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Words Do Matter

June 3, 2009

I have had it with the debate over the language used to describe abortion.

The argument that the language of the pro-life movement is responsible for the death of George Tiller is preposterous nonsense. It reduces us to nothing but objects pushed about by the forces of propaganda.

The truth is that one does not need propaganda to become outraged to the point of homicide; one can simply look up the details of what the procedure of abortion involves, particularly the partial-birth abortions performed by Tiller. The cold hard facts, regardless of any political spin or the additional words of any commentator, is quite sufficient.

Even some pro-choice commentators understand how absurd it is to try and cover up what abortion is. I quote the feminist author Naomi Wolfe,

The pro-choice movement often treats with contempt the pro-lifers’ practice of holding up to our faces their disturbing graphics …. [But] how can we charge that it is vile and repulsive for pro-lifers to brandish vile and repulsive images if the images are real? To insist that the truth is in poor taste is the very height of hypocrisy.

Indeed! Sadly enough, there are some people on the pro-life side who can’t even acknowledge this. To insist that the truth is in poor taste – that it should be put away, where people cannot see – only begs the question; what is the truth, what are you hiding? If it is something so appalling that you fear it’s revelation in the light of truth, then it is not we who need to change our language, but you who needs to adjust your fundamental moral values.

We have been hearing that ‘words matter’. Yes, they certainly do. The words of the pro-choice movement, the radical feminists, and the politicians that serve them, are partially responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent children. It is the words of that entire movement that have served to dehumanize the unborn child, to convince women that their children inside them are just ‘clumps of cells’, their chattel property, to dispose of the instant they don’t want it anymore.

Pro-choice words have helped to create disposable human beings. Instead of cowering at the onslaught of rage directed at us for simply telling the truth about abortion – truths that any textbook description of the procedure free of any political taint whatsoever would reveal – we ought to be responding with our own well-measured and justifiable anger at the language the pro-choice crowd has used to dehumanize the unborn.

Many of these same people, after all, object to dehumanizing language when it comes to war, when it comes to racism, when it comes to sexism. They object when the generals call massive civillian casualties ‘collateral damage’, they object when black people or Jews or any other group are described as parasites or vermin or sub-humans that need to be exterminated or enslaved. Many of them are educated enough to understand full well the power of words, including the power of their own words. They know full well that abortion could not enjoy popular support unless people think of the unborn child as something less than human.

Maybe they even believe it themselves. Maybe they don’t care. Regardless, there are probably millions of women out there right now who, if not for the propaganda of the abortion lobby, of Planned Parenthood and other organizations, would hold their unborn children in high enough regard to at least put them up for adoption instead of having them butchered and thrown in the trash (which is exactly what happens to them).

So yes, words do matter. Their words have resulted in millions of deaths, have shattered millions of families, have robbed surviving children of the chance to know their siblings, fathers of the chance to know their sons and daughters, society of the chance to try and come to sensible and humane solutions to unwanted pregnancy, and women themselves of the chance of eventually coming to want a child that was, at first, and often in haste, ‘unwanted’. So let us take them to task for their words, and not vice-versa.

And let us continue to insist that, in spite of the horror with which we regard the practice of infanticide and abortion in general, it is for a just society to come to its senses and punish the offenders, not for lone individuals to summarily execute a defenseless man. Abortion cannot be stopped through such means. I am not one of those who categorically condemns all violence at all times – I am not a pacifist. But abortion is a problem that is deeply rooted in our culture of materialism and consumerism, as the late John Paul II so often argued, and that is a problem that cannot be solved with bullets.

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56 Comments
  1. June 3, 2009 10:31 pm

    Joe,

    Wow. Brilliant!

  2. June 3, 2009 11:12 pm

    Joe: Words do not matter; it is the meaning of words that matters.

    Is that what you mean? If so, and I suspect you do, then, I think that your argument here misses the target by an inch or two.

    Your compelling point is that murder is real and, therefore, it is truth that those who kill are murderers. This is just fine (for now), and, you are right that dehumanization via linguistic connotations (or anything else, for that matter) is wrong.

    However, none of this addresses the issue that at least I seem to have which is not the words themselves, or their meaning, pure and simple; instead it is a matter of the dual-effect of words and their meaning: 1. the temporal effects, and 2. the eternal effects.

    I think you might have an argument to extend from this analysis, but, in this post, I don’t see it coming (which, very well might be my problem)

    Care to elaborate?

    I think that you get darn close with JPII, because when we confront the temporal effects of suffering and carnage and the eternal effects of sin, we realize that “solutions” are hard to come dualistically or otherwise.

    Only Love, only the Cross, only God.

    Which is why words do not matter, only their meaning which cannot be intelligible unless it comes from the fountain of Truth itself.

  3. June 3, 2009 11:24 pm

    One more thing, that addresses this post a bit more directly.

    Depending on what they mean: “The argument that the language of the pro-life movement is responsible for the death of George Tiller” may or may not be “preposterous nonsense.”

    If this argument is that “the language of the pro-life movement is ['solely,' or even 'primarily'] responsible,” then, you may be correct. Although, if the argument is that “”the language of the pro-life movement is ['partially,' or even 'potentially'] responsible,” the, you may be quite wrong.

    After all, even if such language was partially or potentially responsible—to put it your way, if this was true as a matter of undeniable fact—what is truly nonsense is saying that from that fact (i.e. that such language was partially or potentially responsible), it follows necessarily that those using such language are somehow tacitly implicated in the murder.

    Its a stretch on that end and, unfortunately, it seems a stretch on your end too.

  4. grega permalink
    June 3, 2009 11:32 pm

    “The truth is that one does not need propaganda to become outraged to the point of homicide”
    Oh really?
    The Truth is that the majority of your fellow brothers and sisters does not have the luxury to simplify life to the simple binary logic you insist upon.
    Lots of gray in real life- lots of difficult calls in real life – NO to become outraged to the point of homicide is NOT acceptable at all among the average folks that built the foundation of our fine western democracies.
    While you might have lost trust in humankind plenty of people have not and can think a bit more nuanced.

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/06/the-changing-of-minds-on-abortion.html

  5. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 3, 2009 11:44 pm

    Sam,

    In all truth, I do not quite understand what your issue is with my argument. I will however do my best to reply.

    “Words do not matter; it is the meaning of words that matters.

    Is that what you mean?”

    I mean, in the first place, what some of the bloggers at Huffington Post and Daily Kos mean when they argue that ‘words matter’. What they mean to say is that the words we use to describe abortion, and the people who perform abortions, are responsible for inciting people to violence.

    The words, for instance, such as ‘murder’ or ‘murderer’, ‘baby killing’ or ‘baby killer’, etc. The argument is that upon hearing these words, people who supposedly would not have otherwise done violence to an abortion provider suddenly become enamored with the idea.

    Now, it the ‘word itself’ or the ‘meaning’ – I don’t know, is it relevant? I say this with absolutely no offense intended, but it seems like hair-splitting to me.

    I’m not sure what exactly is meant by ‘temporal’ and ‘eternal’ effects. You’ll have to elaborate more for me.

    The real point is this: Absent any language and statements from the pro-life movement whatsoever, a person could look up the objective, clinical facts of what an abortion or an infanticide entails and, all on their own, come to the conclusion that a vigilante style execution is the best and most expedient way to solve the problem.

    Certainly no human being needs a political movement to tell them that butchering children is a vile and depraved act. They need only see that it takes place, and come to their own conclusions. So, I maintain, this could have and likely would have happened with or without a pro-life movement. The existence of our movement only serves to make more people aware of what really and actually takes place. But it does not invent anything, it doesn’t need to. Abortion speaks for itself.

  6. June 3, 2009 11:56 pm

    Thanks Joe, forgive my obtuse prose here (and elsewhere). Again, I am struck by the utter lack of clarity my writing seems have at VN. That’s another issue entirely, though.

    It may be hairsplitting, but, sometimes, its worth splitting a hair if we take the truth seriously. But I gather that you mean what I think you mean.

    By “effect” (temporal and eternal) I mean that it is not only the meaning of the word that matters but, above all, the real effect of that meaning upon the world. On that “effect” I think people who object to calling people baby killers is that it produces very few Christian effects.

    I think that certain people who object to particular ways of communicating a gospel of life (aborted baby images come to mind) do so not in order to skirt from the truth, but, rather, to make the basic point that hearts are never won on the merits of raw logic or facts, there is much to be said to the “manner” in which one shares a gospel of life.

    That logic and facts don’t rule the day is a good thing, and I fear that this post features more brute logic—noting the raw facticity of abortion—than truth, in its deepest sense. After all, the truth of the Cross is nonsensical, but pregnant with salvation.

    Implicit in that sacrificial testament is my point here: Christ could have saved without dying, facts are on his side eternally; but He died anyway. Not because facts demanded it, but, instead, because he wanted to share the meaning of His love—the greatest Truth of all—with us.

    If sharing a gospel of life is rooted in that sacrifice, then, I think that keeping in mind the meaning of our communication—–putting Truth ahead of logic and facts–—is a good thing.

    I am sure others don’t mean this at all, and I certainly don’t live this out in my own life. But in the imperfection that is my hope, this is what makes me flinch when I see a baby on a the side of a “truth truck.” And I suppose I’d feel the same way about language that add the same or similar effect.

    Now this says nothing about whether or not people killing each other can be conclusively affirmed or denied by whether this is true or not. On that point, I think you and your critics are both wrong.

  7. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 4, 2009 12:01 am

    Yes, grega, REALLY.

    What is it that I said? That one does not need propaganda to become outraged, even to the point of homicide. I stand by that.

    Do you understand what my argument is? It is that simply knowing the bare, basic facts of the ‘procedure’ that Tiller preformed in his abominable clinic is enough to make any human being that values the innocent life of a human child to go red with rage. No propaganda necessary. The truth speaks for itself. It does not need to be ‘spun’, it only needs to be told.

    We have every right to be outraged that this barbarism is allowed to occur in our society. To expect us not to be is to ask us to stop being human, to stop caring about the things that matter most to us. When you ask that of us, you are the one who begins to sound mad.

    The only alternative is to try and prevent us from learning the truth, to ensure the peace and tranquility of society through lies. That is what every dictator and tyrant in history has wanted to do, to conceal, to hide, to cover up the ugly deeds they sanction – the only reason to do such a thing is because the truth would rightfully outrage human beings who don’t have a selfish stake in the evil being done.

    I feel the same way about the brutality of the CIA and other US covert organizations, with their black budgets and subversive programs aimed at toppling regimes, many of them democratic regimes, that don’t wish to align themselves perfectly with US foreign policy aims. I feel the same way about all government cover-ups. And I wouldn’t say that the government has a right to hide the truth lest some people become outraged at its crimes and seek a new government. The truth is what matters, and let the chips fall where they may – if we can’t value the truth, then there is little point to life. Oh, we may exist, we may function, but our lives would have become meaningless, shrouded in lies and deceptions of the worst kind.

  8. June 4, 2009 12:01 am

    grega: The tone (and perhaps meaning) of your prose is reminiscent of the ineffective communication I describe above. This is highly problematic for the cause you seem very keen on defending.

  9. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 4, 2009 1:25 am

    Sam,

    If you want my opinion, and I know you didn’t ask for it, the ‘problem’ with your style is that it is academic. And academic writing is often esoteric. It is a challenge for post-grads to simplify their ideas sometimes. When I read your posts, sometimes it is as if I am reading an article on JSTOR. That isn’t mean to be an insult – that sort of writing most certainly has its place. It is professional. But, it is a little misplaced in the blog setting, and especially in the combox. I have a graduate degree in political theory, and if I have trouble understanding your meaning, I can only imagine what others might think.

    Again, all of this is meant as constructive criticism, and I hope it will be taken in that spirit.

    Now, as to your points…

    There are many obligations we have as Christians. Our Church has developed a complex social doctrine that makes it clear that one of those obligations is to establish and maintain a just social order, to prevent moral anarchy and the chaos and destruction that results from it. The tragedy of abortion is born in the sort of liberalism and relativism that previous Popes have condemned.

    I don’t see how we can oppose abortion without exposing the ugly truth. Abortion is baby killing. Whatever else we can say about it, we must say that much. The pro-choice movement would say it is the ‘termination of a pregnancy’ or something similar. But what is a termination, what is a pregnancy? To terminate a pregnancy is to kill a baby. Anyone who can figure out how to load and fire a handgun can figure that much out.

    All we do by using the sort of language they might use is legitimize their attempts to obfuscate the truth about abortion. We don’t prevent people with an even below average IQ from figuring out what abortion does, and who its victims are.

    Now, you point out that people are concerned about this approach, “not in order to skirt from the truth, but, rather, to make the basic point that hearts are never won on the merits of raw logic or facts”.

    I would agree that facts and logic are not sufficient to win a heart – but they are necessary. The logic and facts are the skeletal foundations of our argument. The meat and flesh are provided by our moral considerations. An argument without the facts and logic to bind them is just a gelatinous blob of meaninglessness.

    What I want to know is, what is this ‘Truth’ you think my presentation of the facts and the logic does not take account of?

    Finally, this is truly puzzling to me:

    “Now this says nothing about whether or not people killing each other can be conclusively affirmed or denied by whether this is true or not. On that point, I think you and your critics are both wrong.”

    When you say ‘this’, what do you mean?

  10. David Nickol permalink
    June 4, 2009 6:31 am

    The argument that the language of the pro-life movement is responsible for the death of George Tiller is preposterous nonsense.

    Joe,

    It is not simply the extreme language of many in the pro-life movement that was partially responsible for Tiller’s assassination. It was the fact that the movement personally and relentlessly targeted Tiller. If you Google “operation rescue,” not only do you get the URL of their web site, but also a direct link to “Tiller Watch.” (It’s still there.) Tiller was made the “poster boy” for abortion. And take a look at this compilation of Bill O’Reilly’s “Tiller the baby killer” remarks. Operation Rescue also provided Tiller’s home address and the address of his church on their web site. It wasn’t merely telling the “truth” about abortion that got Tiller killed. It was an orchestrated campaign that said, “This man is a baby killer, a mass murderer, and here’s where you can find him.”

    From the pro-life — and particularly the Catholic — point of view, why are late-term abortions any more objectionable than abortions very early in pregnancy? Why was Tiller Public Enemy Number 1 of the pro-life movement? It was not because late-term abortion is any more morally objectionable than abortion in the first trimester. It’s that it is much easier to play on people’s emotions and freak them out about late-term abortions.

    Suppose NARAL started a campaign to single you out as one of the great enemies of abortion, posted your home address and telephone number on its web site, and kept track of your whereabouts on an hour-by-hour basis. Suppose liberal talk-show hosts frequently mentioned your name as someone who wanted to let women with life-threatening pregnancies die. Suppose a catchy slogan was invented (“Joe Hargrave wants to dig our grave”) and used by a popular host on national television. Wouldn’t you be worried about what might happen to you and your family?

  11. David Raber permalink
    June 4, 2009 7:22 am

    Joe,

    I guess you have a problem with words when the words don’t match the reality, as when you wrote, “Abortion is baby killing.”

    This is pure rhetoric. If it has any meaning beyond the desire to stir people up or win an argument without argumentation, it would be “Abortion is as bad as baby killing.”

    An eight-month fetus is just about a baby–and that fact is significant–but an embryo of a few cells is not a baby, although it will be in the normal course of events–also very significant!

    How the “pro-choice” side distorts reality, or massively ignores it, is another story.

  12. Kurt permalink
    June 4, 2009 8:41 am

    The existence of our movement only serves to make more people aware of what really and actually takes place.

    The Movement would be better served by spending more time explaining “THIS is human life” rather than “YOU are a murderer.”

    Ii have a pretty good idea where I stand in the spectrum of public opinion on legal protections for the unborn, with at least 75% of the public less inclined inclined to support legal restrictions that I do. Yet I am frightened and scared of the ideas being put forward and want no part (and will not participate) in such a movement.

  13. grega permalink
    June 4, 2009 9:10 am

    Sam,
    you said “The tone (and perhaps meaning) of your prose is reminiscent of the ineffective communication I describe above.”
    True – what can I say
    maybe as has been said before:
    “Hier steh ich – ich kann nicht anders”.
    You obviously have high hopes for all of our prose – for yourself hopes it seems to the point that you expect being able to somehow string together perfect pearls of verbal wisdom – words transcending the issue at hand – honestly I think you communicate what you have to share just fine and should not have to apologize – than again thinking about it you do not really apologize but rather cleverly use the self conscious musings about your inability to communicate at the level you expect for yourself as an intro for the next round of new and improved communications along the very same lines as before.

    I enjoy your writings, however I simply do not have the verbal abilities of a good many around here – including you and share rather raw thoughts and yes my tone is frequently off.

  14. ben permalink
    June 4, 2009 11:08 am

    From the Catechism:

    2484 The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.

    2485 By its very nature, lying is to be condemned. It is a profanation of speech, whereas the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth to others. the deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity. the culpability is greater when the intention of deceiving entails the risk of deadly consequences for those who are led astray.

    2486 Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision. It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships.

    ERGO, failng to call abortion an abominable crime and failing to use words that will convey this truth to the members of our community does real violence to our neighbors.

  15. David Nickol permalink
    June 4, 2009 11:51 am

    ERGO, failng to call abortion an abominable crime and failing to use words that will convey this truth to the members of our community does real violence to our neighbors.

    ben,

    Moderating your rhetoric, or even remaining silent, is not lying.

    Calling a woman a “sex worker,” a “prostitute,” or a “whore” all convey basically the same thing. Should we always make sure to use the word “whore” because it’s the ugliest one and might discourage prostitution?

    Is “homosexual person” too morally neutral?

    I could suggest something more graphic than “pedophile priest,” although I doubt that it would make it through the Vox Nova filter. If ever there was an outrage, it’s the “sex abuse scandal” in the Church. Should we use extreme language to describe it?

  16. Br. Matthew Augustine Miller, OP permalink
    June 4, 2009 3:49 pm

    Joe,

    This is a brilliant piece. Don’t change a thing.

  17. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 4, 2009 4:16 pm

    David N,

    “It wasn’t merely telling the “truth” about abortion that got Tiller killed. It was an orchestrated campaign that said, “This man is a baby killer, a mass murderer, and here’s where you can find him.””

    But Tiller was a baby killer, he was a mass murderer – and he did not deserve the luxury of being able to murder in private. Plenty of people went to protest Tiller peacefully, others were able to work to get his medical license revoked.

    You wouldn’t make this argument about Joseph Mengele, would you? I think what he was doing was also considered ‘safe and legal’ by the authorities at the time…

    “It’s that it is much easier to play on people’s emotions and freak them out about late-term abortions.”

    I don’t know who decided that Tiller was enemy number one, but it wasn’t me or anyone else I am aware of. That said, I disagree with the way you put this but not the substance.

    The truth is, there is a wider debate over the status of a first-trimester child. It isn’t as well formed, depending on exactly when, it may not be able to feel pain or sense anything at all – going back as far as Aristotle people have used ‘when life and sense’ begin as criteria for determining the morality of abortion. I understand that debate and I fall on one side of it – but I have been able to respect, if not agree, with the reasonable considerations of the other side.

    Infanticide is something else. Now we are talking about what is indisputably a human being, in some cases only a day away from its due date to be delivered into the world, being butchered while most of its body is outside of the womb.

    Morally, it shouldn’t make a difference. But emotionally, it does, and there is nothing wrong with that. The more developed a life is, the more tragic it seems when it is brutally destroyed. A three months the abortion still seems a bit impersonal – at nine months, it seems unconscionable. If you can’t understand why, nothing I say will explain it any better.

    Regarding your entire last paragraph:

    I would feel as if I were being given the highest honor imaginable – provided I had done nothing but tell the truth.

  18. David Nickol permalink
    June 4, 2009 5:37 pm

    You wouldn’t make this argument about Joseph Mengele, would you? I think what he was doing was also considered ’safe and legal’ by the authorities at the time…

    Joe,

    I would have argued, and do argue, that if someone resisting the Nazis had a chance to kill Mengele, it should have been taken. Do you feel the people who plotted to assassinate Hitler were misguided souls who should have taken up nonviolent resistance? Is it sinful of me to say I wish they had succeeded?

    If we have a Mengele or an Eichmann lawfully carrying out mass murder in the United States, with legal protection from the FBI and approval of our highest court, then our government is illegitimate (or our “legal system is fundamentally flawed,” as the bishops say). If the government refuses to stop Mengeles and Eichmanns, then somebody ought to. I of course disagree that Tiller is comparable to Mengele or Eichmann. Do you honestly believe he was?

    Morally, it shouldn’t make a difference. But emotionally, it does, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    Don’t you think by targeting someone who performed late-term abortions as the enemy, you are adding to the sentiment that early abortions are not so bad? I thought this was about “truth,” not about what is emotionally more sensational, or making the easiest possible case to get people riled up. If it had been about truth, someone, perhaps a good Catholic who was worried about Tiller’s safety, would have said, “My fellow Americans, they are focusing all this attention on Dr. Tiller, but in reality what he is doing is no more murder than other abortionists who quietly ply their trade doing first-trimester abortions. Don’t be fooled into believing that Dr. Tiller is the worst man in the world. Don’t be fooled into thinking there are good abortions and bad abortions.”

    So you say you want to stand up for truth, but some truth (late-term abortions are murder) is more compelling truth than other truth (first-term abortions are murder). You can respect but disagree with people who believe that early abortion is not murder, but you can’t respect people who believe that late-term abortion is not murder. I see an area of compromise here, since I tend to believe personhood is not attributable early in pregnancy and it is late in pregnancy. So can we agree to permit legal abortion in the first trimester and ban late-term abortions? If you admit the case for early abortion is arguable, and you merely respectfully disagree, maybe we can find common ground.

  19. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 4, 2009 6:36 pm

    David,

    In the substance of their crimes against humanity, yes, I believe Tiller was on the same level as Mengele. However…

    As I have argued on several occasions myself, I think there are different responses that need to be made to a policy of genocide like the Holocaust on the one hand, and state-sanctioned killings like abortion on the other. If you rebelled against the Nazi regime and killed the mass murderers, the Holocaust would be over. But because abortion is something that is unfortunately demanded by millions of people – far more so than slavery or the Holocaust – it is indicative of a cultural rot that cannot be cured with bullets and bombs.

    Having said that, my original point was simply that Tiller did not deserve to be able to butcher children in private, without the public knowing what he was doing and where he was doing it. We have a right to know.

    I don’t appreciate my words being twisted, either. I said it makes a difference emotionally – but it doesn’t make a difference morally, objectively. Objectively a human being exists from the moment it is conceived. It therefore deserves human rights, the full protection of society and the law, full inclusion in the ‘moral community’. Let there be no misunderstanding on that point!

    I absolutely do not agree to ‘permit legal abortion in the first trimester’.

    I only said that the rationale for it is more understandable than the rationale for late-term abortion. I also understand what the man who killed Tiller did it – I don’t believe he was crazy or even ‘evil’. But I don’t condone that either.

  20. David Nickol permalink
    June 4, 2009 7:34 pm

    Joe,

    Kind of like Chris Rock said of O.J. and Nicole?

    “I’m not saying he should have killed her . . . . . . but I understand.”

  21. David Nickol permalink
    June 4, 2009 8:05 pm

    I don’t appreciate my words being twisted, either.

    Joe,

    They were that way when I found them!

    Are you saying you don’t condone what Tiller did because it was bound to be ineffective? That if people could take the law into their own hands and end abortion by assassinating enough abortionists, it would be morally right to do so?

    Actually, Roemer’s assassination of Tiller will be very effective in ending late-term abortion. He apparently cut the number of late-term-abortion providers by a good 10 percent. Note the following:

    With Tiller’s death, there are fewer than 10 doctors who perform third-trimester abortions in the United States, Carhart estimated, and though he has worked with younger physicians before, he hasn’t trained any abortion providers in third-trimester techniques for at least five years.

    Carhart, with his wife Mary by his side at a news conference Tuesday, said he’d be willing to train younger doctors but few want to put themselves or their families at risk.

    “Young people starting families aren’t going to want to go into abortion practice,” Mary Carhart said. “If you were young with little kids, would you want abortion opponents outside your house?”

    Another doctor who performs third-trimester abortions, 70-year-old Warren Hern of Boulder, Colo., said he’s also concerned there won’t be enough doctors trained to perform abortions in the future.

    Hern is listed as being an associate clinical professor at the University of Colorado-Denver School of Medicine, but he said he hasn’t been asked to speak on the topic of abortion at the school in 21 years.

    Hern, who is being protected by U.S. Marshals following Tiller’s killing, said most medical schools shy away from teaching about abortion and doctors also don’t want to learn about it.

    Perhaps Operation Rescue should single out the next candidate from the remaining nine providers. Or why not have a publicity campaign featuring them all? Photos, names, addresses, telephone numbers, and the locations of their churches.

  22. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 4, 2009 10:47 pm

    Well David,

    You may have meant the O.J. thing as a joke, and I don’t really remember the build up to that punchline, but I will say that, yes, there are some situations where a person does a thing I disagree with, that I find immoral, and that I also understand.

    I understand why some women get abortions, and I understand why some people want to murder abortionists. It doesn’t change the moral nature of the act but it does put it on a level where the tools of reason and logic can make a difference.

    You ask if I would condone it if it were effective. I think I’ve already said that I don’t condone executing people in cold blood. But there is also a doctrine of just war – no matter how much some pacifistic Catholics may despise it – and I do believe that under the conditions of a just war it would be morally acceptable.

    For reasons I have already explained, I do not believe a war to end abortion would effective, it would probably cause far more harm than good, and therefore I can’t imagine such a war meeting just war conditions. If the government started mandating abortions, on the other hand, then I believe we would have a right to resist.

    As for your last suggestion, however, I say, why not. People need to know about the barbarism taking place in their town, their state, their country, so that they can organize and seek ways short of waging war to stop it.

    But we can’t control everything, and the price of remaining silent, or even giving these murderous bastards the luxury of performing their vile deeds in peace and privacy, is not worth the possibility that someone might kill them.

  23. June 5, 2009 2:53 am

    Abortion is as old as humanity, but only in the USA do people get so enraged about it as to want to kill!

  24. Kurt permalink
    June 5, 2009 4:35 am

    Let Joe speak. The Pro-Life movement should and needs to totally collapse. Only then can something new be created of usefullness. Until then, the best thing to do is to walk away so that the dominant faction will more quickly contribute to its self-destruction. Get going, Joe, its all yours.

  25. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 5, 2009 6:19 am

    Kurt,

    If a movement based on something less than the truth is the only movement that can be ‘useful’, then I won’t be a part of it. Yes, take your watered-down ‘movement’, it’s all yours.

  26. Kurt permalink
    June 5, 2009 7:00 am

    Joe,

    FINALLY we have agreement!!!

    You go your way; I’ll go mine. No hard feelings. Best of luck to ya! My real problem is with the hand-wringing, pants wetting moderates who still try to correct the monster called the Pro-Life movement. It is time for them to throw in the towel and pick either your view or mine.

  27. David Raber permalink
    June 5, 2009 7:27 am

    “But Tiller was a baby killer, he was a mass murderer.”

    Joe, there you go again.

    Am I a hopeless cynic to think that using words precisely matters? That a good cause can move ahead without the use of reckless rhetoric?

    Can something be a great wrong without being equivalent to murder?

    Let’s be for honesty and facing the facts across the board, I say. For example, why not require women considering abortion to view images of bloody mangled aborted fetuses? That would be an exercise in simply facing the raw truth about the act.

    But Sam sez:

    “That logic and facts don’t rule the day is a good thing, and I fear that this post features more brute logic—noting the raw facticity of abortion—than truth, in its deepest sense. After all, the truth of the Cross is nonsensical, but pregnant with salvation.”

    If you see “logic and facts” in opposition to, or possibly in opposition to, “truth in its deepest sense”, then perhaps you are talking about somebody’s flawed version of “logic and facts” used in a tendentious way to win an argument; otherwise, “logic and facts” are not in opposition to truth whatsoever, shallow or deep.

  28. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 5, 2009 8:07 am

    David,

    I have not used words imprecisely.

    To take the life of an innocent human being is murder.

    When that innocent human being is a baby, the one who has killed it is a baby killer.

    To do it many times makes one a mass murderer.

    To fail to recognize this is to render the pro-life argument senseless and stupid. There is no reason to want to protect non-human clumps of cells. We may as well campaign outlaw finger-nail clipping or haircuts.

    That said, I am fine with your suggestion. Even doctors in the USSR were allowed to show women considering abortion not only pictures, but the procedure itself, to try and dissuade them.

  29. June 5, 2009 11:57 am

    Sorry I ran away, I was away for the day yesterday.

    Joe: Thanks for the feedback on my academic prose. I appreciate it and fear that my writing has always been dense and my intentions here are (for the most part) to write as informally as possible. Of course, I am not succeeding. At the same time, my hope is that the whatever formality my writing may take here, that it be seen as an alternative to the journalistic, slash and burn, style of news feeds and popular periodicals and journals. I see that very alternative in your thoughtful posts and comments. It was you after all who first commented on my earliest post with a crtitique of my use of Marx, hardly pop culture. Having said all that, I will try to be as transparent as I can with my writing which, or course, might makes thing worse. We’ll see.

    As to the posts you raise, I think simply disagree on the role of facts in rhetoric, and, perhaps, life in general. I am glad to save that for another time. Given what you think about it (which I disagree with) it is entirely consistent with what you are arguing here.

    Let me try to answer you question, although much of it lies in the dispute we have on facts and logic.

    You asked: What I want to know is, what is this ‘Truth’ you think my presentation of the facts and the logic does not take account of?

    The “Truth” is not simply linguistic or even logical. It is the excessive (meaning, that we can never possess it in full) reality of the person and the world—everything, in other words. It is God. Saying that this or that words, or sting of words, misses the Truth of abortion, is not the same saying that this or that word, or strong of words, misses the facts of abortion.

    For example:

    TRUTH:
    A. Abortion is evil. (True)
    B Ergo, people who commit abortion are evil. (Doesn’t follow A because the “Truth” is not conclusive here)

    FACT:
    A. Abortion takes a real life of a human person. (Fact)
    B Ergo, abortion is murder. (Follows A as fact)
    C. Ergo, people who commit abortion are murderers. (Follows B as fact)

    “Truth” is never contained in a factual statement about the world. “I exist” is a fact, but Truth is more than the facticity of my existance, it is the meaning of my existence.

    So, saying abortionist are human person killers, may be a fact—it seems to be to me—but the meaning of that sentence, those words, is ambiguous and may not be true in the deepest sense. Especially when the “deepest” sense of truth is guided by the love we find at the Cross.

  30. June 5, 2009 12:00 pm

    Sorry that comment is a mess of grammar and spelling, but I think it is understandable…

    grega: fair enough. thanks.

  31. June 5, 2009 3:17 pm

    Joe,

    I second the call to keep going, because your reasoning is sound and your cause just. Frankly, some of responses here by your critics frighten me, especially the remarkably disingenuous characterization of the Pro-Life movement. Though I suppose charity is always wanting in these comboxes.

    David,

    I’m sympathetic to your concern for the conditions of dialogue, but I have to say Joe’s wording seems eminently precise. Dialogue is essential, but it cannot require us to redefine our terms to suit a monstrously immoral outlook that has warped the truth. Were we discussing the nature of the act of systematically slaughtering an entire race of men, women, and children, with those who for some reason or other found it to be moral; would we really act as though calling it “genocide” was improper? Even though that is precisely what it is?

    Pax Christi,

  32. David Nickol permalink
    June 5, 2009 3:44 pm

    I have not used words imprecisely.

    To take the life of an innocent human being is murder.

    When that innocent human being is a baby, the one who has killed it is a baby killer.

    To do it many times makes one a mass murderer.

    Similarly . . .

    Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

    In the Eucharist the Body and Blood of the God-man are truly, really, and substantially present.

    cannibalism – the usually ritualistic eating of human flesh by a human being

    ERGO?

  33. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 5, 2009 4:24 pm

    Ergo what? Is the flesh of Jesus ‘human flesh’? Maybe I slept through theology 101, but I thought Jesus was also God.

  34. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 5, 2009 4:24 pm

    X,

    Thanks for your support :)

    Sam,

    I shall reply in full a little later on.

  35. June 5, 2009 4:43 pm

    David,

    That strikes me as a profoundly weak analogy. I get the point, but the differences are profound. Of course, it all rests in how you more specifically define what is happening in the cannibalistic act. If it is in a general sense the “consumption” of the substance of flesh/blood, then in a sense consuming the Eucharist can be considered cannibalism. But this is very clearly different than if sacramentality were not a mediating term: if on the altar Christ’s glorified body appeared in its material extension, tangible body parts and all; and we sat around it biting into his flesh devouring all the accidents that would be common to the flesh we ourselves have.

    But because Christ becomes present under the aspect of substance and not as “a thing is in a place,” the accidents of the bread and wine are involved in the gnawing and the chewing and the consumption in a way that is significantly different than if there were no sacramental mediation. In this case however, if this be cannibalism, then we need not worry, because there remains nothing scandalous about this. One could perhaps argue that even under the aspect of substance its a barbarous thing to consume Jesus’ body and blood. But frankly I’ll sleep fine at night knowing the distinctions.

    There is, however, no clever or sacramental wiggle room for what Dr. Tiller did. I won’t sleep so well in Dr. Tiller’s case because there is nothing to evacuate what he did of its scandal. I fail to see how in any way shape or form we can conclude that what he did was anything other than the murder of children.

    I’d be interested to hear what you could possibly think would be a more accurate description, since you seem to suggest that Joe’s language is insufficient.

    Pax Christi,

  36. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 5, 2009 6:42 pm

    Sam,

    Again, I must say, I fail to see how ‘fact’ is not encompassed in ‘truth’. Perhaps the facts do not convey the entire truth; I can grant that much. But they do and must serve as a foundation for a full understanding of the truth.

    Is there any such thing as ‘an evil person’? I’ve yet to come across the person who, at least at the time they are doing it, did not believe that what they were doing was either good, or perhaps evil under other circumstances but justifiable in their particular case.

    No one says, ‘I’m going to do this evil thing because I’m an evil person’.

    I don’t know where this leaves my argument. I am not focusing on Tiller’s soul – I acknowledge that he believed he was doing a good thing, and that his eulogists and publicists and devoted fans also believe that he was doing a good thing.

    But we know that these beliefs are wrong. Not only are the wrong, but, when put into practice, they result in the horrible mutilation and death of a frail human body. And when they are proclaimed, they encourage others to come to terms with and accept those results as a normal part of life. This cannot go unchallenged, and our only weapon at this point are words that constantly remind everyone what is truly at stake.

    From theory to practice – what do you think we ought to do to put a stop to what happens to children at the hands of someone like Tiller? How do you think we ought to talk about it?

  37. David Nickol permalink
    June 5, 2009 11:03 pm

    I’d be interested to hear what you could possibly think would be a more accurate description, since you seem to suggest that Joe’s language is insufficient.

    X-Cathedra,

    My point wasn’t to “prove” that the Eucharist is cannibalism. It was to show what you get when you oversimplify and say X is Y, Y is Z, therefore X is Z.

    You made some rather sophisticated arguments to make “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood” seem unobjectionable. Interestingly, a note in the New American Bible tells us, “Eats: the verb used in these verses is not the classical Greek verb used of human eating, but that of animal eating: ‘munch,’ ‘gnaw.'” Raymond E. Brown says much the same thing in his the notes in the first of his two volumes on John in the Anchor Bible:

    In secular Greek, this verb trogein was originally used of animals; but at least from the time of Herodotus, it was used of human eating as well. It had a crude connotation (see Matt xxiv 38) reflected in translations like “gnaw,” “munch.” Some scholars deny this,maintaining that John simply uses it for the present tense of esthiein, the normal verb “to eat.” However, it seems more likely that the use of trogein is part of John’s attempt to emphasize the realism of the eucharistic flesh and blood.

    In Brown’s own translation, the verse is, “He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” So it seems to me that while you want to emphasize “sacramental mediation,” John wanted to emphasize gnawing or feeding on the flesh of Jesus. Has a a widely accepted translation of the New Testament ever attempted to convey this meaning? Not that I am aware of.

    In any case, as I said, it is not my purpose to maintain that people who partake of the Eucharist are engaging in cannibalism. It is to say that the “facts is facts” approach to talking about abortion is not really a matter of speaking the plain, objective truth. It’s begging the question.

    There is, for example, Orthodox Judaism recognizes an unborn child as a “human life” but not as a person. Some would go so far as to say that an abortion is required in the Jewish tradition when the life of the mother is in danger. Would you think it fair to say rabbis recommend “baby killing,” or “murdering babies” under those circumstances?

    Another thing to remember is that in United States law, and in the common law, abortion has never been treated as murder. If abortion is so obviously murder, why would this be? I am old enough to remember when the general opinion of abortionists was that they were despicable, the lowest of the low. But they were not thought of as murderers. Abortion is not even treated as murder in Chile, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, where the Church has exerted great influence on lawmakers (in some cases writing drafts of the bills).

    Almost all “pro-life” politicians maintain that Roe v Wade should be overturned, and the individual states should get to make their own laws regarding abortion. Does it really make sense to say, “Abortion is murder and should be left to the states”?

    The use of “baby killer,” as I have argued a number of times before, is intentionally inflammatory. True, an unborn child is often called a baby, but what comes to mind when the word baby is used is a living, breathing, “post-born” baby.

    There is a lot more to say on this topic, but I don’t want to write a book here! Let me just raise one more question and ask, “What is the point of calling people baby killers and mass murderers?” Is it really to speak the truth? Or is it for emotional self-satisfaction? Does it really further the “pro-life” cause? Has a pope or a bishop ever referred to abortionists as “baby killers” or “mass murderers”? Not to my knowledge. Are they failing to speak the truth? Imagine someone claims to have a vision of Jesus or the Virgin Mary and claims that they received a message that abortionists are baby killers, mass murderers, and they are the equivalent of Dr. Mengele. Would we find them credible?

  38. David Nickol permalink
    June 5, 2009 11:10 pm

    Ergo what? Is the flesh of Jesus ‘human flesh’? Maybe I slept through theology 101, but I thought Jesus was also God.

    Wasn’t Jesus fully human? I think it would be heretical to maintain that the flesh of Jesus was not human flesh, just like yours and mine. There are many good arguments against equating the eucharist with cannibalism, but the fact that Jesus was God incarnate isn’t one of them.

  39. June 6, 2009 1:10 am

    “what do you think we ought to do to put a stop to what happens to children at the hands of someone like Tiller? How do you think we ought to talk about it?”

    Depends on who we are talking to and what we are trying to say. I have found that I can sustain lengthy and civil conversations with people radically committed to legal abortion by first trying to see what they take “abortion” to be. They often begin in generalities and, as they get to the specific points, they move to the life of the mother. There I point to the fact that there are two lives in question and how they go about parsing out which to favor. From there replies differ, but, by the end of the conversation, I usually find that they—sometimes for the first time—can admit that there is a fundamental tragedy in abortive procedures and, many times, that without good reason gratuitous abortions are tantamount to a killing of some kind. I never try to bring up murder, because, after all, even in jurisprudence “murder” (the word) doesn’t matter as much as they meaning of the crime itself. So, we have degrees of murder. At a certain point (involuntary manslaughter) the killing ceases to be murder altogether. The point being that the raw fact that people die as the consequence of the actions of others is not enough. And even when that action is intentional, we still have a lot to figure out. So, I think that such a thoughtful approach to talking about abortion is appropriate too. In Tiller’s case we may (and ought to) say that here we find a high degree of killing and that should trouble us to the point of explaining why it is so terrible; but that too can be done with sanity, sobriety, and love, I think.

  40. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 6, 2009 1:33 am

    Yes, Sam, and the problem is everyone thinks that their reason is good enough.

    What are we supposed to call it when a person deliberately takes the life of an innocent human being?

    What exactly is there to ‘figure out’ here? I don’t ask sarcastically, but in sincerity.

    It seems pointless to oppose abortion unless we regard the thing being aborted as a person with human rights. And if we do recognize that, it seems equally pointless to stop at anything short of total condemnation.

    It isn’t as if murder is a sin for which there is no forgiveness, no atonement, no redemption. The pro-life movement has embraced with open arms countless women who have repented their own abortions and wish to add their voices to the movement. Even ‘Roe’ herself, right?

    As much as some people don’t want to hear it, this is a fight. As individuals, we can get along. I have some pretty good friends myself who are pro-choice, though over time we’ve had to stop discussing the issue. But we all know where we stand, and we’re able to co-exist.

    Even if it is true that some of the language of the movement is in poor taste, our right to say it is paramount.

  41. David Nickol permalink
    June 6, 2009 11:28 am

    It seems pointless to oppose abortion unless we regard the thing being aborted as a person with human rights. And if we do recognize that, it seems equally pointless to stop at anything short of total condemnation.

    Which means, of course, that you are saying Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and most branches of Christianity permit murder in at least some circumstances.

    It is one thing for Catholics to believe and proclaim what the Church teaches. It is another thing to constantly hammer away in public debate at a point that divides Catholicism from just about everyone else in perhaps one percent or less of all the abortions that get performed in the United States, instead of trying to come find agreement on the 99 percent where all those who hold life sacred can agree.

    Rabbi Sacks rescued the conversation by stressing that the Jewish position regarding abortion is quite close to the Catholic position. His exposition is worth a detailed summary, as it is a close to an official Orthodox Jewish view as we will hear in the English-speaking world. Only in the case of danger to the life of the mother, and only after extensive investigation by competent Jewish authorities, would Orthodox Judaism ever permit abortion. Abortion on demand is inconceivable. As to the question of where the human person begins, Judaism makes a distinction between human life, which is everywhere and always sacred, and the human person. The mother is a person; the fetus is human life. In the exceptional event of a conflict the person takes precedence. Physis (nature) is gradual, but nomos (law) is discrete. Precisely because we cannot say with precision where life begins we cannot allow that abortion is permissible at any stage of pregnancy. Unlike the Catholic position, which proceeds from natural theology, the Jewish position emerges from the legal consideration of the human person, which requires the community to establish a distinction—and that distinction is the event of birth, the physical separation of the baby from its mother’s body. Rabbi Sacks emphasized that the Jewish and Catholic positions converge on nearly the same result, with the only distinction being abortion to save the mother’s life.”

    Would you say the point of this paragraph is that Rabbi Sacks condones murder? Would you forego having Orthodox Jews as allies in the pro-life movement when they would presumably support laws prohibiting most — but not all — abortions? Is it part of the pro-life mission to persuade Jews that they are wrong?

  42. David Nickol permalink
    June 6, 2009 11:38 am

    Even if it is true that some of the language of the movement is in poor taste, our right to say it is paramount.

    One would have thought that what is paramount in the “pro-life” movement is the goal of saving lives. But apparently what is paramount is the right to broadcast one’s self-righteousness as loudly as possible.

  43. David Raber permalink
    June 6, 2009 1:45 pm

    I might as well take a stab at solving the eucharist controversy–according to my lights.

    It seems to me that cannibalism takes place on the material or physical plane of existence. When we say that the presence of Christ in the bread and wine is real, we do not mean that in any simple physical sense, since any physical test would show these things to be bread and wine. We mean in it a spiritual sense, which is not however to be confused with a metaphorical or symbolical sense, because this spiritual realm we are talking about has as much reality–if not more!–than the physical realm. That’s how I make sense of it all, if one can make sense of the mystery.

    Joe, regarding your continued use of the word “baby” and “child” to describe an embryo-fetus at any stage of development, I continue to say that that is irresponsible rhetoric divorced from the basic received meaning of those words in the English language.

    When passion overcomes common sense, good things do not usually follow.

  44. June 6, 2009 2:16 pm

    “[A] What are we supposed to call it when a person deliberately takes the life of an innocent human being?

    [B] What exactly is there to ‘figure out’ here?”

    Reply to A: Murder.

    Reply to B: What that murder means (or is), exactly. As I said before, even in the courts there are degrees of murder. In this case, the degree seems to be worst in one sense and, tragically enough, somewhat legal and different than other murders in another. (Although even that, in this case, is questionable. After all, an unjust law is no law at all.) The point being that abortion is not the same kind of murder as all other murders. Especially given the fact that “all other murders” are not the same to themselves. In certain ways it is worse (death of the innocent), in other ways it is not (depending on the given situation and details) but all murder—all killing of human persons for that matter—has the quality of tragedy. My point is not to argue with your commitment to communicate the truth, but, instead, to try and say that the truth is a rigorous and hard thing to express in language and we ought not assume that facts give it away so easily. In fact, we might find that pure “facticity” denies certain truths that outweigh the facts themselves.

    For example, retribution is a an intuitive fact of human experience. But we are called to let truth reign over it and love our enemies, Tiller included.

  45. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 6, 2009 2:29 pm

    David N.

    “Would you forego having Orthodox Jews as allies in the pro-life movement when they would presumably support laws prohibiting most — but not all — abortions?”

    Of course not. Stopping 99% of abortions is more important than agreement on 1%. We can deal with the 1% later.

    David R.

    What do you typically call the offspring of two people? I suppose old people don’t refer to their grown children as ‘children’, but sons and daughters still. I want a word that signifies the truth – that the unborn being has two parents, it is a child of two parents, it is not a parasite, it is not something comparable to a kidney or a spleen.

    Sam,

    Alright, I agree that facts themselves do not convey the whole truth. But I don’t know where else to start.

    As for Tiller, why do we assume retribution was the motive? What if it were simply prevention?

  46. David Nickol permalink
    June 6, 2009 3:11 pm

    When we say that the presence of Christ in the bread and wine is real, we do not mean that in any simple physical sense, since any physical test would show these things to be bread and wine.

    David,

    According to Catholic doctrine, physical tests that showed whatlooked like bread and wine after consecration to actually be bread and wine would be mistaken. The appearances of bread and wine remain, but what is actually present is flesh and blood.

    Taking the “facts is facts” approach, it is easy to say that abortion is murder and partaking of the eucharist is cannibalism. Taking a more thoughtful approach, one has to acknowledge that the eucharist is something totally unique, and you are not doing it justice if you think of it merely as eating flesh and drinking blood. The eucharist is sui generis. There is no other possible instance or situation in which humans eat human flesh that it can be compared to, and consequently, it seem silly to argue that it is cannibalism.

    It seems to me much the same thing can be said of abortion. There is no other situation in which one (alleged) human being is completely inside another human being and totally dependent on her, and there are no other cases about human rights in which it is necessary to determine what rights an entity has (confining the discussion to first-trimester abortions) when it has no functioning brain.

    There is no “plain truth” about either the eucharist or abortion.

    Joe, regarding your continued use of the word “baby” and “child” to describe an embryo-fetus at any stage of development, I continue to say that that is irresponsible rhetoric divorced from the basic received meaning of those words in the English language.

    I get to walk through a very nice park on my way to work, and the nicer the day, the more people there are pushing babies and young kids around in strollers. If I stopped people and asked them to count the number of babies in the park, does anybody think they would try to find out how many women were pregnant so they could get an accurate count? When you ask a married couple how many children they have, and the wife is pregnant, they are going to say something like, “Two and one on the way.” Of course there are many times when an unborn child is referred to as a baby (“She could feel the baby kicking inside her”), but if “baby killer” did not conjure up in people’s mind the vision of someone killing cute, cuddly “post-born” babies, the pro-lifers wouldn’t even say it. The analogy is by no means perfect, but it reminds me of people who would call Jews “Christ killers.”

    Jesus said, ““He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” The Catholic Church maintains that

  47. June 6, 2009 3:12 pm

    Joe: You’re right, we (myself included) need not assume that was the motive, pure and simple. However I find it hard to think that retribution is entirely absent too in the murder itself or the general response from all sides (to some degree, my own included).

    Since this post has made me think more clearly about some thing I’ve written here in the past I just posted this: http://vox-nova.com/2009/06/06/meaning-matters/

    Please take as an explanation, not a refutation.

    I will also post in comments at American Catholic where I fear many of your colleagues need to see your celebrated post (and for good reason, after all, it has been incredibly productive to my mind and heart) put to question for their own sake, not yours.

    Thanks, I can never say too much that your consistent advocacy across the board is what we need the most, I think. At the very least, I have learned from it greatly myself.

  48. David Nickol permalink
    June 6, 2009 3:14 pm

    Of course not. Stopping 99% of abortions is more important than agreement on 1%. We can deal with the 1% later.

    Joe,

    If the United States somehow worked out a grand compromise on abortion that resulted in all abortions being banned except those to save the life of the mother, would Catholics be obliged to try to get that “loophole” closed?

  49. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 6, 2009 5:28 pm

    “but if “baby killer” did not conjure up in people’s mind the vision of someone killing cute, cuddly “post-born” babies…”

    In the first place, I don’t really think this is why people use it, and even if it is, it is irrelevant.

    If we are talking about abortion doctors in general, are we really to believe that someone who is going to go through the trouble of gunning down an abortion doctor doesn’t even know what abortion is?

    And if we are talking about Tiller or other partial birth killers in particular, then I’d say it literally is baby killing in the sense we think about it – you have a baby that is almost entirely out of its mother’s body being violently mutilated and killed. That’s what really happens.

    Even with ‘late term’ abortions you have a human being that is pretty well developed, and you have to do some pretty nasty, gruesome things to it in order to remove it.

    I firmly believe that this violent, terrible procedure ought to be shown to every school child. I saw it in high school and I still remember it.

  50. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 6, 2009 5:38 pm

    David,

    Regarding the loophole – if you mean, as a condition for the 99% of other abortions being banned, no. If you mean eventually, in addition to, then I would think so.

  51. Josh Brockway permalink
    June 6, 2009 6:48 pm

    Joe,

    In our recent conversations on this very topic I have been impressed with your ability to stay the course in logic rather than rhetoric. That is until I read your statement below:

    “As for Tiller, why do we assume retribution was the motive? What if it were simply prevention?”

    Prevention?! I am not sure what frightens me more that prevention can be used as a justification for the murder of a human being, or the fact that you, a well reasoned person of faith could even say such a thing.

    Any theology of life cannot, in good faith, argue positively for the murder of anyone on the basis of prevention. This is why John Paul II spoke out against the death penalty, and why we as true Pro-Lifers ought to speak out against any attempt to justify the killing of Tiller. The second prevention is used in terms of murder we too easily arrive at a Holy War mentality.

    The only stance for a true Pro-Life activist is in the middle- Pointing a finger of condemnation at Tiller with one hand and his killer with the other.

  52. Joe Hargrave permalink
    June 7, 2009 12:45 am

    Hold on a second, Josh.

    I’m not arguing ‘positively’ for it. I’m simply saying that it is wrong to assume that the motive is revenge.

    That seems to be where people’s mind goes first. But it need not be the case. In the end the motive doesn’t matter that much – I have said, quite a few times now, that I don’t believe shooting an unarmed man in cold blood is an acceptable solution to the problem of abortion.

    Even so, I don’t think it helps things to just assume that revenge or punishment was the motive, as many are doing.

  53. Kurt permalink
    June 7, 2009 5:06 am

    Josh,

    You write of what a “true Pro-Life activist” must do. There is no Pope or Scripture to define “true” Pro-Life activism. It is a secular movement. “Pro-Lfe” is whatever the dominant element says it is. If you can’t accept Joe and other’s requirments of being pro-life, then the best response is to walk away from ther Pro-Life Movement.

  54. June 11, 2009 3:28 pm

    Nicely done, Joe. One of the problems in our age for the abortion supporters is the improvements in technology and science which provides equipment like 4-D ultrasounds.

    Some states have mandated the use of such diagnostics, and the offer of the images to the pregnant woman. When a woman sees the “clump of cells” on the screen, 80% of the time chooses another option besides abortion.

    There is nothing more damaging to the abortion movement than having the cold dispassionate medical description of what happens during a partial birth abortion as widely disseminated as possible.

    I think science is the second most potent weapon that pro-lifers have in their arsenal currently (humble prayer being the first).

    Tiller did not deserve to die. The man who killed him committed a far greater sin than Tiller, because he took away Tiller’s possibility of repentance and may have consigned his soul to an eternity in hell.

    But being killed did not magically turn Tiller into some sort of saint. Tiller was a murdering monster who was killed by another murdering monster.

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