Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On violence, war and abortion

My friend Matthew Carlin asked me the following question (his question reproduced here with his permission):

I have one question about the entire thing, and I ask this in all openness and
all seriousness, because it's been on my mind for almost a decade:At the rate
things are changing, will it ever be worth civil war to you?

This continues a long string of conversations we've had over the years regarding the state of the country. Given the anger felt by the majority of the people during the Iraq War and now this debate over healthcare, it only makes sense to ponder such questions.
Even more so is the pertinent question regarding abortion. If abortion is truly the heinous crime that pro-life advocates insist it is, why are the pro life groups not taking up arms in defense of the unborn? Shouldn't the call to arms be issued, like the Germans should have during the Holocaust?

Catholic teaching on the matter of just war are clear on the requirements necessary for a war to be just:

The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous
consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous
conditions of moral legitimacy.
At one and the same time:

- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

- there must be serious prospects of success;

- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than
the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very
heavily in evaluating this condition.

It is hard to imagine circumstances that would justify the conditions for a civil war given the above. Self defense is the only circumstance I can think of, and even then the justification for taking another's life in self defense against the government creates a host of issues to work through.

Regarding abortion it is even more difficult to justify using violence considering the situation. One only needs to look at the murder of George Tiller to see the problem.
1. The intent was to murder George Tiller. Defending the unborn was not at issue.
2. The death of Tiller would not end the abortions at his clinic. Someone has stepped in to take his place. Legitimate defense is not an option under these circumstances.
3. George Tiller's life is just as valuable as those he murdered in the womb. The witness of the truth of the dignity of every human being is undermined by using violence to attempt to stop the killing.

Because abortion is the front and center moral issue facing this country (as slavery was in the past) it is often at the forefront of any debate, from judicial nominees to health care. But we must be careful to distinguish between the moral and the political, even when they overlap as in health care. Purely political reasons do not justify violence, even when policies strike at the core of a country's founding principles. And even when the issue is moral, the bar for using violence is very high. So much so that right now it is impossible for me to see how violence would be justified. Though if one thing is certain, the evil of abortion could provide inspiration.

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