Frank Schaeffer Blasts Extremist Language

Frank Schaeffer Blasts Extremist Language June 2, 2009

On May 31, Dr. George Tiller was gunned down while serving as an usher at the Reformation Lutheran Church he attended in Wichita, Kansas. Dr. Tiller, who ran an abortion clinic that performed late term abortions, had been the target of violent extremists for many years.  On August 19, 1993, he was shot in both arms by Shelley Shannon.  She received an eleven year prison sentence for the crime.  This past Sunday he was killed.

Frank Schaeffer, along with his father (the late Francis Schaeffer), Pat Robertson, the late Jerry Falwell, and Dr. C. Evert Koop (Surgeon-General in the Reagan Administration) helped found the Religious Right.  One of the hallmarks of this movement became the radicalization of speech.

In 1982, Frank’s father (Francis Schaeffer) wrote a book called A Christian Manifesto in which he called for the use of force if all other means of stopping abortion failed.  He compared the United States and its practice of legalized abortion to Hitler’s Germany and argued that whatever means might have removed Hitler could be used to stop abortion here.  In 1984, Frank Schaeffer wrote A Time for Anger in which he argued the same point.  His book became a national best seller with the help of the evangelical movement.  Dr. James Dobson alone gave away 100,000 copies.

In an interview with Rachael Maddow on June 1, Mr. Schaeffer discusses the radicalization of language in the culture wars and the part it played in the pro-life movement. “Words have consequences,” he says. As language becomes more extreme, consequences become more extreme.

Schaeffer admits his own culpability in the death of Dr. Tiller and urges other leaders in the Religious Right to come forth and do so too. His comments follow:
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  • I think his conversion to Orthodoxy has helped him see beyond the rhetoric of the past. It wasn’t done in an instant, for his early works after conversion showed a similar sensibility as he had before; but it’s clear, he has worked with God’s grace, and continues to work with it, and that is always a positive thing to see.

  • ben

    If we stop calling abortion murder, we do violence to the truth.

  • Ben: What do you mean by that, exactly? Honestly, I am confused as to what you might possibly mean.

  • Ben:

    Don’t turn Truth into a license to say anything you want or to say it however you want.

    If it is not possible for you to be prudential in your use of language you are part of the problem and you contribute nothing.

  • ROB

    Claus von Stauffenburg was a Catholic, no? Any breast beating had he succeeded? I think not.

  • Henry,

    You may be right. Clearly, Schaeffer has engaged in thoughtful reflection for a couple decades and it has led him in directions he may not have foreseen when he began. This dovetails with your perception that “he has worked with God’s grace.”

    I find his reflections especially relevant for our time. It is critical that Americans forge a new way of engaging in political discourse. The coarse language of the past has sent this country adrift. Rather than debating issues with a view to solving problems, language has become a means to trumpet self-righteousness and manipulate the opinions of others for reasons of power. Its time for that to stop. Period.

  • digbydolben

    Excuse me, Mr. “ROB,” but do you know a damned thing about Claus von Stauffenberg and the other aristocratic and Catholic members of the officer corps who plotted Hitler’s death?

    Are you aware that most agonized over their decision, and that they NEVER would have militated and demagogued among the German masses, to stir them up to collective civil violence? They acted reluctantly and because they perceived it to be their duty in a hierarchical, un-democratic society, to act bravely, alone, and to suffer the consequences without involving the German masses, in whom they had utterly no confidence to right the wrongs of Nazi racial policy.

    They NEVER would have acted in the cowardly, demagogueic and scapegoat-fashioning modus-operandi of the “anti-abortion” Fox News commentators and the rest of the fanatical Catholic right.

  • jh

    “Regardless, the same hate machine I was part of is still attacking all abortionists as “murderers.” And today, once again, the “pro-life” leaders are busy ducking their personal responsibility for people acting on their words.”

    This is his from JUne @ Coulmn in the Baltimore Sun

    What is not true about this. Especially as to Tiller

    POpe Benediict has basically called it that and said it was similar to the Holocoust. Is he part of the hate machine too?

    The pro-life movement has been on the whole one of the most peaceful movements as to hot controversial issues int he United States.

    In the end Kooks are Kooks and all sides have those that latch on to their cause. One cannot veyr well control that

  • blackadderiv

    Roe v. Wade was handed down in January of 1973. Over the next twenty years, despite whatever rhetoric one finds in pro-life books like Mr. Schaeffer’s, no abortionists were killed. In June of 1992 the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, saying that while Roe might have been wrongly decided, the Court wasn’t going to overrule it. Nine months later the first abortion provider was killed.

    If you want to parcel out responsibility for Tiller’s killing, it seems that Justices Kennedy, O’Connor, and Souter played a greater role than Schaeffer or any other pro-life leader.

  • jh

    I saw that the headof Catholic Democrats has tuned in and who in fact is a doctor

    “”It is not enough to denounce violence,” said Dr Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats. “Any Catholic public figure who insults someone else with the ‘pro-abortion’ label is actually hurting the anti-abortion cause by obstructing common ground solutions, sowing division within our Church, and contributing to the penchant toward violence that was on display again today. There is nothing Catholic about the kind of angry language that falsely blames abortion on our elected officials, when it is our job as people of faith to work constructively toward a society in which no one chooses to have an abortion.” ”

    Amazing. So now calling someon pro abortion is “Insulting” No doubnt one step removed from hateful

  • The language that concerns me is what I would call violent language. It is language that demeans, demonizes, and alienates. It is language used as a weapon, which, unfortunately, has oft been wielded in our culture wars. One can speak the truth clearly, accurately, and even bluntly without using violent language. In fact, such language tends to obscure the truth by drawing attention away from whatever truth is being conveyed and toward the language itself or the violence it causes. The question of the day is whether or not there is a connection between violent language and acts of violence such as the murder of George Tiller. Schaeffer obviously thinks there is.

  • David Nickol

    If you want to parcel out responsibility for Tiller’s killing, it seems that Justices Kennedy, O’Connor, and Souter played a greater role than Schaeffer or any other pro-life leader.


    Are you seriously arguing that a 1992 Supreme Court ruling is more directly related to the shooting of Dr. Tiller — the first such killing in ten years — than all the “Tiller the baby killer” rhetoric, the “Tiller Watch” on the Operation Rescue web site, the Operation Rescue sponsored demonstrations outside Dr. Tiller’s clinic and church (some of which Scott Roeder participated in), and the recent acquittal (in a trial that Roeder attended and was disgusted with) of Tiller of charges that he failed to get a proper second opinion in 19 cases of abortion where a second opinion was required . . . . Are you seriously arguing that in the light of all that, it was a 1992 ruling that is responsible for Tiller’s murder? Maybe if Roeder was carrying the text of the decision around in his pocket, you might have a case. Was he?

  • jh

    Kyle I guess I am not seeing much “violent”language used by the pro-life movement

    THe words and indeed actions pale in comaprision to the what we see on the left in many cases, against Israel, in the anti war movement, etc. Heck this is a tea party compared to what we heard in the immigration reform battles FROM BOTH THE RIGHT AND LEFT and in the whole silly 9/11 truthers things (what scares me much much more because that seemed to be effective if opinion polls are right).

    The extreme on the supposed left and right often share many of the same phobias and irrational fears and their language is indeed violent

    Leaading Pro-lifers have been in dialouge and discussion with people they disagreee with for decades. See People like RObert Geroge or Hadly Arkes.

    Do I think discourse should be civil? Of course I do but it needs to be honest.

    But I refused to be handcuffed by the kooks of the world. The left that protested at the Republican convention cannot and should not be tarred by the few that reported to attempts of violence.

    THese people are nuts. I would be litte shocked that this person that killed TIller no doubt believed in other irrational consiracies such as the Bush plot to form an North American Union, fears of the Amero, Jewish Neocon conspircies and how much of the “rights” figures were in on it.

  • blackadderiv


    I don’t think either is responsible. Blaming Tiller’s murder on something written in a book in 1984 makes no more sense than blaming it on something written in a legal opinion in 1992.

  • Kyle,

    Your point is well received. I agree.

    Of course, there are many forms of violence besides physical violence. To speak of killing a person or destroying physical property only scratches the surface of the violence done daily against individuals, their reputation, and the character of institutions. The reckless abuse level at Sen. Kennedy is only one example.

    The coarseness of language that has infected American politics in the last two decades has made impossible steady progress toward the ends most Americans seek in common. To me, this is violence committed against the American system itself.

  • If you want to parcel out responsibility for Tiller’s killing, it seems that Justices Kennedy, O’Connor, and Souter played a greater role than Schaeffer or any other pro-life leader.

    That makes no sense. What you ignore is that the early 1990s saw the mainstreaming of radical extremists within the GOP and the pseudo-conservative movement. It was when Limbaugh came on the stage. It was when Gingrich controlled the GOP. It was when the radical rhetoric truly began, rhetoric that others have compared to Leninist in tactic. Remember Tom Delay’s veiled threat to judges during the Schiavi period? This is the fruits of an ugly movement.

  • jh

    Morning What “Radical extremists” in the GOP are you talking about?

    Though I have I am not a fan of Limbaugh I don’t think he is extreme.

    Again I have followed some of these real extreme groups for some some time and they live in the shadows of the left and the right and often especially as to the RIGHT hate most of the people in that segment of the poltical realm

    THe anti Government paronoia is the key here and the shadow world they live in.

    The internet has increased this problem a million fold

    Should language be used carefully ? Of course. I was very concerned about some of the terms used toward bankers and other a few months ago because it can lead to some nasty anti Jewish stuff. Such as we saw inthe early eighties in the midwest during the farming crisis.

    On the right I was very concerned that valid concerns about immigration would lead to some basty stuff about Latinos and Mexicans in particular.

    How you balance that is no eays task. Espcially when at the same time you are spending a good bit of your times when you express concerns on these hot button issues degending yourself from charges as being hateful or bigoted

    Against Gay Marriage- Why are you hateful or bigoted

    Concenerned about Border security- Why are you so racist

    So the use of language and it’s responsible use is a two way street. I am not sure if the real problem is that too much is labeled as hateful or divisive. Thus it hides in the clutter the real hateful words and actions

  • blackadderiv

    In 1982, Frank’s father (Francis Schaeffer) wrote a book called A Christian Manifesto in which he called for the use of force if all other means of stopping abortion failed. He compared the United States and its practice of legalized abortion to Hitler’s Germany and argued that whatever means might have removed Hitler could be used to stop abortion here.

    It would seem, based on the details provided in this post, that these sentences are at best misleading and ought to be removed or modified to reflect Francis Schaeffer’s actual views on the matter.

  • BA,

    Not at all. I’m satisfied with Frank Schaeffer’s account.

  • blackadderiv

    I’m satisfied with Frank Schaeffer’s account.

    Who are you going to believe, Frank Schaeffer, or your own lying eyes?

  • Mark Gordon

    So Morning’s Minion lays the death of George Tiller at the feet of Limbaugh, Delay, and Gingrich. Strange that he never lays the deaths of the victims of abortion at the feet of Pelosi, Obama, Clinton, Kennedy, Kerry, Sebelius, et al, just as he never acknowledges that the mainstreaming of radical extremists in the Democratic Party began in 1972.

  • BA,

    I don’t appreciate your tone.

    I posted my thoughts. I believe Frank Schaeffer.

  • Joe Hargrave

    This is nonsense.

    How dare people try to bring the moral hammer down on me and others who weren’t exactly torn up about Tiller’s death, when they are prepared to throw the truth itself under the bus so as to avoid ‘extremism’.

    Even ‘pro-choice’ commentators have noted the quandary they are in when we broadcast images of the butchered fetus – because they show a true and real thing.

    Aside from being inherently wrong, it is politically stupid. To the other side, any admission whatsoever that the ‘fetus’ has any humanity worth protecting is ‘extremism’. Even the mildest recognition of the rights of the unborn translates directly into ‘abortionist = child murderer’.

    In for a penny, in for a pound.

  • Afternoon Delight

    Mark Gordon:

    That’s because you are a victim of the Americanist Enlightenment mentality and fail to see how the Calvinist rantings of Limbaugh and Gingrich inflict a real lasting damage on our society. I think Elizabeth Anscombe wrote about that.

  • Joe: Who are the “people” you are referring to?

  • David Nickol

    How dare people try to bring the moral hammer down on me and others who weren’t exactly torn up about Tiller’s death, when they are prepared to throw the truth itself under the bus so as to avoid ‘extremism’.

    Even ‘pro-choice’ commentators have noted the quandary they are in when we broadcast images of the butchered fetus – because they show a true and real thing.


    There is a difference between speaking truth and being inflammatory. How many burned, mangled, and smashed bodies did you see on the news reports in the days following 9/11? Did you see George Bush or any of the network news anchors pointing to corpses and saying, “This, my fellow citizens, is what the mass-murderers of Al Qaeda, have done to your brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers!” More recently, did any of the television networks show the Daniel Pearl decapitation video?

    Surely if we want to know the truth about, say, the war in Afghanistan, we should see the mangled bodies of the civilians the United States accidentally kills. I have seen many, many pictures of aborted fetuses, but only once have I ever seen uncensored battlefield photos. So I guess none of us know the truth about war.

    Over 40,000 people a year die in automobile accidents. Have you ever seen a smashed or decapitated corpse on the news or in the papers? Who knows. A picture is worth a 1000 words, and knowing the truth about auto accidents might cause people to drive more cautiously and save lives.

    I’ve watched the compilation of Bill O’Reilly’s remarks about Dr. Tiller, and I doubt that it would be possible to put together so many inflammatory remarks by Bill O’Reilly about Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. That kind of stuff is not “truth.” It’s hatemongering.

    Prudent people speaking in public quite reasonably watch their language lest any nuts or crackpots be moved to do something very misguided. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking people not to engage in rhetoric that might incite violence. The pro-life movement needn’t refrain from telling the truth. It just needs to stop screaming “mass murder” and “baby killer.”

    If I were to allow myself to use the same pitch of rhetoric to describe the sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church as the pro-lifers use to describe abortion in the United States, I am sure you would accuse me of being anti-Catholic. There are a lot more colorful and provocative ways of describing what some priests have done and some bishops have covered up than “sex abuse” and “pedophilia.”

  • Joe Hargrave


    Our only obligation is to speak and if we can, show the truth.

    I do think people should see images of war – it might make them less inclined to want to start them.

    I didn’t say there was anything wrong with asking people not to commit violent acts. But we can’t pretend that even the most basic descriptions and images of the sort of butchery that is abortion will ‘incite’ some people to want to do them.

    The reality is that abortion is a war on the most vulnerable and innocent members of our society. There is no way you can sanitize what Tiller was doing, there is no way you can present it truthfully without simultaneously causing outrage. What he was doing was barbaric, horrific, and it is an indictment of our society that it was ever allowed to take place.

    That’s the reality we have to deal with. Anything less is simply unconscionable, any way of presenting the issue that would diminish its evil and its brutality.

    At the same time we can say that what makes us better and different is that we don’t butcher the weak and defenseless, and that people like Tiller should be treated like any other anti-social killer – arrested and put on trial, as many times as it takes, until society finally meets out the proper punishment for his crimes.

    As long as I say that, I am not responsible for what someone else does. And to be clear, I don’t believe the man who did it was ‘crazy’ – I think he was wrong. I think the people who refuse to even consider what Tiller was doing in evaluating the entire incident are the ones who are crazy, who have closed their eyes to an atrocity far worse than the murder of one man.

  • Joe Hargrave

    And, by the way, I also understand why people speak out as they do against the Church with regards to the pedophile scandals. I don’t begrudge them their legitimate outrage and I understand the origin of their disgust.

    The problem is when they try to link it to Catholic teaching and practice, when there are other deeper social and psychological factors involved.

  • Mark Gordon

    David Nickol: As someone in favor of the abortion license, I’m sure you would prefer a pro-life movement that speaks about the unborn in gauzy euphemisms (fetus!) and that describes the reality of violence in the womb in only the most anodyne terms. In other words, pro-lifers who though personally opposed don’t consider abortion to be that big a deal, really. Then we could all just stop talking about it and cozy up to the status quo.

    Sorry, but the truth about abortion is sometimes incendiary, as it is when the issue is torture, war, poverty, genocide, slavery, or any other systematic assault on the human person. One hopes and prays that the truth motivates people to become Wilberforces, Kings, or Ghandis, but the possibility of John Browns or Scott Roeders is always present. That risk doesn’t relieve anyone of the responsibility to speak the truth with clarity. George Orwell wrote that the “greatest enemy of clear language is insincerity.” Your comment amounts to an argument for a pro-life movement that is insincere, dispassionate, uncommitted, and functionally pro-choice, like you.

  • Ronald King

    Our faith requires us to always look for our blind spots that create suffering in the world. John Paul II wrote in Reconciliatio et Paenitentia “…every soul that rises above itself raises up the world…”and labels this as the “law of ascent”. He associates this with the Communion of Saints. He also describes the “communion of sin” in which each and every sin, no matter how private, harms the entire human family along with the Church. What he identifies is that thought actually does harm to others. This is reinforced by a reading of the commandments and reinforced by Christ when he tells us that our thoughts have already harmed someone even before any action takes place and He requires immediate confession for this seemingly hidden and seemingly inconsequential matter. This is being investigated in the study of quantum mechanics.

    A general question: Does anyone know what happens in the developing brain of the human being when love is not as strong as or as consistent as criticism, fear, indifference, etc. These are the least harmful experiences.

    Can you describe what areas of the brain become activated and what chemistry is produced in the brain by the word murder. And do you know what happens when this word is associated to someone’s name?

    The brain is the hardware through which the soul has access to the world. A soul suffers the loss of love and is subject to the reactions in the “flesh” unless there is the Gift of Grace that leads to an understanding of what it means to be human.

  • Ronald King

    Mark Gordon, You are satisfying the reward associated with the ability to express your anger and justify it with an unwarranted attack against David. When you do that you do not have the love for the unborn, instead, you are driven by anger that results from the social learning area of the amygdala that is associated with determining what is dangerous or what is safe.
    That is instinctual and then beliefs are formed to support that feeling arising from the animal brain.
    In other words, intelligence is used to support the vision of the primitive survival mechanism and thus everything remains the same in the culture of death.

  • David Nickol

    One hopes and prays that the truth motivates people to become Wilberforces, Kings, or Ghandis, but the possibility of John Browns or Scott Roeders is always present.


    Show me the rhetoric of Martin Luther King or Ghandi that would be the equivalent of “baby killer.”

  • jh

    I saw on another blog(Catholic) by the way. That balming pro-life people in the “movement” is like blaming MLK for the Black Panthers. Great example

  • Ronald King

    The blogger sounds desperate. Martin Luther King was a beautiful human being. He drew people to him from every walk of life. I do not see nor hear the eloquence and the love of humanity in the pro-life movement.
    It seems that it is much easier to love the unborn and unseen child than it is to love and serve those who need assistance to bring children into the world.

  • Kevin


    “To be a Negro in America is to hope against hope. … Being a Negro in America means trying to smile when you want to cry. It means trying to hold on to physical life amid psychological death. It means the pain of watching your children grow up with clouds of inferiority in their mental skies. It means having your legs cut off, and then being condemned for being a cripple. It means seeing your mother and father spiritually murdered by the slings and arrows of daily exploitation, and then being hated for being an orphan.”

    Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967

  • ron chandonia

    Frank Schaeffer seems to be competing to be named the Doug Kmiec of the Reformed Evangelical/Orthodox world. It’s not clear he has the right stuff. Touchstone, which stays close to that world, offered this gloomy assessment of the book he wrote to trash his pious parents and their faith. He garnered a little pre-election publicity on NPR as a “pro-life Christian” who nonetheless favored both Obama and Roe v. Wade. Then Kmiec and the Catholic Obamatons stole his thunder. It’s interesting to see him try to squeeze another 15 minutes of fame out of Tiller’s murder.

  • Mark Gordon

    Ronald King: Thanks for the biology lesson. Is there a part of the brain that resists the impulse to state what is true? David Nickol is pro-choice. That is not an attack; it is a simple fact. And yet David undertakes to instruct the pro-life movement in its use of language, as if he shared its goals. It is sensible to conclude that he does so precisely because he is on the other side of the issue.

    David: Both King and Ghandi used strong, yet accurate language to describe the injustices they observed and endured. Whether the language was too strong would, I suppose, depend on which side of the critique you found yourself, which is the case here.

    Dr. Tiller routinely killed unborn children as late as eight or nine months’ gestation. We call those “babies,” as in “When is the baby due?” or “Did you see the baby on the sonogram?” When someone kills babies, it is not unreasonable or even uncharitible to call him “baby killer.” Unless, that is, love is somehow opposed to truth. You object to “mass murderer,” no doubt on the grounds that “murder” is a legal term. Fine. I can accept that. Can you then acknowledge that Tiller was a “mass killer?” I thought not.

  • jh


    If You don’t see the love of Christ in the pro Life movement then I suggest you get out more. There was a argument that many could see the love of Christ in the MLK movement and he was just this damned communist

    I hope you are not so blind as some of the exremes against MLK.

    I swear it is a sad state of affairs when people look at the Pro-life movement through a caricature

  • Ronald King

    Mark, It appears the lesson was not considered. I object to the use of violent language that incites people to act from hostility and then justify that hostility as self-righteous. The women’s movement was a movement of unresolved hostility towards being physically and emotionally dominated by weak and unloving males. They no longer could endure hiding their rage and created a feminine revolution based on rage. It is that unresolved rage that flames the action to not see the meaning of life beginning at conception. If one is still fighting against male oppression it means that one does not have a rewarding identity that gives one peace and openness to life.
    Attitudes and words either heal or harm. If you have the attitude of hostility then the truth becomes distorted and is no longer the truth, it has become the past of every woman who has been harmed by males and who will reject the humanity of the baby that was result of a loss of hope for love.

  • People who unlock prison doors bear some responsibility for any rape and murders that result from it. People who support the free availability of gund bear some responsibility for gun deaths that derive from that free availability. People who support the overthrow of a government that leads to chaos and bloodshed bear some responsibility for that chaos and bloodshed. Legisltators and judges who proclaim a right to abortion bear sone responsibility for any abortions that take place. And people who engage in hate speech bear some responsibility for contributing to a heated atmosphere that might lead to murder. This is one reason why I don’t buy the American quintessentially liberal absolute right to free speech. The right to free speech can be curtailed in the name of the common good. I’m with Germany on this one.

  • ron chandonia

    Guys, I bet we need SPEECH CODES to shut down those awful pro-lifers! Maybe we could board up their nasty churches too, or else give them to the Episcopalians to run.

    Because really, folks, all this pseudo-outrage is not about the motives of Tiller’s nutcase assassin. It’s about doing what the NARAL Democrats have been wanting to do with pro-lifers for a long, long time: shut them up and shut them down. The Vichy Catholics around here are just dupes in their game.

  • David Nickol

    Can you then acknowledge that Tiller was a “mass killer?” I thought not.


    Are you calling me pro-choice based on my answers to jeremy (I think it was) in another thread? If so, you will recall that I said I would support abortion up to 12 weeks in somewhat the way Germany does, and I would ban late-term abortions except in the cases well-defined and authentic threats to the life or health of the mother.

    Before I could offer an informed opinion about George Tiller, I would really have to know more details than I do about the circumstances under which he performed late-term abortions. But my guess is that I would wind up judging him almost as harshly as you do. I have heard that there is “burn out” among those who perform abortions, and after a while they can’t do it any more. For someone to persist as he did performing late-term abortions for the amount of time he did makes me feel like I wouldn’t have felt safe with about ten miles of him.

    But don’t let that stop you from continuing to lash out at me.

  • Because really, folks, all this pseudo-outrage is not about the actions of Bush’s torturers. It’s about doing what the Pro-Torture imperialist Republicans have been wanting to do with Liberals for a long, long time: shut them up and shut them down. The Vichy Catholics around here are just dupes in their game.

  • Joe Hargrave

    I support the ‘free availability of guns’, and if in some warped view that means I must bear some responsibility for gun violence, I will bear it.

    I suppose people who make cars are responsible for traffic accidents, people who make food responsible for gluttony, people who pay doctors for their medical visits responsible for medical malpractice, people who pay lawyers responsible when a killer is let loose on a technicality to kill again. Even if all of that is true, I say, we need those things.

    I reject in total the utopian notion that the world can be made completely ‘safe’, that all dangers can be eliminated by giving up more and more rights and freedoms. I value positive liberty more than I do negative liberty, but I still value negative liberty.

    So I will, if I must – though I do not think I must – bear some responsibility for anti-abortion violence, because I value the truth more than I do an impossible crusade to prevent all violence. We can only do so much before we start giving up things that we in fact have no right to give up, not on our own behalf and certainly not on anyone else’s. And I would certainly rather be labeled a monster and a terrorist than call abortion and infanticide anything other than what they are – depraved, violent acts that any just society would outlaw and punish.

  • JH,

    What I call violent language is language that is used to reduce the meaning of someone or something. Such language cuts away the full meaning of a person or a thing. Speaking of the unborn as “an inconvenience” or as “worthless tissue” are examples of such linguistic violence. The linguistic violence in these examples can lead to actual violence against the unborn, for if one thinks of the unborn in categories of language that demean the unborn to something less than human or less than persons, then it is less problematic to take that life.

    I see violent language in some pro-lifers’ depictions of those who support legalized abortion. When pro-lifers speak of abortion rights advocates as bloodthirsty, monstrous, unconcerned for life or for justice, or hell-bent on killing babies, they are using violent language.

  • Mark,

    Are you suggesting that inflammatory speech is not dangerous? That words do not have consequences? This was the point of my post.

    How does calling someone a Nazi sympathizer, or a “baby killer”, or a murderer further a cause? Could you explain that please?

  • Joe Hargrave


    What abortionists do is bloody, monstrous, and clearly not concerned about life.

    I will admit that they are (usually) doing a thing that they believe is either right, or not wrong. Few people ever describe themselves or their actions as evil.

    But in a God-created universe, where objective truth exists, where reality is not simply a construct of the mind, we are forced to ask and answer the question: what is abortion? What is an unborn human being? What is it, objectively, irrespective of what any one individual thinks?

    The only way we can use language that won’t incite some people to violence is to pretend that abortion isn’t really murder, that it isn’t really bloody, that it isn’t really monstrous. We absolutely cannot do that. So, we must accept that for some people, the rule of law is not a very high priority, for reasons I understand but do not condone.

    I think it is a denial of our very humanity, of our very instinct to want to protect innocent life, to pretend that only a ‘crazy man’ would want to take matters into his own hands.

    And finally there is the risk that curbing our language will go too far, to the point where we use the same clinical, dehumanizing language as the pro-choice movement, if and when it even decides that the status of the unborn is even an issue worthy of consideration.

    No, that is too high a price to pay, and I won’t pay it. I will not loose one minute of sleep because someone, on the basis of the truth, decides to do something that is immoral. It would be unconscionable in the most literal sense of the word.

  • Joe Hargrave

    I mean, no one on the anti-war side of the spectrum wants to refer to the mass murder of civilians in war as ‘collateral damage’. Think of the outrage from the same people who are likely calling pro-life speech ‘hate speech’!

    They know the power of words, and it makes them all the more culpable. They know that war requires the SAME dehumanization of the enemy as abortion does, and yet they do it anyway. They do it because ‘sexual liberation’ or ‘personal choice’ are more important to them than any other consideration.

    For my part, I don’t have dehumanize a person like Tiller to want to see him brought to justice and, if possible, executed for his crimes against humanity. I don’t care why he or any other abortionist does what they do – the why is irrelevant when the result is a butchered child.

  • Joe,

    The examples that I offered of violent language used by pro-lifers were instances of language being used to speak of people, particularly their motivations. That was intentional. I have no problem with speaking of the abortion procedure itself as bloody, violent, evil, and unjust. These are accurate, not demeaning, descriptions of abortion.

  • Joe Hargrave

    Fair enough Kyle – I agree with you on that. We don’t need to introduce personal motives to make a case against abortion.

  • jh


    Wake Up . SOme many are hell bent on abortion. Planned ParentHood is an Multi Hundredmillion Dollar empire that gets money off killing innocent life

  • jh

    But Morning who shall decide what is hate speech.

    Lets recall that the people charged with Hate Crimes have to do real time in jail and such speech has real consequences

  • Maybe I am asleep at the computer, jh, but near as I can tell, the people at Planned Parenthood are motivated by a desire to help women, not a desire to kill as many babies as possible in order to bring in lots of money. I can’t prove ill motives, so I won’t assume them.

  • Joe Hargrave


    I wouldn’t assume it is all out of a ‘desire to help women’.

    A lot of it is ideological – the belief that abortion should be available for any number of reasons, including broad ‘sexual freedom’, ‘personal choice’, population control, crime control, etc.

  • Ronald King

    If those of you who cannot understand the emotional and physiological impact of words that project hostility will not at least research articles associated with the neuroscience of this issue, then you will continue to alienate those you want to influence.
    Anger is one of the deadly sins. That means it is related to the culture of death. Why defend your anger when there is clear evidence that it produces alienation and hostility in those you want to convert?
    However, I do know that anger is an addictive response because it gives one pleasure and a sense of power when there is actually helplessness.

  • Joe Hargrave

    You assume you know who I or others want to influence.

    Anger is not always a sin. There is such a thing as righteous anger. And if we can’t get angry about child murder, then there is nothing else worth getting angry over.

    I will not deny or repress my natural human instincts (if you want to speak of ‘neuroscience’, how about the psychological ramifications of repression?), but I will try to temper them with reason. That we are so disgusted with this barbarism is a result of the moral conscience God implants in us in the first place.

    I do agree that anger can go too far – and I actually agree that it can become a meaningless addiction, when it leads to nothing productive.

    But dammit, the possibility that anger might go too far can’t possibly outweigh our obligation to the truth. The truth is that a terrible atrocity takes place every day in America.

    This is what it means to be human, to have free will and conscience. It means life will sometimes be messy and unpleasant, even as we do our moral duty. The medicine of using polite, clinical language to describe abortion is worse than the disease of anger that leads to the death of a handful of abortion doctors.

    I mean, in the end, the more we sanitize abortion with polite and clinical language, the more women will have them. You want to talk about responsibility? How responsible is the language of the pro-choice movement for millions of murders? How responsible is their language in convincing women that their own children are not really people, just clumps of cells, not babies, but ‘fetuses’?

    Meanwhile for ever Tiller that is murdered in a fit of rage, there are possibly thousands of children saved through the graphic language and imagery used by the pro-life movement; graphics and language that show expecting mothers what they are really carrying, what the stakes really are.

    I am not willing to abort all of that good to prevent what is, in the end, a relatively small amount of evil.

  • Joe Hargrave

    And I realize too that on the issue of torture, I took the exact opposite view. But I hope we can see, there is a difference. No one intends, by telling the truth, that violence come of it – and if they do, then yes they are acting immorally. But the evil that results from telling the truth is different than the evil that results from a direct and willful offense against morality, such as torture – even if it will save lives.

    It’s a good opportunity for us to clear up these issues, and that is why I bring it up. Negative fallout from what is in its essence a moral duty is not the same as directly doing an evil thing so that good will come of it.

  • David Nickol

    But in a God-created universe, where objective truth exists, where reality is not simply a construct of the mind, we are forced to ask and answer the question: what is abortion? What is an unborn human being? What is it, objectively, irrespective of what any one individual thinks?


    Assuming everything you say is true, how do you know what is objective truth “irrespective of what any one individual thinks”? For centuries upon centuries the Catholic Church — although it seems to have consistently opposed abortion — had the notion of quickening, and didn’t consider a fetus for the first 40 or 80 days to be a human person. Was that objective knowledge?

    Now, they didn’t know then what we know now about things like embryology, but they also didn’t know what we know now about a lot of things, and that hasn’t stopped the Catholic Church from reinterpreting old ideas in new ways. When did it become thinkable to interpret the story of Adam and Eve as figurative instead of literal truth? It wasn’t all that long ago that even Catholics took Genesis as literal (objective?) truth.

    I don’t think it would be difficult at all to update the idea of quickening in terms of what we know about brain development and function. And in fact the Catholic Church has not declared as a matter of doctrine that the soul is infused at conception.

    I am saying all of this not so much to argue about abortion but to wonder what makes you think you have objective truth now, when we can look back at some of the greatest minds of the Catholic Church and point out that all current evidence points to their being wrong about any number of things.

    There are days when I wonder if God really exists or if there is objective truth, but even on my best days, I don’t assume I can be certain of what is objective truth and what isn’t. And while I can respect deeply held convictions and rock-solid faith, I think people who are certain they know objective truth are frightening.

  • ben


    I just want to say how much I agree with and appreciate everything you have said here on this thread.

    You are abosolutely correct. We have a duty to speak the truth.


    you are confusing epistemology with metaphysics.

  • David Nickol

    I mean, in the end, the more we sanitize abortion with polite and clinical language, the more women will have them.

    I think this should be discussed now and then: Why is it the case (as it appears to be from any statistics I have ever seen) that Catholic women have at least as many abortions in women of other religious (or nonreligious) groups? Surely it can’t be from ignorance of what the Church teaches. If the language of murder, mortal sin, excommunication, and hell are not persuasive to Catholic women, what is going to persuade anybody?

  • David Nickol

    you are confusing epistemology with metaphysics.


    Thanks for clearing it all up!

  • Joe Hargrave


    First, let me say, I would be pro-life even if I were an atheist (in fact, I was pro-life as an atheist). So maybe even invoking a God-created universe was a mistake.

    Secondly, I understand the misgivings you might have about objective truth in general, especially when scientists are in disagreement.

    But here, the issue really isn’t that deep. Abortion is legal and accepted by so many people precisely because they avoid the tough questions. It is an objective fact that, ensoulment or not, reproduction has occurred at conception. It is an objective fact that two people have just become parents. It is an objective fact that abortion is a violent, bloody procedure that destroys a human life. No amount of philosophizing can change those facts – all it can do is say that they aren’t as relevant as other facts.

    In any case, the Church has made clear that we must ERR ON THE SIDE OF LIFE. Meaning, even if we might possibly be in some doubt about the origins of life, ensoulment, or any of these other issues, our actions must premised upon an assumption that we are dealing with a human being with value, with an inherent right to exist.


    Thanks 🙂

  • grega

    “Tiller to want to see him brought to justice and, if possible, executed for his crimes against humanity. ”

    Joe, the former Atheist – It shows – you obviously have not much use for the complete catholic pro life position – why am I not surprised.

  • Abortion does not seem to me to be always wrong morally, though it is always regrettable. The late-abortion scenarios testified to on Andrew Sullivan’s site the last two days seem to me to be morally justifiable. There is certainly enough room for moral uncertainty and decision-making here to make talk of abortion as murder, and women who abort as murderers, irresponsible and dangerous. Schaeffer Jr. is completely right.

  • “Why defend your anger when there is clear evidence that it produces alienation and hostility in those you want to convert?”


    Do you sense that there are some here who haven’t even considered what it takes to convert people? Their objective is more about trumpeting the truth than persuading others to choose against abortion. Even then, as Spirit of Vatican II points out, the truth is not as clear as some believe.

    If the intent were to get practical results, the language and tone would be quite different.

    The disengagement and anger seems to flow from a pre-cognitive awareness of powerlessness.

  • David Nickol

    In any case, the Church has made clear that we must ERR ON THE SIDE OF LIFE.


    I’ll think about what you said tomorrow. (I am not Scarlett O’Hara. I just want to get to bed at a semi-reasonable hour.) I did just want to point out that I was in a forum once where a very insightful woman responded to the “err on the side of life” remark by asking, “What about the life of the MOTHER?” Yes, it is true that only a small percentage of abortions are performed because the life of the mother is at risk, but the Catholic Church is against those, too. And when you KNOW the mother is a living person, and you are unsure about the unborn child, it would seem that erring on the side of life would mean saving the life of the mother. This would be the case in the Jewish tradition, which is more ancient than Catholicism and no less believing than Catholics in the sanctity of life.

  • Joe Hargrave


    The Church doesn’t categorically prohibit the death penalty.

    I do believe in its use in limited cases – and this would be one of those cases.

  • Joe Hargrave

    I certainly hope I am not being included amongst these ‘angry people’ for simply insisting that we have a duty to tell the truth about abortion.

    It is illogical to argue that anger is necessarily connected to powerlessness – anger can also lead to constructive transformation for the better. If anger is kept from transforming into wrath, if it is focused and honed on towards a moral end, it is not in itself immoral.

    I do agree that there are many people whose anger is not constructive. But I think its wrong to argue on the basis of those cases that anger can never be justified or constructive. Moreover, I am a little less concerned with converting people than I am with defending innocent life. I do think it is important, essential that we convert people – but we certainly don’t do that by whitewashing their sins and crimes with flowery, appeasing language.

    The only useful and valid conversions are those made on the basis of truth – on the basis of recognizing that one’s position is wrong and that it must change. Any conversion that is based on anything less than full disclosure about abortion is not a true conversion.

  • David Nickol


    Regarding the limited use of the death penalty, I believe this is the statement that sums it all up:

    It is clear that for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: In other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare if not practically nonexistent. [Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 1995]

    Would the death penalty be absolutely necessary to protect society from an abortionist? Probably revoking his license to practice medicine would be sufficient, maybe probation, or if he is utterly defiant, house arrest or minimum security prison. But if one accepts John Paul II’s ideas about what punishment of criminals is for, it is difficult to see how one could justify the execution of an abortionist.

  • Joe Hargrave


    Perhaps you’re right. Life in prison would suffice.

  • No one said that the truth should not be told about abortion. It should. What was said is that truth should be told with a view to a practical end. Some ways of communicating the truth are clearly better than others.

    Telling the truth in a classroom is one thing. Telling the truth to a group of policy-makers is another. Policy makers need to make practical decisions about a policy. Knowing and doing must be approached differently.

    No one said “anger is necessarily connected to powerlessness. It was pointed out that this appeared to be the case in some of the comments.

    If one wants to defend innocent lives in America, the best way is to change hearts and minds. It is counterproductive to turn this dynamic into a caricature. Changing hearts and minds is not about “whitewashing sins” and using “flowery language.” Of course, you already know this.

    Conversions are made possible when quality relations are established with others. These relations include love, compassion, understanding, and mercy. Truth is a factor in all conversions, but love is decisive. Thus JPII spoke of the “Splendor of Truth.” The world will be saved by the RADIANCE of Truth which is Beauty. When Truth is presented in beautiful ways, it will effect conversion.

    Don’t forget Beauty!

  • Joe Hargrave

    Well, I’m glad we agree. Then you won’t object when I and others continue to call abortion murder, to call it barbaric, bloody and violent.

  • Abortion, as the French bishops said in 1978 or 1979, is always “an act of death” – they wisely refained from talking about murder. They urged that we must be very sensitive in talking of this issue. One of the points they stressed was that if we are really pro-life we should work for positive social policies that reduce abortion, such as ‘the politics of the third child.’

  • Kurt


    You scare me as much as Dr. Tiller’s murderer.

    You claim you are less concerned about converting people as defending innocent life. I can only read that as meaning you do not consider yourself limited to democratic and constitutional means in criminalizing abortion. Actually, that is the logical and rational conclusion of much “pro-life” rhetoric today.

    I have no doubt that except for the commendable work of the men and women of the Secret Service, the President would have already net the same fate as Dr. Tiller. And if most Catholic conservatives mean what they say, I have no doubt they would follow the same path the Catholic conservatives did in Spain 1936 and support a fascist insurgency against our elected government.

    Well, so be it. But know there are many of us prepared, if the occassion calls for it, to defend our republic as the Republicans of 1936 did.

  • “Well, I’m glad we agree. Then you won’t object when I and others continue to call abortion murder, to call it barbaric, bloody and violent.”

    Well I do object. If you live in the United States, it is not murder. Can’t you deal with cultural truth? Work from there. There is no need to use language that is off-putting and that incites others to react negatively. There are plenty of avenues which can lead to positive change.

  • Tom

    No one said that the truth should not be told about abortion. It should.

    Yet when Fr. O’Leary offers a scandalous falsehood about abortion, you commend him.

  • Abortion does not seem to me to be always wrong morally, though it is always regrettable.

    It is always morally wrong, intrinsically evil. You call yourself the Spirit of Vatican II, so you know that Gaudium Et Spes lists abortion right up there with murder and genocide as among the gravest evils (incidentally, torture is up there too).

    Of course, there is a valid point to be made — the moral culpability of the person who chooses abortion may be significantly diminished. It is for this reason that no jurisidiction has ever equated abortion with homicide when it comes to criminal penalties.

  • Tom,

    Do you understand what Fr. O’Leary is saying?

  • Tom


    Yes. And such props as I have to Morning’s Minion for his reply.

  • MM,

    Is it wrong to have a late term abortion of a fetus that has been dead for ten weeks? This is one of the cases that has been discussed. There are others.

    Whether abortion is intrinsically evil or not, there are many factors that have to be brought into consideration. Prudence still lies at the heart of every moral act.

  • Ronald King

    What seems to be taking place is the inability to disengage from the anger because it would create disonance and consequently, confusion about self and others. The world would then become ambiguous and firmly held beliefs about self and others would disintigrate. It would also result in a crisis of faith and then a crisis of identity. This would then become the dark night of the soul in which a purgation of beliefs results in a loss of God as we had formerly believed.
    Now, who wants to go through this and experience of nothingness and isolation? However, it is necessary to let go of our human identity in order to more closely unite to God. Who wants to ask God for this purging that leaves one in a state of total humiliation and all that is left is faith? Anyone who wants to know more deeply the Mystery of God’s Love will ask for this.
    Clarity cannot come through any other means than being united to the Mystery of God’s Love. My anger with abortion drives me to understand the suffering that creates the outcome of abortion. I can see that all of us are connected in that suffering and that our reactions to that suffering either help heal or intensify that suffering.
    If we do not participate in the healing of that suffering then we are members of the culture of death whether we know it or not.

  • Gerald,

    I think would, and should, find it disturbing that you consider “murder” to be a term which is subject only to “cultural truth”. (Was lynching murder, back when it was culturally acceptable in some parts of the country?) Your approach here smacks of legal and indeed moral positivism, and should rightly be offensive to a Catholic sensibility.


    Does it occur to you that declaring (with no evidence other than the vehemence of someone’s feelings in regards to a basic human rights issue) that someone probably supports assassinating the president and indeed that a whole group probably wants to start a civil war — and then saying you’re ready and eager to take up arms in that theoretical civil war — is perhaps exactly the kind of inflammatory rhetoric which you are theoretically objecting to?

    And given your leap to terms of war, it’s interesting that you immediately cast you and your party’s position in terms of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, given that they were responsible for one of the largest wholesale slaughters of Catholics, religious and clergy (as intentional targets) in the last century. Makes the carryings on against the Maryknolls of right wing militias in Latin America pale by comparison. Is that really the flag you want to wrap yourself in?

  • ROB

    Hey Mr. Digby: Von Stauffenberg is ok due to his Grafness? But the prolifers are lower class scum. Give me an effin break.

  • DC,

    I am fully aware of the imperatives of natural law. But legal positivism defines the system we have. Abortion in the U.S. is not murder. My counsel is to proceed from there.

    There are those who act as if this were not the case. But for four decades these same people have failed to make a difference. They have failed to establish a legal regime that would make abortion illegal, which is the core of their strategy. They have failed in every way and they now stand in total disarray.

    I am not surprised they have not been able to buck the system. But have they ever considered that they are going about it in the wrong way? How long are they going to stir the pot to no effect? How long are they going to do nothing that is practical? After all, thousands of abortions are being performed each day. Aren’t they culpable for their imprudence?

    The claim of a few to hold the moral high ground in the abortion debate is totally preposterous. It doesn’t hold water, unless morality is defined in such a way that is totally abstract and detached from real world intentions and circumstances.

  • jeremy

    “What about the life of the MOTHER?” Yes, it is true that only a small percentage of abortions are performed because the life of the mother is at risk, but the Catholic Church is against those, too. And when you KNOW the mother is a living person, and you are unsure about the unborn child, it would seem that erring on the side of life would mean saving the life of the mother.

    I believe that if a pregnancy is putting a woman’s life in danger, than there exists a pathology. It is always licit to treat a pathology. It would not be licit to consider killing the baby ‘the cure’. But I believe it would be perfectly licit to do what was needed to correct the pathology, and preserve life, both Mother and Child if possible. I don’t know of any circumstance where you are required to ‘give till your dead’.

  • Ronald King

    I like the definition of insanity I heard decades ago. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

    We are all insane until we know the Mystery of God’s Love. Spiritual narcissism will support rigidity of perception and belief due to the desire to be right which may be motivated by valid caring for some of those who are suffering but this becomes contaminated by an underlying and unseen hostility for others who differ from them.

    Abortion and our faith require us to look at the spiritual dimension that links suffering to the end result of abortion. From that perspective there are solutions that will work.

  • jeremy

    Abortion and our faith require us to look at the spiritual dimension that links suffering to the end result of abortion. From that perspective there are solutions that will work.

    This is true, but is not just true for abortion – this is true for all acts of brutality.

  • Ronald,

    I once kenw a Jesuit who set forth five levels of consciousness: conventional, social, legal, moral, and ontological. He located Protestantism in the moral and Catholicism in the ontological. Indeed, he said Protestantism is in essence a moral society. It is social.

    When you write of an “inability to disengage from anger” it appears you are alluding to a need for certitude. You use terms “ambiguous”, “disintegrate” and connect them to crisis of faith and identity. This is the dark night of the soul. Being here is like being caught in the uncertain vortex of a kaleidoscope.

    Moral consciousness seeks certainty. It is bipolar. It is consumed by a struggle of good and evil with no possibility of reconciliation. It is enough to be aligned with the good.

    This is what I see evident in too many comments. Anger is endemic to this paradigm. The anger of moral consciousness is worked out in character formation, social relations, public policy (the poor are unworthy), and even religious attitudes and practices.

    Ontological consciousness is a consciousness predicated on connaturality, as Jacques Maritain would say. It is a consciousness made possible by Love, compassion, understanding, and mercy. It transcends bipolarity. It is here that reconciliation is possible and anger can be alleviated.

    Anger has more than psychological significance. It seems to flow out of a pre-conscious denial of ontological impulses, e.g., love, compassion, understanding and mercy.

    Tragically, at the level of moral consciousness certitude (self-righteousness, e.g.) seems to have a compelling force that can easily overwhelm Love itself … interesting! It becomes a prison. The challenge: how to break out of this prison.

    At this point enters the dialectic of gift and gratitude which leads to reconciliation and redemption.

  • Ronald King

    Jeremy, I totally agree with you. I propose that all acts of brutality, whether physical or emotional, are the underlying causes of abortion.
    The seed of abortion is in the story of chapter 3 in Genesis.
    See what you think.

  • Jeremy,

    Agreed. This is what I am attempting to articulate in my series on The Spirituality of Youth Violence (which has more to come).

  • Ronald King

    Gerald, Thank you for providing some definitions for me. You saved me the time of using the dictionary.
    I come from a genetic history of coal miners on both sides of the family. I was the first one in the family to get a college degree. My home was 50 feet away from four sets of railroad tracks in PA.
    My genetic history influenced a hypervigilant anxiety when exposed to social groups and classes that instinctively I did not belong to.
    I hated me and those who appeared to reject me with their indifference or their criticism. That is why I left Catholicism when I was 18. It was the best choice I ever made. It was where God was leading me to find love that influenced my life’s journey until He brought me home 40 years later.
    My work has been a journey into the suffering of self and others and it is the passionate love I have for God that drives me always to where there is darkness and to find God in that darkness.
    The hardware of the soul is the brain. The brain is the flesh that Paul discusses. When we have a better understanding of the machine then we can be open to more Grace. The brain actually physically changes in response to Grace. There is too much to write about so I will leave it at that.
    I love what you have written above.

  • digbydolben

    “ROB”-idiot: Von Stauffenberg is “OK” because of his “classy” “conservative” judiciousness in applying violence and in refraining from involving people who’d not be able to know how to restrain themselves because of unfamiliarity with “participatory democracy” and “anti-abortionists” (not “pro-lifers”; there seems to be an obvious and growing distinction) are “lower class scum” because they use inflammatory rhetoric to incite civic disturbances.

    Learn to read.

  • jeremy

    Hasn’t this already been articulated by sociologists? that the environment plays a role in the decisions people make has been studied for decades. This is primarily a sociological situation, not a philosophical one.

  • Jeremy,

    My efforts go beyond the methodology of the social science? Social science, unless guided by a deeper way of understanding, looks at behavior from the outside. It is descriptive and, rather than addressing causes, it sets up a system of correlations which may or may not have causative value. It fails to penetrate the principles and dynamics which have their origins in the person.

    The key to a preventive strategy of dysfunctional behavior is to discover root causes and, surprisingly, they are intrinsically spiritual.

  • Mark Gordon

    Mark, It appears the lesson was not considered.

    Ron King: On what basis do you presume to offer “lessons?”

    I said I would support abortion up to 12 weeks in somewhat the way Germany does, and I would ban late-term abortions except in the cases well-defined and authentic threats to the life or health of the mother.

    David Nickol: You “support abortion” up to three months – presumably for any reason – and thereafter for narrower reasons. You are, therefore, pro-choice. And that’s all I wrote about you. Why do you consider stating the facts to be “lashing out?”

    Are you suggesting that inflammatory speech is not dangerous? That words do not have consequences?

    Gerald Campbell: The truth about abortion is sometimes inflammatory, whether that truth is communicated in pictures or speech. It is for that reason that pro-choicers (and some otherwise pro-life Catholics) object to photographs of aborted children. It is also why those same people object to clear and direct language about abortion.

    It is wrong and inaccurate to term anyone a “Nazi sympathizer” if they are not in fact a Nazi sympathizer. But it is neither wrong nor inaccurate to describe George Tiller as a “baby killer.” THE MAN KILLED BABIES, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! WHAT DO YOU CALL IT?

  • Ronald King

    Mark, You are the one who called it a “biology lesson” so, I was responding to your language. I am telling you what I know to be true because of decades of education and experience in treating others who have been overpowered with verbal abuse through the power of anger and language.
    Those who scream the loudest cannot hear the violence in their choice of language, their facial expression, their body language, their tone of voice and the harm they cause others. They are even unaware of the pressure they put on the keyboard. They do not see the fear they produce in others. They do not see the hatred they breed in others. They do not see the humiliation they cause in others. They do not see how they diminish the humanity in others. They do not see the loss of value they cause in others.

    These others who are most sensitive to this language and feeling of violence are women. Anger is the source of death in the world and it is instinctively carried in the genes of women to fear anger because of the history of violence carried out against women. When you show a woman your anger who is in a crisis carrying a child you influence her to not bring that child into this world in which she experiences everyday a lack of love.

    So you go ahead and justify your rage and keep scaring people into submission if it makes you feel good.

    I offer you what God has shown me in my vocation and the trust He has put in me to treat the suffering and dehuminization of women.

  • Ronald,

    Well said.

  • Joe Hargrave

    This conversation has taken some rather sickening turns for the worse.

    I find it sad, first of all, that this issue seems to drive a wedge between myself and people who I probably agree with on many other issues.

    But it is even worse when we can’t even agree on what abortion is. In a strategic sense I never compare abortion to the Holocaust because they have different origins and causes. But when I hear that abortion is ‘not murder’ because the law and the ‘culture’ says so, I must say that this is akin to saying that killing a Jew isn’t murder in Nazi Germany, or enslaving a black man isn’t really so bad a thing in antebellum South. It’s the same logic in this case, to be sure – our culture and our laws say it isn’t, so it isn’t.

    This is either an Orwellian-style assault on truth, or alternatively, a tremendous and unforgivable act of cowardice. I will not be partaking in it. Abortion is murder – it is legalized murder, it is murder for which no one will be punished and about which only half the population will care. I will not diminish its evil by calling it anything less.

    As for Kurt,

    I’ve said many times now that I really do not believe that Tiller’s murder was justifiable, especially when other means were available to put a stop to his practice. I’ve also said that I regret the fact that it was a lone individual, and not society, that sought to stop and punish Tiller.

    But I do stand by what I said. I will not remain silent or try to recast an atrocity in morally-neutral language because it ‘might’ result in an abortionist losing his life. What abortionists do is objectively ugly and gruesome, they take away the lives of innocent children in the most brutal ways.

    It isn’t question, then, of whether or not we present it in a nice way or a mean way, but whether or not we tell the truth about it or lie about it. Even the minimal description of a partial-birth abortion is bound to set some people off.

    Finally, I will say again, that the language of the pro-choice movement, especially when it goes unchallenged, is also responsible for millions of deaths. It is responsible for convincing millions of women that their children are disposable, or at least helping them rationalize that thought process.

    If we don’t counter that bile with the truth, then we are failing the innocent victims of abortion.

  • Ronald King

    Joe, I have valued your comments on many issues I have read on this site. I am sad at this time because I expected you to see the dynamics that all contribute to the trajedy of abortion.
    It is fear spread through the violence of anger that will scare women into not wanting to bring life into the world because they see how males are the cause of suffering and death that women are powerless to prevent.
    It is the language of invalidation that begins a female’s existence. This language tells her that she does not have the value of the male. It is expressed through actions, feelings and structures that create the division between the mystical creation of who she is and the physical reality of being less than who she is. At that point she will go into hiding and as a consequence develops the foundation of her human identity as being less than the male. At that point she is in the same predicament as Eve{life giving} and must coexist with males who diminish her to the point of being an object of desire or of rejection. She must depend on this male dominated world for protection from others who also do not see her as she really is. Her amygdala has mutated to be larger than the males because it has adapted to be hypervigilant to the potential violence that males and now other women present to her because they also are competing with her for a males’ protection who really cannot protect her because he doesn’t see who she is. This is also the truth.

    So scream at her and tell her she is committing murder because it is what she expects you to do anyway.

    I hated to write this to you Joe because I believe your heart has passionate love in it, otherwise you would not be so outraged.

  • “But when I hear that abortion is ‘not murder’ because the law and the ‘culture’ says so”

    Joe, this is not what is being said. You are making a caricature and then getting angry at it.

    Here’s what I’m saying. If one wants to make a change in the practical order, it is imperative to understand the circumstances and intentions of that order. In the case of law, abortion is not murder in the United States. It is legal. That is one of the starting points from which one has to proceed in order to build a strategy that will effectively address abortion. If this circumstances is not considered, if one were to insist anyway that abortion is murder, they would soon be marginalized and made inconsequential at any table where decisions are being made.

    There is nothing difficult here to understand. There is a vast difference between the speculative order and the practical order. Ethics and politics are in the practical order and that is where I have taken the discussion. Your analysis is in the speculative order, and it is there that I agree with you completely.

  • Joe Hargrave


    I try to temper my anger with reason. I don’t know how far I succeed in that task, but I don’t want to give up one or the other. Anger lets me know my heart is working; reason lets me know my brain is working in spite of it.

    Truth be told, I do have more understanding for some of the women (not all) that get abortions – if you will carefully note, my ire has been directed at abortion doctors. In a way they can be compared to cigarette companies; they peddle death for profit. And I am one of their victims, a smoker of 14 years, since childhood. Some of the responsibility is mine, but some of it also belongs to the death peddlers.

    I do think the situation you describe applies to some women who get abortions. I certainly do not advocate screaming at women, much less screaming the word ‘murderer’ at them. But I do believe in telling them that abortion is indeed murder, it is a sin for which they absolutely must repent, and which they must never commit again.

    As for the abortion doctors, in my view they each and every one ought to be arrested on the same charges we would arrest a hitman, and punished in the same way as well.

  • Joe Hargrave


    Forgive me for taking your words at face value. You said,

    “If you live in the United States, it is not murder. Can’t you deal with cultural truth? Work from there. There is no need to use language that is off-putting and that incites others to react negatively.”

    The argument here is simple: you said abortion is not ‘murder’ in the US, as if the cultural climate dictates what is and what is not true, and moreover, that calling it such is ‘off-putting’ and ‘inciting’ others to ‘react negatively’.

    Abortion is legalized murder. To deliberately take the life of an innocent human being is always murder, whether the courts recognize it or not – there is a moral law that stands higher than that of human institutions. There has to be, or there is no morality at all, only intellectual fashion. The concept breaks down and ceases to mean anything at all.

    I am sensitive to tactical and pragmatic concerns but we will never win the battle against abortion in the long-term on the basis of reducing or minimizing its evil. People must come to reject abortion based on the full truth of what it is.

    Most of the people who get abortions, I imagine, convince themselves that it is not murder – some think of it as a justifiable mercy killing, others buy the nonsense about it being a ‘clump of cells’ and others don’t think about it at all. But the bottom line here is that the language of the pro-choice movement kills. They have already made abortion into something it is not – why should we help them?

    And how in heaven’s name can we possibly argue against abortion without explaining why we are against it? If we describe abortion in anything less than true and real terms – which includes murder, violence, bloodshed and the innocence of the victim – why should we ever expect anyone to be opposed to it?

    Why should we expect that a person who does not believe abortion is wrong is going to one day change their mind on the basis of anything other than the recognition that abortion is indeed murder? What will convince them? A newfound and inexplicable love for clumps of cells?

    Or is the plan simply to resort to bribery, to, instead of ever speaking the truth about abortion, simply promise pregnant women that they will be supported in their pregnancy no matter what? Don’t get me wrong, I fully support more financial aid for pregnant mothers as an intrinsic social good, but we will never be able to remove all of the circumstances that make abortion an attractive option. We can however make it universally known that no social circumstances ever justify child murder.

  • Ronald King

    Joe, Thanks for your reply. First of all, I smoked from the time I was 19 until I was 30. A friend of mine climbed into my bed one Saturday morning and pulled me out of bed that was occupied also with my wife. He screamed at me that I was a lazy****** and so I put on my two pound kmart specials and went for my first run in which I came face to face with the death crisis. As I ran more with my friend I was done smoking in two months without even trying to quit. My body could not stand the smell or thought of it. In 1980 I ran a marathon in San Francisco in 3 and a half hours. I now run a pray the Rosary and God just blows my mind.
    I could tell you even more about the many different faces of suffering that women show me. Not enough time right now because I have two more to learn from today.
    I will offer to run across the country with you Joe and pray the Rosary for everyone who is involved in the pro-life and pro-choice movement so that we have a deeper understanding of the fear and pain that will influence women to get abortions.
    God Bless you Joe.

  • digbydolben

    Joe, do you not understand that many people here are telling you that they AGREE with you that abortion is “legalized murder,” but that they want you to try to understand that MANY OTHER THINGS are “legalized murder,” too–that what American culture is ALL ABOUT is “legalized murder”–or what the popes have called the “commodification of life”–and that they want you to begin to try to understand that it doesn’t HELP to just become “angry” with one of the SYMPTOMS of the “culture of death”: you will become ok with a lot of us if you’ll just calm down about abortion (while still keeping it, of course, directly within your sights as something that needs to be eliminated–but COMPLETELY ELIMINATED, not just “criminalized” because that didn’t even work in the past) and join with us in creating a more Catholic culture (that must be, I’m afraid, more “anti-American” than you know, because it must seek justice and a “preferential option” for the poor, an end to “wars of choice” and the death penalty, and the validation of the dignity and importance of the woman that Ronald King speaks of so beautifully above).

  • Kurt


    There is really no such thing as “legalized murder”. Killing is a act. Murder is when that act violates the law.

    DC and Joe,

    Under the Constitution, you have every right to speak your mind in regard to truth. While supporting that right, what troubles me is that Joe seems more intrested in telling other people what “truth” is that effectively winning over hearts and minds, an essential feature of winning the enactment of legislation in our democracy. To my reading, it suggests an abandonment of using the democratic and constitutional means to winning protections for the unborn — or at, least, to be lacking a committment to using it as the exclusive means.

    As to the Spanish Civil War, I should clarify that I am not one of the wimpy liberal Catholic pacifists you might know. I am very much an old school Cold War Democrat. I have no trouble using warfare to defend democracy. The Church had legitimate grievences in the Spanish Republic. (Though maybe less grievences than in the USA today based on how some see the abortion issue). Nevertheless, even with such legitimate grievances, I will defend republican government over a fascist coup. If called by my country, I will do so with arms. In defending her, I would give no special consideration of her enemies if they were wearing a biretta or miter.

  • Garry Owen

    But abortion is murder.

  • Kurt

    Okay Garry. I assert that murder is a catagory in the criminal code. You insist it is not and it is essential to call abortion murder. So rather than put aside such a point when we both agree abortion is killing, we now have a point of difference and we can each go our separate politcal ways. Bye.

  • Seriously. “Murder is a category in the criminal code.” What? Who cares what American laws, or any civil laws have to say about what is and what is not murder? As if they are the final arbiter, or even a half-way decent arbiter?

    There’s a difference between murder and killing. Killing can be just in God’s eyes. Murder can never be just in God’s eyes.

    Yeah, it’s important that we call abortion murder, not just killing. America says its killing, God says its murder .. I’ll go with God on this one.

    • Lizzy

      It’s because the definition of the word murder is what is under discussion. Murder is a legal term. It is what defines what is or is not murder. There is a different question as to whether or not abortion should be classified as such. I would say yes. But the definition of murder, according to the word itself, is one which is always of legal qualifications. In this way, while you are right in pointing out that God says it is wrong, a grave, mortal sin, it is not the same thing as saying God says it is murder.

      Should help with the issues at hand.

  • Kurt

    As the SAT test would say “Murder is to killing as perjury is to lying.”

  • digbydolben

    I regret to inform you, Kurt, that the syllogisms are mostly gone from the current SAT tests–too hard for the linguistically challenged youth of America.

  • Joseph

    Only one woman’s voice has been heard in this thread. I think men do not have a locus standi for pontificating on the immorality of abortion. The more noise we make about it, the less I am convinced.

  • Joseph

    Vatican II’s denunciation of abortion as an ‘abominable crime’ was penned entirely by men.