Mt 26:52). Instead of justifying violence, this maxim is a reminder for all who struggle against injustice: it is only by peacefully witnessing to the truth that violence is overcome.
“I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for He … causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt 5:44). If we in the pro-life movement hope to be counted among the just, we must continue to oppose and denounce all forms of violence, without passing judgment on its perpetrators. For, in the words of John Donne, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.”
We at The Interim condemn the murder of George Tiller and look forward to the day when no violence – committed against abortionists or by them – occurs in our society.