Sir Thomas More stared capital punishment in the face, and issued the headsman about to permanently shorten his stature admonishment that bordered upon chutzpah.
Be careful of my beard, it hath committed no treason. He supposedly quipped as he carefully laid his head on the block. He is often misquoted as having told the headsman. For the sake of thy honor, strike not awry.”
With the latter, incorrect quote in mind, I delayed voicing opinion on the murder of Dr. George Tiller. It only takes one click of a submit button to permanently besmirch a poster’s honor around the Internet. Thus, I try hard not to strike awry.
Dr. George Tiller lived a life of controversy by performing a large number of late term abortions. These involved fetuses developed well past the point of viability outside the womb, had they been removed from the mother by Caesarian Section. To those who believe this practice murderous, Dr. Tiller ranked an exceptionally mordant pervert.
As R.R. Reno blogs in “Defending Life Requires Law,” Dr. Tiller was exceptionally aggressive and active as an abortionist. He viewed these as medical procedures, not criminal offenses and willingly performed abortions that many other abortionists would not contemplate.
Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Kansas was one of the few doctors willing to perform late-term abortion, even some, the newspaper reported, in the ninth month. Kansas records show that Tiller aborted-killed hundreds of fetuses old enough to live outside the womb.
To a number of Americans, though Dr. Tiller made a point of staying in legal fair territory, he committed a ghastly moral crime. To these individuals, he deserved a rigorous punishment. To a particularly extreme and warped subset of this group, he kept on asking for it until he finally got it. Hardened killer and Domestic Terrorist Eric Rudolph reasoned around culpability for his own bloodshed as follows.
"The fact of the matter is that if you recognize that abortion is murder but do not recognize the right to use force to prevent this murder, then the only logical conclusion is that you do not consider that the unborn have a legitimate claim to life."
On a certain, sick level, the logic rings true. If killing a heinous murderer is acceptable societal behavior, if abortion is murder and if Dr. Tiller performs a few abortions every month, doesn’t it stand to reason that he should be taken out and shot?
We have capital punishment enshrined in statute for premeditated murder. Few, if any, of Dr. Tiller’s abortions happened without intent. To the internally conflicted believer in both absolute sanctity of life and capital punishment for murder, a simplistic rule of engagement would suggest Dr. Tiller was a morally lawful target for execution.
However morally justified Dr. Tiller’s shooter may now feel, society does not share this conviction and has legislated athwart precisely this sort of deed. Dr. Tiller may have aborted babies, abortion may well fall in a moral category akin to murder, but this does not necessarily justify the action taken against Dr. Tiller - during a church service.
Societal contradiction of the shooter’s moral precept brings a number of contradictions to the table. Society constrains us all and adjudicates athwart the moral beliefs of nearly every one of its constituent members. None of us agree 100% with the customs and laws we are forced to endure.
Do we then possess the right to act in accordance with personal law and belief athwart the values of a society we consider fallen or warped? Assuming the shooter killed Dr. Tiller over his perceived iniquities as an abortionist, does performing a murder that is also legally condemned as a homicide cause a more grievous harm than committing a murder not so classified?
The lack of legal restraint against Dr. Tiller’s abortions forced the shooter to act in a violent fashion, absent all social sanction. By necessity, the shooting was vigilante justice. Like the Comic Book Character Batman, Dr. Tiller’s shooter believed he was performing a necessary ablation of evil that a corrupted society would not willingly address.
So assuming Batman was strongly pro-life in his outlook, it sadly becomes almost conceivable that The Dark Knight would have taken the shot. But would he have acted out of chivalry and still held moral gravamen to retain his knighthood?
In reference to Saint Thomas More’s mistakenly reported last words, the shooter of Dr. Tiller did indeed strike awry. This will cost him, and others far more decent and law-abiding, a measure of their honor.
Shooting Dr. Tiller will not restrict abortions. He serves NARAL more potently; embalmed and in secular sainthood than he ever did alive, as a functioning abortionist.
The shooter also perforce diminishes the public perception of all who agree with him about the moral transgressions implicit to aborting viable fetuses. Eric Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh, this latest iniquitous, wing-nut vigilante, if you post at Slate.Com; you just can’t help but notice a trend there….
As R.R Reno so eloquently surmises, this trend is not a good thing for the sanctity of life. Condemning Dr. Tiller’s murder should be heartfelt, not tactical for those who also condemn Dr. Tiller’s performance of multiple late-term abortions. We may not always like or feel served by the laws, but we should all thank God every night in prayer that we live in a society of laws; not men. Reno explains why so grandiloquently below.
I have always loathed revolutionary vanguards, terrorists, and assassins. I have never felt any attraction to John Brown. On the contrary, he strikes me as a dangerous man who was capable of horrible crimes. The same holds for Che Guevara and others. They have imagined that the noble truth of their cause justifies their disregard for the laws of society. But law transcended is law destroyed, and law destroyed invites barbarism, as the history of the twentieth century so sadly illustrates.
Pondering whether a staunchly pro-life Batman would have shot Dr. Tiller leaves me feeling both profoundly depressed, yet also relieved. I’m depressed and saddened that I could easily envision a mythical hero of my early childhood taking that horrible shot. I’m relieved, however, when I remind myself that Batman blessedly does not exist.