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“Ask a Priest: What About Attacks on Abortionists?”
Q: I saw a news story on TV that said that attacks against abortion providers have been on the rise lately. I read that some abortion doctors have even been killed since the Roe v. Wade decision. I am conflicted as to the morality of this, since undoubtedly countless kids have been born into the world and are alive today, who would not be alive had those doctors and clinics been left alone to operate. The actions of the attackers really saved innocent kids’ lives. How would this be viewed in light of Church teaching? Is there a point when killing is not only justified but required by moral law in order to protect the innocent? – M.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: The short answer is no, people aren’t justified in killing abortionists, no matter how loathsome abortion is.
For one thing, no one has the right to make himself a judge, jury and executioner. That is akin to doing the same thing that abortionists effectively do every time they kill an unborn child.
A basic moral principle is that we cannot choose an evil means to pursue a good end. Otherwise, anything could be justified.
Instead, pro-lifers should resort to prayer and sacrifices and evangelization to help change hearts and minds.
In any case, the killing of abortionists tends to turn public opinion against the pro-life movement. Such killings undercut the very credibility of the movement and everything it strives for.
There are, of course, times when forces is justified.
The Catechism in No. 2265, says: “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.”
Note that phrase: “those who legitimately hold authority.” This would include police officers and soldiers, but not those who decide on their own to use lethal force against perpetrators of injustice. That kind of thing could lead to chaos in a society and make the situation worse.
We do well to remember the words of St. Paul, “Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
This is not mere wishful thinking. The story behind the movie Unplanned is a reminder that even people in the abortion business can be converted. It’s not impossible.
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