Thursday, June 04, 2009

From a Priest Who Knew Dr. Tiller: A Personal View

UPDATE: Please see my Huffington Post piece on media coverage of the murder.

Rev. Father Robert Layne wrote me this letter yesterday about Dr. George Tiller. I asked (and received) permission to share it with my blog readers. I hope you'll take the time to read it, and share it with others.

Sunday last was a sorrowful day!! In the most hollowed of halls violence erupted, murder was done, evil triumphed. The sacrilege of the event and the desecration of the place cast a pall over all decent hearts. Dr. George Tiller was murdered while attending Church services.

To my family Dr. George Tiller was first a physician. In years past, he saved the life of our young daughter on several occasions when she was stricken with severe asthma attacks; Dr. George also saved my wife’s hands and arms from horrible scaring resulting from deep burns incurred during a grease fire on the kitchen stove. Dr. Tiller was a healer; he was a physician who performed legal abortions on those seeking his help. He was not an abortionist.

Yet tragically, the murder of Dr. Tiller climaxed years of demonizing this physician by the frantic forces of the anti-abortion extremists. These frenzied activists did not rationally and peacefully oppose abortion through discussion and debate. Instead they focused their wrath on one of the doctors who performed this legal and requested medical procedure. They particularly inflamed their rabid followers against Dr. George Tiller. He was “Tiller, the Killer!!” a handy rallying slogan for all the crazed cries of the fanatics. The likes of Bill O’Riley, Randall Terry, and the other strident voices of hate primed Tiller’s murderer. They may not have pulled the trigger, but the radical anti-abortionists put the gun in his hand, imbedded twisted divine sanction in his mind, and poured bitter hate into his heart. All these disclaimers of “not me” are so cowardly and vacuous. These fanatics are accessories before the fact to the murder of Dr. Tiller.

In all this sorrow and grief, few persons have mentioned the many women who came to Dr. Tiller seeking his help. Most all were in untenable positions; pregnant by force, accident, or just plain foolishness. For some pre-natal testing had shown that the possible life they carried would be severely limited or destined for mere existence in a vegetative state. They came to Dr. Tiller because he was a man who deeply cared about the living. He used his medicine to minister to those women in need. Dr. Tiller never initiated any of the situations he was called upon to remedy. He only responded with understanding, love, and care to those desperate women seeking his help. I wonder if Terry and O’Riley believe that these women also are murderers and should be eliminated?

I don’t believe Dr. Tiller or any other human being would say abortion is a good thing. No one gets pregnant to have an abortion. But there are times abortion is deemed a necessary thing. And when that choice arises, the decision to act should be made by the woman and the man responsible, in consultation with their physician. Such a very personal decision should not be made by a group of fanatics, who claim divine sanction on whatever extreme measures they choose to enforce their will. The will of such extremists was done; Dr. George Tiller was murdered.

Finally, the ultimate decision of the right and wrong of Dr. Tiller will be made by Jesus, the Lord of grace and mercy. Jesus will also call to account the ones who incited and inflicted death on George Tiller. I wonder which will receive the warmer welcome, the physician who took the risk to help those in desperation, or the wanton group who willed and perpetrated the murder of that physician. As one who believes in the total love and mercy of Jesus, I believe that Dr. Tiller has nothing to fear.

In sorrow and grief that violence has again prevailed….

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