An Open Letter To a Columnist
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote:
“The greatest kindness one can render to any man “consists in leading him to truth.”
For Aquinas, unlike the contemporary world of politically correct journalism, it is neither necessarily presumptuous to speak of the truth nor uncharitable to nudge another in its direction.
Would not the world be a better place if we were so neighborly that we kindly safeguarded each other from error while gently steering each other toward truth? Let us not allow ourselves to be rendered catatonic by unwarranted fears of presumption and imposition, but let us spring into action on the strength of conviction and truth. Let us not enlist either Pontius Pilate or J. Alfred Prufrock as spiritual role models.
In response to the Paul Hill saga a secular journalist and syndicated columnist, whom I will refer to as WW (in memory of “Wrong Way” Corrigan), has written an article that is the epitome of the politically correct secular view on the abortion issue. What can one say in all charity to WW?
Dear WW: I read your column with both interest and pain. I was interested in how you would view the convoluted problem of imposing the death penalty on a man who killed an abortionist as a means of preventing the killing of an untold number of unborn human beings. Is it permissible for society to execute Paul Hill and for abortionists to kill unborn children but not permissible for Mr. Hill to kill a killer?
At the same time, it pained me to witness the facility with which you reduced the pro-life movement to a grotesque caricature. I believe this facile reduction blinded you to the obvious.
In your stated view, pro-life people are so befuddled about life and death that they sometimes think that what they really stand for is death.
As you tell us, their “movement produces a zealot like Paul Hill.” But is it not obvious that a group that is steadfastly committed to life does not produce killers? Rather, is it not the pro-choicers themselves — who permit killing as a legitimate option — who produce killers?
My dear WW, can you not see that Paul Hill is pro-choice? He is merely taking a chapter from the pro-choice handbook of killing and applying it not to the unborn but to a doctor who kills the unborn. And if you are pro-choice, as you profess to be, then you are, though you may stubbornly deny it, in the camp of Paul Hill.
Your column lampoons the very position you embrace. Is not your commitment to political correctness blinding you to your lack of commitment to logical consistency?
The pro-life movement is not designed to produce killers. But producing killers is exactly what the pro-choice movement is designed to do.
In fact, some pro-choicers want pro-life candidates to be barred from entering medical school precisely because they refuse to kill. In this case, pro-choice enthusiasts have no doubt about what values pro-life people espouse.
In reading your column, I find your moral position to be, sad to say, rather incoherent. You seem to be what I would call “anti-pro-life/pro-anti-choice.” You are anti-life when it comes to the unborn children who are scheduled for abortion but pro-life when it comes to abortionists. On the other hand, you are pro-choice about abortion but not pro-choice about killing those who perform abortions. It is this radical inconsistency, I am afraid, that makes your position incoherent.
You tell us you are both a “religious” as well as an “honest” man.
As religious, you should know, as Christ stated, that we judge people by their fruits, not by their words (and certainly not by their labels). Actions surely speak louder than labels. Paul Hill's actions — the double homicide — are not pro-life.
Then you tell us the following: “I'm honest enough to admit, though, that the pro-life folks get to me sometimes. There is a certain moral weight to their observation that abortion stills a beating heart.”
But why do the pro-lifers get to you only “sometimes” rather than all the time? And why do you say that stilling a beating heart is “their” observation, when it is anyone's observation because it is a scientific fact? You could expand your honesty by admitting that the pro-life movement is standing by a universal truth. You might be more pro-life than you think or are willing to admit.
Furthermore, is it not “stilling a beating heart” exactly why you oppose Paul Hill's murderous act? If you universalize the iniquity of “stilling a beating heart,” you may find that your position becomes more coherent, your allegiance is pro-life and the obvious becomes unmistakable.
You claim the Paul Hills of the world are “less righteous than self-righteous.” Yet does not your own self-righteousness permeate your entire column? You talk about “pious lunatics,” how you find it “chilling” that government cold force women to bear a child, how you are “galled” by people who think the only purpose of sex is procreation (by the way, who are these people?).
You are right in advising that we strive to be righteous rather than self-righteous. But what is the crucial difference between the two? The righteous person recognizes and serves a truth he did not create. The self-righteous person is poisoned by pride and betrays himself by inconsistency and incoherence.
I pray that we all become more righteous. But that same prayer is worthless if it rejects the very truth that makes things right. “Doubt is not a sin,” you say. But it might very well be a most pernicious sin if it is accompanied by egoism and apathy. Inconvenience is a poor excuse for inaction.
Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus at St. Jerome's University in Waterloo, Ontario.