Later this year, there will be a short, ten episode return of the show Dexter. Originally broadcast from 2006-2013, the eponymous protagonist (if you can call him that) is a serial killer. How do people cheer for a murderer? Here's the set-up: Dexter Morgan was orphaned at three years old when his mother was brutally killed with a chainsaw by drug dealers. He is subsequently adopted by police officer Harry Morgan. Harry notices that the trauma has given his son sociopathic tendencies and a "blood lust" making him have urges to kill people. Harry decides to "save" his son from being locked-up for life in a mental institution by helping him obtain employment as a forensic analyst for the Miami police. This enables Dexter to live a double life. When not working at his police force job, his father teaches him to murder other murders who slipped through the cracks of the justice system. In this way, "justice is served" and Dexter doesn't kill innocent people--what a guy!
This warped sense of morality has been used by pro-abortionists. Their argument runs like this:
If abortion is the legal mass murder of innocents, like in Nazi Germany and Communist China, then how is it wrong to kill abortion providers? "Pro-lifers" don’t even believe their own claims and don’t think abortion is quite the same as murder--because it isn't. Therefore, since abortion is not murder, the Church is wrong in condemning it. If abortion were really murder, then those against abortion should be celebrating those who kill abortion doctors, not condemning them. Think about it: If a Nazi soldier was coming to kill Fr. Maximillian Kolbe, wouldn't you be justified in killing the soldier to protect Fr. Kolbe?
In this post, I shall tackle their reasoning head on and demonstrate why the Church is correct in (a) declaring abortion as murder and (b) condemning the killing of abortion "doctors" (anyone who murders babies is not a healer--doctor--but a cold-blooded killer).
Abortion: Biologically and Theologically Constituting Murder
It is in vouge to ask the question, "When does life begin?" Pro-abortionists want you to think the subject boils down to a matter of opinion. Since opinions shouldn't be forced on others, then women should be free to decide for themselves when life begins, and whether or not to procure an abortion. Under the infamous Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion is legal right up until minutes before the baby is born. While certain states have placed restrictions on abortion (and many have been upheld by the Supreme Court), such restrictions are not mandated. Here, in New York State, there are no restrictions whatsoever. When restrictions are placed, they usually involve various "tests" for determining whether the unborn should be considered a life which cannot be taken. For example, viability (i.e., when an unborn baby can live outside the womb) and "vital functions" (i.e., heartbeat and/or brainwaves) are two such factors used to impose restrictions on killing innocent babies.
Biology is the study of life, and it is biologists who give us the answer as to when life begins. A group of noted biologist, including Dr. Thomas L. Johnson, calling themselves Scientists for Life, put out a concise and scientifically accurate publication entitled The Position of Modern Science on the Beginning of Human Life. The biological answer as to when life begins is simple: Life is continuous. There is no period in between when life "starts" and "stops." Human cells can only come from other living human cells. That's not to say life is a process over time. Everything is a process. If an event takes place in zero time it would require an infinite amount of energy to be released, which the known laws of physics tell us is impossible. Hence, at fertilization, a new human being with a unique set of chromosomes and DNA is made.
The objection will immediately be made, "Since death is the permanent stopping of all vital functions (e.g., heartbeat, breathing, brainwaves, etc.) even though cells are still alive, why should people consider cellular life (fertilization and the zygote which comes into being) which has none of those attributes to be the beginning of human life?" Simply put, vital functions are different, not absent in the zygote. The vital functions of the zygote are metabolism and cleavage. Eventually, brainwaves and the vital functions of beings at later stages of life will begin. It is no more justified to say a zygote isn't human because it has no heartbeat and brainwaves than to say an infant isn't human because he can't walk erect or speak fluently in a language.
It is also a biological fact that the "product of conception" as pro-baby killers call him/her will be born as a human baby. The burden of proof is therefore on pro-abortionists to prove that at all times prior to birth the baby is somehow not human. If it cannot be so proven, abortion must be forbidden (on secular grounds alone) because the unborn could be human. If a hunter sees movement in a bush and doesn't know if it is a human or a deer, must he not refrain from shooting because it might be human life and the unjust taking thereof? So too with abortion, even if we concede, ad arguendo, that we "don't know when life begins."
Pro-abortionists make the false claim that abortion was not considered murder by the Church until Pope Pius IX in 1869. The fact is that the Catholic Church always regarded abortion as murder, regardless of ensoulment. The approved theologians, and all Magisterial authorities did not hesitate to condemn abortion as murder whether or not the soul is present.
Thou shalt not kill an unborn child or murder a newborn infant.---
The Didache ("The Lord's Instruction to the Gentiles through the Twelve Apostles"). II, 2, translated by J.A. Kleist, S.J., Ancient Christian Writers, ,Volume VI:16).
For us Christians, murder is once and for all forbidden; so even the child in the womb, while yet the mother's blood is still being drawn on to form the human being, it is not lawful for us to destroy. To forbid birth is only quicker murder. It makes no difference whether one takes away the life once born or destroys it as it comes to birth. He is a man, who is to be a man; the fruit is always present in the seed.---
Tertullian (when Catholic), 197, Apologeticus, page 9 (Emphasis mine).
The hairsplitting difference between formed and unformed makes no difference to us. Whoever deliberately commits abortion is subject to the penalty for homicide.---
St. Basil the Great, priest (c. 329-379), First Canonical Letter, from the work Three Canonical Letters. Loeb Classical Library, 3:20-23.
In 1679, Pope Blessed Innocent XI condemned the teachings of two theologians, Thomas Sanchez and Ioannis Marcus, who taught that abortion was lawful if the fetus was not yet animated or ensouled and the purpose of the abortion was to prevent shame to the woman. (See Enchiridion Symbolorum, 13th edition, pg. 327, Condemned proposition #34). Condemned proposition #35 from that same document of Pope Blessed Innocent XI is even more explicit: "It seems probable that every fetus (as long as it is in the womb) lacks a rational soul and begins to have the same at the time it is born; and consequently it will have to be said that no homicide is committed in any abortion."
On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary a dogma of the Faith. In Ineffabilis Deus the pontiff defined, We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. (Emphasis mine).
Notice well that the definition says that Mary's soul was free from conception (not ensoulment), giving credence to immediate animation of the human being at biological fertilization. Had immediate animation been part of Mary's unique privilege, you would expect the theologians to teach about it--especially those who wrote post-1854-- but they do not. While "silence implies consent" is not a theological maxim, it is a weighty argument that immediate animation was implicitly taught, and no approved theologians have taught differently since. The very idea of delayed animation was based on the disproven biological theories of Aristotle.
Therefore, it was not surprising that in 1869, Pope Pius IX officially removed the distinction between the animated and unanimated fetus from the Code of Canon Law. (See Codicus Iuris Canonici Fontes, specification number 552). Pro-abortionists jump on this as "proof" of the first penalty against abortion, when all Pope Pius was doing was making a uniform condemnation of abortion and removing any distinctions between animated (ensouled) and unanimated fetuses. This was done to bring the penalty in line with Church teaching that ensoulment is at fertilization (conception).
In any case, the matter of when the body is 'ensouled' has historically made no difference to the Church. Saint Thomas Aquinas recognized that ensoulment and abortion were two distinct and separate issues. He condemned abortion in the strongest possible terms even though he believed in delayed ensoulment based on the science of his day. For example, in his commentary on murder, he states: “He that strikes a woman with child does something unlawful: wherefore if there results the death either of the woman or of the animated fetus, he will not be excused from homicide.” (See Summa Theologica II-II, q.64, a.8) Also, dealing with whether to baptize a baby in the mother's womb, he writes, “If, however, the mother die while the child lives yet in her womb, she should be opened that the child may be baptized.” (Ibid, III, q.68, a.11; no mention of animation). Finally, the Angelic Doctor knew extraordinarily well all of these ancient Church teachings on abortion, and that it was forbidden at any stage of development. He never disagreed.
Why Not Abort the Abortionist?
There are four circumstances in which killing another human being is morally justified; two of those circumstances involve a person acting as an agent of the State, and the other two concern individuals in their capacities as private citizens. As an agent of the State, a person make take another's life in the carrying out of a lawful execution (i.e., capital punishment), and when he takes part in a just war. A private citizen acting on his own, may take a life in legitimate self-defense of his own life and/or property of great value, and to defend the life of an innocent third party against unjust aggression.
In the case of legalized abortion (such as exists in the United States since 1973), it is obvious that the killing of an abortion doctor could not be justified as an act of capital punishment nor as part of a just war. Could it be justified as defending the life of an innocent third party (the unborn baby) against unjust aggression (horrible death from an abortionist)? In a word: No. In order to understand why, the moral principles of the Church must be properly understood and applied.
According to theologians McHugh and Callan: This right of self-defense is grounded in the Natural Law itself and has been denied by but few moralists...The principles on defense of one's own life against an unjust aggressor, even at the cost of the latter's life, may be applied to the life of an innocent third party. What are these principles? (a) The assault must be a true aggression (i.e., an act of violence threatening the life of the person assaulted) and unjust (i.e., an attack made without public authority); (b) the resistance must be true self-defense (i.e., an act used to ward off attack or to make the assailant powerless) and moderate (i.e., the person attacked must not use more force than necessary and he must not intend to kill the aggressor). Moreover, in the defense of another:(a)...it is necessary to defend the innocent person, even if the aggressor has to be killed, when one is bound to give this person protection by natural duty (e.g., because the innocent person is one's child or father and the aggressor is not a relative), or by contract (e.g., because one is a hired bodyguard or policeman). (b) It is lawful to defend the innocent person, even if the aggressor has to be killed, and even though there is no duty of nature or contract to give this protection (Exodus 2:12). But it is disputed whether it is necessary to do this.(See Moral Theology, , 2:104-109; Emphasis mine).
It is clear that in the defense of oneself or another, there must be no intent to kill the aggressor, it must be an unintended consequence. Furthermore, in defending another there is no certain opinion as to whether or not a moral obligation exists apart from a duty contracted. The principle that a private individual cannot intend directly to kill the aggressor is echoed by the great moral theologians:
Prummer: Principle: One may defend oneself against an unjust aggressor even to the point of killing him, provided one does not injure him more than is absolutely necessary to ensure self-protection. (See Handbook of Moral Theology, , pg. 127; Emphasis mine).
Slater: In defense of my own life from unjust attack I may use whatever violence is necessary and even go to the length of killing the aggressor, if I cannot otherwise save my life...I may also do the same in [an innocent person's] defense. Although I may lawfully do this, yet there is seldom an obligation of doing it, for the obligation would only arise in charity...(See A Manual of Moral Theology, , 1:198-199; Emphasis mine).
Jone: The defense must be moderate, i.e., the assailant must not be injured more than is absolutely necessary to ensure self-protection known as moderamen inculpatae tutelae, or moderation of blameless defense. (See Moral Theology, , pg. 141; Emphasis mine).
St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church and Greatest of Moral Theologians: The law of nature permits that you may repel force with force and that you may forestall and kill an assailant who unjustly tries to take your life from you or those things that are necessary for you to lead a worthy life, such as temporal goods, honors, chastity, or the integrity of your members. Nevertheless, that it is done with a mind to defend yourself and with moderamen inculpatae tutelae, namely not by causing greater damage or using greater force than is necessary to prevent harm. (See Theologia Moralis, Book IVa, pg. 408; Emphasis mine).
To intentionally kill another innocent human being is morally unjustifiable. It should also be (and is) legally unjustifiable (except in the case of abortion). An abortionist can hardly be labeled innocent. Nevertheless, even in self-defense or defense of others, against an aggressor, the intent must be to defend rather than to kill. One who shoots an abortionist has the motive to save children. However, his intent in shooting the abortionist is to kill the baby's murderer to achieve that purpose of saving children. Apart from capital punishment, the just war, or the justified rebellion, which derive from God's authority, no one may ever intentionally kill anyone. God is the Author of Life, therefore only God--and those who are given authority by Him--may take human life.
In countries that have legalized abortion, is rebellion against the government justified? This is where the attempted analogy to Nazi Germany breaks down as shall be shown in the next section of this post.
The Conditions When Justified Rebellion Are Permitted
People have a right to defend themselves against a tyrannical government that goes against God's law. However, to resist the government is always an extreme measure, and therefore it can only be resorted to in extreme cases and under certain well-defined conditions of Natural Law. The most terse and eloquent exposition of the four (4) requirements when open opposition to the government is permitted was penned by theologian Rickaby in the Dublin Review, April 1865 on resisting tyrannical government; De Regimine Principium.
The First Condition. The government must become substantially and habitually tyrannical. It must lose sight of the common good, and pursues its own selfish objectives to the manifest detriment of the people, most especially when their religious interests are concerned. The people cannot resort to physical resistance for the redress of any and every grievance. If they could, civil war would be the common condition and peaceful progress would wholly cease. In every nation there are innumerable conflicting interests to be considered and some people are bound to suffer injustice. These ordinary injustices should be remedied through the lawmaking authority available to them, whether by voting, or by appealing to those in power. Resistance to the government can only be tolerated in the case of a government that is substantially and habitually tyrannical and therefore opposed to the common good.
The Second Condition. All legal and peaceful means have been tried in vain to recall the ruler/government to a sense of duty. The conditions of lawful self-defense are substantially the same in the case of resistance to private, individual aggression and that of aggression by the government. Now, in the former case, a man cannot kill another in self-defense if he can escape the aggression in any other way. [In secular law, this is also applied in many states. Here, in New York, if someone tries to start a fight with you, there is what the law calls "The Duty to Retreat," whereby you must try to get away from the aggressor. This duty extends to all situations except if you are in your home or in your place of business. Then you may immediately fight back---Introibo] So also, if a tyrannical government can be brought back to reason by legal means it has the right to be brought back by legal means. In a republic, such as the United States, rebellion is very difficult to justify because the government can be rejected at the polls.
The Third Condition. There must be a reasonable probability that resistance will be successful, and not entail greater evils than it seeks to remove. Therefore, the reasonable hope must exist that the tyranny will be overthrown and end, or at least the beginnings of improvement will be effectuated. If the uprising would result in greater misery and suffering for the people, resistance cannot be undertaken.
The Fourth Condition. When the judgement is formed as to the evil of the government, and the resistance necessary, it is not the opinion of a few, or some instigating group, but it is the manifested sentiment of the majority of the people, so that it may be morally considered as the judgement of the nation as a whole. In countries, there is often a group trying to incite revolution "for the good of the people" when it is actually for the group's own good. They have no right to incite the masses through fear-mongering and acts of violence.
The Principles of Justified Rebellion As Applied To Legalized Abortion
A justified rebellion involves the assumption by private persons of the prerogative of the State to wage a just war. In a rebellion the war is waged against the State itself. The rebellion itself would be a just war, in which the abortionist, as someone directly a part of the "substantially and habitually tyranny" justifying the rebellion, would be rightly regarded as a combatant and therefore a legitimate target. (See Prof. Charles Rice & John P. Tuskey, The Legality and Morality of Using Deadly Force to Protect Unborn Children from Abortionists, 5 Regent U. L. Rev. 83 (1995), pgs. 83-151). Remember that all four conditions must obtain to have a justified rebellion; the Church sets a high standard to meet.
As to the first condition, I would argue that the government has become "substantially and habitually tyrannical" by stripping a whole class of human beings of their right to life. This condition (in my opinion) is satisfied.
As to the second condition, I argue it is not satisfied. Overall, pro-life initiatives have been winning at the state level, and the Supreme Court has upheld most of them. Expect more victories with three new pro-life Trump-appointed Justices (Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney-Barrett). We also have elections, and not all can be classified as "stolen." Therefore, we must bring the government back by legal means only, not rebellion--and there is hope for success.
As to the third condition, I argue rebellion would bring about greater evils than good. Take the case of an active shooter in an elementary school who has killed several children and threatens many more. If you kill the shooter, the threat is neutralized and no other children will suffer. However, if you kill an abortionist the mother can simply find someone else to murder her child. The killing of individual abortionists is ineffectual; there is no evidence that murdering abortion providers has prevented the murder of any unborn children, nor is there any reasonable assumption that it would ever do so. The only thing violence would do is paint pro-lifers as "radicals," "hypocrites," and draw sympathy for the abortionists. No one would look at the horror of abortion--it would be overshadowed by the violence of shootings. Abortionists would just dig their heels in deeper and hire armed bodyguards (as some already do).
As to the fourth condition, I argue it has not been met because there is no clear pro-life consensus as the manifest sentiment of the majority; nor is there a clear consensus by a majority that rebellion is necessary.
Therefore, with three of the four conditions not having been met (and all four being both necessary and sufficient for justified rebellion), there is no right to a justified rebellion in the case of legalized abortion.
Abortion is the murder of an innocent unborn child. It is therefore one of the Four Sins That Scream To Heaven For Vengeance. I have been involved in the pro-life movement since age 16. We must not allow our zeal for the unborn to blind us to the principles of true morality. In an age were antiheros like Dexter are cheered, it's no wonder people lose their moral compass. Compound this with the Church driven underground, and the Vatican II sect being led by a moral relativist. It's no wonder people are confused in making good moral choices.
Killing abortionists is immoral and would only be a setback to the right-to-life movement. Let us remember the words of St. Augustine, "A man who, without exercising public authority, kills an evildoer, shall be judged guilty of murder, and all the more, since he has dared to usurp a power which God has not given him."