I Hope She's Right, But...
Judie Brown, in her thoughtful article (Sept.) on the killing of George Tiller and the reactions of the media, the prolife movement, and the various political wings, writes that "every act of killing is an outrage and should shock every one of us." She says that it is "equally horrific" when human beings are killed inside or outside the womb.
I agree that every taking of a human life is a tragedy in the ordinary sense and should never be taken lightly. To take a life unjustly is never allowed. This is murder. She is correct that murder is always a sin. But sometimes the taking of another's life is morally permissible and even necessary.
Mrs. Brown's condemnation of the slaying of George Tiller can be summed up in the following propositions:
1. The killing of George Tiller is murder, and murder is a sin.
2. The killing of Tiller is unjust because the killer acted as a vigilante instead of as a legitimate agent of a just state.
3. Killing must be authorized by a state in accordance with the just-war doctrine or another applicable moral principle.
4. Killing Tiller deprived him of the opportunity to reform.
5. All human life is sacred and must be protected.
6. The killing of Tiller gives the prolife movement a lot of bad publicity and sets a bad example for both our allies and our enemies.
In response to the first point, either the killing was not justified and therefore was murder, which is a sin or it was justified by some applicable moral principle. The just-war doctrine obviously does not apply here. But the just-war doctrine is not the only principle that can be invoked to justify this act. It is not the just-war doctrine, for example, that allows a police officer to shoot an assailant who threatens his life or the life of another innocent person. Provided there are no other practical means of doing so, a police officer can legitimately use deadly force to stop an aggressor from inflicting unjust and serious harm on himself or another person. He does so with the authority given to him by the state, but ultimately, all authority comes from God.
When I act in the capacity of my job I am in the military I act as an agent of my commanding officer. He derives his authority from the law, which comes from the state, which comes from the people, which comes from natural law, which comes from God.
The reason I am making this distinction is in response to the second point. The state is not the only authority that can legitimately authorize deadly force. If the life of my family is directly and immediately threatened, I do not require approval from the state to defend them. (Of course, the state can later convict me, but that does not mean my action was morally wrong.) There is a natural hierarchy of authority, the state being near the bottom of the list.
Likewise, when the state commands an act that is contrary to the law of God, its legitimacy is diminished. Even when acting in the people's name, since the people ultimately derive their authority from the Author of life, a law authorizing abortion is null and void.
As to point three, requiring that an agent should obtain authority from the state prior to defending an innocent person condemned by the same state is ridiculous.
Point four is pretty sound, but not very strong. Ultimately, we must all be willing to accept responsibility for our own actions. The abortionist's intentions and the state of his soul are irrelevant to the murdered children. Think of the police officer: Does he need to know why I am trying to kill him before he can use lethal force to defend himself or others?
We have no right to mourn that the abortionist might be burning in Hell for eternity if, by the way he lived his life, that is the reward he wanted. We certainly mourn the destruction of his life, in the same way we would mourn the death of any man.
As to point five, I certainly agree. That the police officer will kill me when I threaten him with deadly force does not indicate that the value of my life is less than his, nor does it diminish my dignity as a human being. But the police officer is justified in taking my life to protect his own, even if he doesn't know the reason I am threatening him.
Point six, though, is the most intriguing. Should we tolerate evil in the hope that a greater good can come from it? On a scale of a million and a half lives murdered every year, that would require one hell of a good consequence. Is overturning Roe v. Wade really an achievable goal in the context of a state that worships power and promotes a culture of pleasure and wealth at any cost? Why labor a lifetime trying to change it while millions of innocent people are being slaughtered?
I really hope that Mrs. Brown is right and that killing abortionists is unconscionable. But I am unable to justify that position intellectually.
Seoul, South Korea
Judie Brown's article (Sept.) about the killing of abortionist George Tiller raises some disturbing questions: Would a purposeful desire to protect the innocent justify such an act of violence? If you witnessed a person getting out of his car at a daycare center carrying a machete and talking about cutting children to pieces, and you had the means to stop him, what would you do? Would you take the proper action or sit by and decide to pray, thinking, "I don't want to cut short this man's chance to reform"?
What if you found yourself next to an abortion clinic and witnessed a well-known abortionist getting out of his car carrying his bag of killing instruments? Would stopping him by using deadly force be any different from the first scenario?
In the first instance you would be considered a hero, in the latter, reproached as a criminal. Do we not refrain from taking actions to stop the slaughter of 4,000 innocent children every day in this country out of fear of the punishment we would face? Should the killing of so many innocent unborn children not demand a show of "intolerance"? How can we not be "extremists" in the face of such a horrible practice?
I agree with Mrs. Brown's premise that there is a "disconnect" between the "reality of abortion" and the "politically charged rhetoric that abortion is a woman's right.'" But I get the feeling that she might be too concerned about the image of the prolife movement. Should we care how the other side labels those who hold all life precious?
The fact remains that Tiller's death did save lives. Could more lives be saved if a more forceful approach were taken in the fight against abortion? When half the nation believed that one person could own another, the people of this country took up arms to end slavery. Now, when half the people say it is acceptable to kill the innocent unborn, should our response not be more easily discernible? Is the killing of the unborn less a travesty than slavery?
We should pray that all life is respected and ask for the Lord's guidance as to what actions we should take to stop this modern-day holocaust. If it be a call for a more forceful approach, then let us "be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes" (Eph. 6:10-11).
Michael A. Mullenax
JUDIE BROWN REPLIES:
Michael A. Mullenax has juxtaposed two crimes in order to make his point. The first is recognized by the civil law the other denied by the same law. Obviously, if we saw an armed man heading toward a daycare center with the weapon clearly in sight, we would call the police, rush to defend the children, and do all we could to stop the man from carrying out his dreadful plan. This would be a heroic act of defending the innocent, and the man would be either stopped with deadly force if necessary or put in jail to face a trial for the crime he had intended to commit.
The abortion-mill question is at the other end of the American justice system's definition of crime, and therefore is not clear cut. The act of abortion is an act of murder according to God's law and the natural law, but according to American law it is a surgical procedure and, as you know, the child is not recognized in law as a human being. Therefore, if I attempt to use deadly force to stop the abortionist, I would be committing an act of murder that is no different from the act of murder the abortionist performs each time he aborts a child. The difference is that my act would be punishable by law and his would not. Because we are Christians and believe that justice is the Lord's and that vigilante justice is not in accord with Catholic teaching, we would entrust the abortionist to God in prayer and fasting, accepting the fact that some devils can only be driven out when spiritual weaponry is employed.
I have no illusions about what the public thinks of what I or any prolife American might do or say. The so-called image of the prolife movement is not my concern in the midst of the counterfeit polite society in which we live. However, while we are intolerant of the status quo and extremist in our efforts to do all we can to end these despicable crimes against the innocent, neither Mullenax nor I is God. I cannot judge the heart of another person, and while I can certainly call something by its proper name, including calling an abortionist a murderer, I cannot murder just because he murders. That has nothing to do with the prolife movement's image; it has to do with abiding by the laws of God, which are applicable to each of us.
What we must do is imitate Christ, for just as surely as we would have done all we could to stop the depersonalization of the Negro or the victim of Nazi war crimes, we would not murder and call it justified. Imitating Christ begins at the foot of the cross with a realization that faith is a far more powerful weapon against such evil than a gunshot or a deadly knifing.
When St. Paul told the Ephesians to "put on the armor of God," he was instructing them on how to defend Christ's truth, not kill those who would not listen to that truth, who chose to deny it, or who stoned the bearers of the truth to death.
J. Ford goes down the same road from a more nuanced perspective because he is a military man, a defender of our freedoms as Americans, for which I thank him. God bless Mr. Ford! Following Ford's numerical sequence, I offer my rebuttals:
1. Even though the laws crafted in regard to the fate of the preborn child come from the state by judicial fiat and deny the natural law, I am not justified in using that truth as a valid defense for murdering the perpetrator of what is, according to man's law, a surgical procedure and not a crime. I detest the fact that this is so, but my commanding officer, God Himself, has not given me the authority to murder in His name.
2. Any American worth his salt should do all he can, including sacrifice his own life, in order to protect his family from terror of any sort. The authority for such heroism comes from God and is to be admired. In the case of abortion, illegitimate as it is according to God's law, a prolife American should stand in the gap, doing all he can to defend the innocent while never crossing the line and pretending to be God by using a weapon to take another's life. God is the Supreme judge, not man.
3. That "killing must be authorized by a state in accordance with the just-war doctrine or another applicable moral principle" is a meaningless argument in the Culture of Death. However, that does not, by inference, endow me to act independently in violent or otherwise ungodly ways.
4. Tiller was, I am positive, responsible for his own actions before God, and I would not want to be in his shoes at that moment of truth. However, being unable to see into the soul of an abortionist, which again is God's province, does not excuse us from acting according to the realization we have as followers of Christ that our own acts can also be despicable before Him. That includes the intentional murder of an abortionist.
5. The fact that all human beings possess the gift of life, a gift that should be defended and protected by law, applies to every situation. The police officer can stand before God knowing that he was entrusted with a responsibility that he carried out for his own good and the good of all mankind. The murderer of the abortionist, on the other hand, presumes to have authority that neither God nor the state has given to any man. Such a man has judged his victim to be better off dead for reasons he believes are justified, regardless of what the state or the Lord have taught. The cycle of violence against God's gift of life escalates beyond reason and logic in such circumstances.
6. To refrain from murdering abortionists in cold blood is not the same as tolerating the act of aborting children. This is why we work to change the law, convert the mother seeking the abortion, and raise the awareness of our fellow citizens that the crime of abortion is indeed an act of murder, regardless of what the laws or the justice system might say. In the secular, hedonistic state in which we live, overturning Roe v. Wade by restoring legal protection to the human person prior to his birth is an attainable goal if and only if we believe that the power of God is stronger than the power of the evil in our midst. If we do not have such faith, we have surrendered to the spirit of despair, and at that point evil wins.
I justify my position based on the most powerful weaponry any human being could possess: faith. Perhaps this is not intellectually satisfying to Ford, but it is, to my mind, in concert with God's will.
Drops of Cool Water for Infertility Sufferers
The writer of the letter titled "The Pain of Infertility" (Sept.) touched my heart. I write to offer the requested "drops of cool water" for her "parched soul." There is reliable, effective, technologically advanced, medically sound help available that is completely in line with Catholic teaching. It is available through the Pope Paul VI Institute. It is one of the most successful infertility programs in the U.S., far better than in vitro fertilization. Contact them at: Pope Paul VI Institute, 6901 Mercy Rd., Omaha NE 68106, www.popepaulvi.com/services.htm, phone (402) 390-6600, fax (402) 390-9851.
MaryBarbara McKay, RN
In response to the letter-writer (Sept.) who suffers from the pain of infertility: Dr. Thomas Hilgers is a Catholic doctor who has done marvelous work. He is the director of the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction and the National Center for Women's Health in Omaha, Nebraska. He pioneered Natural Procreative Technology (website: www.naprotechnology.com).
Mary Jo Glugla
My heart broke when I read the letter from the woman suffering from infertility, and I want to let her know that there are solid Catholic resources out there that can help her in her situation. For medical advice on treating infertility that is in keeping with Catholic teaching, she should consult the following database: http://www.omsoul.com/nfp-only.php. This is the directory of One More Soul, a Catholic organization for medical providers who support the Church's teaching on life issues. She may very well be able to find a doctor in her area through this database who can treat her infertility in keeping with Catholic teaching.
Rebecca K. Jennings
The NOR editor's response to the woman who suffers from depression because of her infertility might have misjudged her, caused her harm, and increased her depression. You assume that her depression is caused by sadness and displeasure because of another's goods or prosperity. Her reaction might have been triggered by the sight of another's goods, but that doesn't necessarily mean she was displeased by it. It could merely mean that it triggered her own feeling of privation because she lacked a good, leading her to sadness, not that she took displeasure in someone else's good fortune.
I am not a theologian, but it seems to me that this is an essential distinction and does not constitute the sin of envy. If so, you might have laid an extra burden on this poor soul, and perhaps caused her scruples.
I can see how you reached your conclusion based on the section of the Catechism you cited (#2539). However, section 2537 says, "It is not a violation of [the tenth] commandment to desire to obtain things that belong to one's neighbor, provided this is done by just means." As a corollary, it would seem that it is O.K. to feel sadness, frustration, etc., if one cannot obtain these things.
Andrew J. McCauley
St. Augustine, Florida
The letter that dealt with infertility really caught my eye. My husband and I have been dealing with this issue ourselves since we married in 2003, when I was 40 and he was 33. We have kept our marriage completely open to life and, due to my age, we pursued appropriate infertility treatments that did nothing more than cause us great embarrassment never go to a so-called infertility specialist who, knowing full well that you are Catholic, keeps ignoring you and pushes in vitro fertilization (IVF).
While we were still living in New Jersey, we attempted to pursue foster parenting. This is not an endeavor for the faint of heart. We attended the mandatory "training," and then had to keep resubmitting our paperwork, which kept getting lost. To add insult to injury, after three years of this nonsense we were told that we had to undergo new training, because our original was no longer valid. We were relocating to another state, so we declined the offer.
Simultaneously, we approached Catholic Charities in the Trenton Diocese to pursue adoption. We submitted all of my medical records for review (I suffer intermittently from depression and am disabled) and were told, very abruptly, that I was unfit to be a mother. As one can imagine, I was devastated by the rejection.
While the NOR editor is correct to cite the Catechism and other Church writings on the issue, I can think of no woman who thinks she is "owed" a child. Women are biologically programmed to be mothers, so this loss of what makes a woman a woman is especially painful. You wonder what you did wrong in God's eyes to be punished with childlessness; you ache to hold a child of your own, even for a moment; you feel like a freak of nature.
My husband, ever since I turned 47 last month, no longer mentions children. He does not reproach me in any manner, but I feel like I failed him. How is one supposed to go on, when one can neither bear, adopt, or foster a child?
I have never seen a Catholic publication deal with the issue of the pain of infertility; the emphasis is always on families with children. In this age of designer embryos, IVF, and other such scientific monstrosities, it would be nice if this issue were addressed head-on just once.
Agnes B. Bullock
The Kennedy Funeral
As a Catholic, I shall certainly pray for the repose of Ted Kennedy's soul. Nevertheless, it was an appalling sacrilege and blasphemy that he was permitted to have a public Catholic funeral. Kennedy was an outspoken champion of murdering babies through legalized abortion. He likewise strongly supported embryonic stem-cell research. Moreover, in violation of every traditional Catholic liturgical norm, the pro-abortion and pro-infanticide U.S. President Barack Obama was allowed to eulogize the apostate Kennedy from the sanctuary and pulpit of a Catholic basilica. Sean Cardinal O'Malley of Boston lent legitimacy to these disgusting proceedings with his presence.
However, Cardinal O'Malley's scandalous behavior is not surprising given that Pope Benedict XVI himself gave the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award to pro-abortion Regina Benjamin, currently the U.S. Surgeon General.
When will the Vatican and the U.S. hierarchy impose the required public canonical sanctions on those so-called Catholic pro-abortion officials who openly spit on "non-negotiable" Catholic doctrinal teachings?
Milton, New York
In my estimation, no family has done more damage to the Catholic Church and the Catholic religion than the Kennedy family. By and large that includes all of them.
After witnessing the grandiose public Catholic funeral of the late ardent and unapologetic proabort Senator Ted Kennedy, imagine for a moment the U.S. bishops giving the same type of public funeral to a lifetime supporter of segregation or an unrepentant Klansman who happened to be Catholic. There's absolutely no way they would touch such a person publicly. So caught up are many of our bishops and priests with popularity and political correctness that they will sacrifice truth in order to be looked upon favorably by the Democratic Party and the mass media.
There is a disturbing, growing chasm between the bishops' statements against abortion and their public actions. In the end it comes down to what the bishops tolerate and what they don't that speaks the loudest to the faithful.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Ed. Note: For our analysis of the Kennedy funeral, see the New Oxford Note "Ignoratio Elenchi" in this issue.
Are Buildings Really Necessary?
Michael S. Rose, in his rich article, "The Three Natural Laws of Catholic Church Architecture" (Sept.), argues expressively for the laws of verticality, permanence, and iconography. I offer a few thoughts and questions engendered by the substance of his deftly synthesized thesis.
First, in the three centuries of Catholic worship before the Emperor Constantine, Rose acknowledges that "verticality" was not possible because the early Church probably offered Mass in private homes and sometimes even in underground catacombs. My question: Was this era of the Church a fervent era? Was the faith of the worshiping community weakened by the necessity of worshiping in such humble places? How vital, then, are buildings such as the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, which Rose praises so highly (and justly)?
When Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531, she asked that a "church" (some translate it as "chapel") be erected quickly on Tepeyac Hill. Note that there were no instructions given by the Virgin Mary as to the size or specifications of the structure.
When the Virgin appeared at Fatima in 1917, I don't believe there is any record of her requesting that any building whatsoever whether chapel, shrine, or basilica be built on the site of the apparitions and the "miracle of the sun."
Do these reflections on the early Church and on the appearances of Our Lady prove any definitive point? I'm sure they don't. However, they might suggest that it is possible to exaggerate the importance of any particular structure or architectural style. Isn't reverence, after all, the key to worship? And doesn't reverence come from within? Can it really be absorbed as by a spiritual osmosis through the stone walls, stained-glass windows, soaring ceilings, and meaningful statues and icons of a building, however beautiful?
West Seneca, New York
More Student Bloopers
Tom Beaudoin's guest column, "Theology According to Student Bloopers" (Sept.), brought both laughs and memories. When I taught English and sociology at a vocational college, I used to collect some of the wackier things my students would write in essays and tests. Here are a few:
· "I was raised a prodasun, but I don't know if I believe in God anymore. My boyfriend says I'm an acrostic."
· "Abortion is not recommended for pregnant women. After an abortion, both mother and baby will probably have physical and mental problems. These may last for many years."
· "There is a wealthy class, a middle class, and a poor class. Somehow, I seem to have signed up for the wrong class."
· "Blood vessels are either arteries, veins, or capitalists."
· "The four most dangerous places for burns are the hands, feet, face, and gentiles."
· "Define glaucoma. Oma means tumor, so it must be a tumor of the glauc."
· "Define trichinosis. Tri means three, osis means a condition of. Could it be a condition of having three chins?"
I also had a student who missed a quiz and wanted to know if she could write an "S.A." to make up for it.