Pontifications

Pontifications


Tiller’s killing: Necessary…but unlawful?

posted by David Gibson

In a commentary today, First Things editor and Creighton theologian R.R. Reno parses the justifications for killing an abortion doctor like George Tiller, and finds that alleged murderer Scott Roeder came up short–though barely. Reno says that “The blanket condemnation [by Catholics bishops and others] of ‘violence’ seems unhelpfully expansive” and so he wants to explain that the reasons Tiller’s killer was wrong “are not as simple as they seem.”

Reno says that under Christian thinking, such an action would have to satisfy three conditions: It would target the guilty, not the innocent; it would have to be necessary (principally to protect others); and it would have to be an act of self-defense that does not “violate the principle of legitimate authority” by being premeditated and calculated violence, as Tiller’s killing was. Reno says the suspect got only two out of three:

The emphasis on “unlawful use of violence,” the evocation of “vigilantism,” and the description of Tiller’s killer as a “vigilante killer” are all exactly right. We are all sinners, but it is painfully obvious that Dr. George Tiller acted in wanton disregard for the sanctity of life. Killing him did not violate the principle of innocence. Moreover, he gave no evidence of stopping. As a result, perhaps something like the principle of necessity can be satisfied. But it is certainly obvious that his killer was acting as the law unto himself. He arrogated to himself the roles of jury, judge, and executioner. He violated the principle of legitimate authority.

That strikes me as far too close to justification, as others would argue that unjust laws shouldn’t stop us. With their redesigned site, the First Things blog now allows comments, and the first commenter on Reno’s thread pressed him to go further, asking how Reno’s argument would apply to Bonhoeffer or the Nazi resistance. Good question.  



Advertisement
Comments read comments(20)
post a comment
Robert

posted June 3, 2009 at 9:57 am


“but it is painfully obvious that Dr. George Tiller acted in wanton disregard for the sanctity of life.”
But it is painfully obvious he did no such thing. He only took patients referred after medical diagnoses by other physicians that showed their late-term children (and I am using the term children) would suffer pain through continued life. He was practicing euthanasia, not murder.
That doesn’t mean he was right. But wanton disregard for human life sounds more like a label the good theologian applied to the doctor to appeal to the anger and self-righteousness of his readers.



report abuse
 

ExFeminist

posted June 3, 2009 at 10:16 am


That sounds like Ayatollah thinking – it is wrong to kill! What an idiotic article….
I think the public needs to know what kind of children get aborted late term – I think the majority are Downs…



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted June 3, 2009 at 10:22 am


I agree with ExFeminist – what an idiotic article. Is this what passes for Catholic theology these days?
This Reno character seems to be a bearer of false witness.
How can there be a “blanket condemnation of ‘violence'” (and why the smarm quote marks on the word violence – isn’t assasination ‘violent’?) on one hand and at the same time “justifications for killing”???
This does not compute. Nor is it in the least a Christian attitude to try and ‘justify’ murder.
What a god-awful person this Reno must be.
Killing is somehow “necessary” in his ‘mind’?
“it is painfully obvious that Dr. George Tiller acted in wanton disregard for the sanctity of life”
I doubt very, very much that his patients would agree.
“Killing him did not violate the principle of innocence.”
Talk about twisting the truth. Pardon my vulgarity, but what a fVck!ng liar.
No wonder the ‘religious’ ‘right’ is so disrespected and unbelieved.



report abuse
 

Leight

posted June 3, 2009 at 11:05 am


….when we left the path of ” All men are endowed by their Creator with the inalienable rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” we became collectivly guilty….. its really that simple… even as Blacks were not “human” , now it is the unborn…
you don’t want an abortion…. stay out of the bed…



report abuse
 

Nate W

posted June 3, 2009 at 11:08 am


ExFeminist,
As if it somehow justifies killing them just because they have Downs syndrome? I don’t think you’re going to sway many pro-lifers with that kind of logic.



report abuse
 

freelunch

posted June 3, 2009 at 11:16 am


“… it is painfully obvious that Dr. George Tiller acted in wanton disregard for the sanctity of life.”
It’s much easier to assert that claim than make a defensible argument for it.
Reno really appears to be justifying this crime without wanting to be tarred with the results of such justification. Too bad.
People are free to preach any doctrines they like, but when they confuse their own doctrines with the law or with generally accepted morality, then they cause problems for society. “Sanctity” is a religious concept, not a legal one. We do not and cannot allow anyone and everyone to decide that they can let their religious doctrines supercede the law. It may be that the Roman Catholic Church has decided that fetuses are human life, but our country has not. It’s quite easy to make a facile assertion that this is just like the Jews in Germany or the slaves in the Confederacy, but without nuanced argument, the claim is unsupported. I notice that the religious folks who opposed same sex marriage seem to be quite put out when they are the ones who are compared to the Nazis and Johnny Reb, but don’t seem to have any problem attacking others with the same assertion.



report abuse
 

freelunch

posted June 3, 2009 at 11:19 am


As I understand it, Tiller’s late term abortions were overwhelmingly of fetuses that were not going to survive for any significant time – generally fetuses with serious neurodevelopment problems. Down’s would not be in that list.



report abuse
 

Leight

posted June 3, 2009 at 12:49 pm


….if truth could be voted on then we should be able to by majority rule change the laws of physics…. any law that is not based in morality is not a law, for it will yield outcomes of what it is… morality begats morality… immorality or amorailty begats amorality or immorality…



report abuse
 

Robert

posted June 3, 2009 at 1:07 pm


” I notice that the religious folks who opposed same sex marriage seem to be quite put out when they are the ones who are compared to the Nazis and Johnny Reb, but don’t seem to have any problem attacking others with the same assertion.”
I’m pretty sure the Nazis would have severely punished an abortion carried out on an Aryan woman. Populating the world with Nazis was their goal. And since the Catholic Church has a priesthood that plays with boys and wears skirts, they need all the Catholic babies they can get.



report abuse
 

ann

posted June 3, 2009 at 1:25 pm


Freelunch, thanks for the insights.
Robert, don’t be little minded, it doesn’t become you. There are many, many good priests who devoutly live the life that Christ called them to…you’re broad brush isn’t accurate or acceptable.



report abuse
 

hootie1fan

posted June 3, 2009 at 1:55 pm


Would the family of someone erroneously put on death row and eventually released be “justified” in killing the prosecutors and the governor who signed the death warrant?



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted June 3, 2009 at 1:58 pm


Or perhaps an Iraqi whose innocent pregnant wife was killed could have their family go after those who gave the order to start the war in the first place?
Slippery slopes are hard to renege on.



report abuse
 

Robert

posted June 3, 2009 at 5:02 pm


“Robert, don’t be little minded, it doesn’t become you. There are many, many good priests who devoutly live the life that Christ called them to…you’re broad brush isn’t accurate or acceptable.”
I’ll make you a deal. You agree that Dr. Tiller was not a wanton murderer and I will concede that there are many good priests who seek to lead the life Christ called them to. The broad brush of a man who was murdered in church is not acceptable, either.



report abuse
 

kenneth

posted June 3, 2009 at 9:07 pm


I’ve heard a lot more justification for this murder than unequivacol denunciations in the past few days. A very sizeable minority, at least of the anti-abortion crowd is saying, in so many words, that its justifiable to be a terrorist (if you have a righteous cause and act through “legitimate authority” – perhaps a fatwa from a bishop?)
If they want to play by the rules of big-league terrorists, we should be free as a society to play the same hardball with them. Terry Randall and others like him are pretty smug when they get to hold court with reporters in a hotel bar. Let’s see how they hold up sleeping in a different place every night and watching through the sunroofs of their car for predator drones. Let’s see if the tough guys who intimidate single moms outside clinics can stand up to an indefinite stay at Guantanamo or some military brig.
While we’re at it, lets see if the network of church folk who funnel money for “direct action” abortion blockades are willing to face 30 years to life for funding terrorists organizations! We should also make talk show hosts and bishops liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in civil liability for the countless times they dangle “holy war” concepts out there, all but openly suggesting murder. If these homegrown jihadis really want to take their war to the next level, we can do that.



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted June 4, 2009 at 1:50 am


The ten commandments tell us “do not kill.” There is is equivocation, rationalization, or exception. You don’t get to kill someone because you think he is a bad person. It only makes pro-lifers seem radical and insane. The solution to abortion is not to attack the doctors who perform them or criminalizing the procedure altogether. How do you punish such a crime? Throwing a confused and frightened fifteen-year-old into prison for having an illegal abortion would not help or change anything. Knowledge is power. Education, financial support, career assistance – give women (and girls) both the education they need to keep from getting into the situation of an unwanted pregnancy and true options and assistance for when they do. That is how you wage war on abortion. It’s long and it’s tedious but it is the right way.



report abuse
 

Leight

posted June 4, 2009 at 10:39 am


incest, rape ect. should receive more severe sanctions from the law, and in those instances where unwanted life is conceived… the Law as man administers it, should step back in its dark robes and declare with tears…. We are not God, there are things that only He can remedy, for it is He who gives life, and who takes it away… “blessed be the Name of the Lord”….



report abuse
 

Your Name

posted June 4, 2009 at 1:37 pm


I do not know a single pro-lifer who advocates using violence against abortion supporters and women seeking abortions. I have witnessed pro-lifers being harassed and intimidated by abortion advocates. It is they that should follow the peaceful action of pro-lifers. Tillers’ death was not the action of a pro-lifer. We do not condone violent action.



report abuse
 

DeaconScott

posted June 4, 2009 at 6:41 pm


I am simply horrified that there would exist an article with a title which suggests that this murder was necessary, justifiable, or anything other than despicable.
That such an article exists on an otherwise credible site as Beliefnet is astonishing. That a columnist representing the Roman church would choose to publish such a thing is just disgusting.
4xwd38



report abuse
 

freelunch

posted June 4, 2009 at 7:57 pm


I have witnessed pro-lifers being harassed and intimidated by abortion advocates.
No, you have not. There are no abortion advocates. There are advocates of a woman’s right to choose. Some, of course, don’t like it when they are harrassed by those who don’t want a woman to be able to make that choice, people who have no idea what is going on and don’t care at all why she is going into that clinic. When so-called pro-lifers show compassion for those who are alive, I will listen to them. Right now, their behavior drowns out their words.



report abuse
 

Pingback: What’s The Role of Religion in Reducing the Need for/Number of Abortions? « MOMocrats Legacy Posts: 2007-2011

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Pontifications. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Faith, Media and Culture Prayer, Plain and Simple Happy Blogging!!!  

posted 2:38:01pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Moving on, and many, many thanks...
So...my recent vacation and related absences also coincided with an offer from PoliticsDaily.com to cover religion for them, as editor Melinda Henneberger announces here in her roundup on the site's very successful first 100 days. That means, in short, that I'll have to sign off from blogging h

posted 8:29:24pm Aug. 02, 2009 | read full post »

Calvin at 500, Calvinism 2.0
If you thought you knew John Calvin--who turned 500 last week--you probably don't know enough. For example, that he was French, born Jean Cauvin. And if he was in fact scandalized by dancing, he was also a lot more complex than that. I explored the new look Calvin in an essay at PoliticsDaily, "Patr

posted 11:53:35am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

Apologia pro vita sua...Kinda
 In my defense, I've had computer outages and family reunions and a few days of single-parenthood, which is always a bracing reminder of what many parents go through all the time. And this weekend it's off for a week's vacation. Anyway, hence the long absence. Apologies to those who have chec

posted 10:51:36am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

When Benny met Barry: "I'll pray for you!"
The first word via Vatican Radio and first image (that I saw) via Rocco: Speaking to Vatican Radio, Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi said "moral values in international politics, immigration and the Catholic Church's contribution in developing countries" were key topics of discussio

posted 12:54:28pm Jul. 10, 2009 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.