Can Violent Words Can Lead to Violent Acts? : LUSENET : Catholicism -- Uncensored : One Thread

The Pope recently denounced homosexuality as "evil," and some of us have wondered what the outcome of his condemnation could be in the real world. Here's an interesting essay that looks at how the Vatican's rhetoric of violence in the abortion debate can fuel violent acts, and ends with the letter sent to the Pope from a Holocaust survivor and physician.

Rhetoric of Violence: A chronology of inflammatory statements on abortion by Catholic church officials, and a letter to Pope John Paul II from Doctor Henry Morgentaler 1995 SUMMARY

Murders and attempted murders of doctors who perform abortions and clinic workers who assist them are no longer rare or isolated events. They force thoughtful people to contemplate how violent words in the abortion debate may proceed to violent acts.

Church leaders have often employed rhetoric that stigmatizes and dehumanizes health care professionals and women who have abortionsand may incite violent behavior in those who take it at face value. From the pope on down the line, Catholic church officials use words like massacre, holocaust, slaughter of the innocent, and butchery when talking about abortion. While Catholic officials rarely if ever delivers the coup de graceactually calling women and their doctors murderersit does not take a degree in English or logic to make the connection their words suggest.

The basic fact, the bishops of the United States wrote in a full﷓page New York Times advertisement, is that truth doesnt kill. Abortion does. But Catholic teaching acknowledges that it is not known, either medically or theologically, when the developing embryo or, later, fetus becomes a person. Church officials say that, since we do not know when the fetus becomes a person, prudence dictates that abortion be prohibited. In that case, it would be prudent to refrain from rhetoric that may well incite murder. But the Catholic hierarchy regularly engages in imprudent rhetoric. The dozens of examples that stand out in major newspapers and the Catholic press include these:

7We are dealing with murder, Pope John Paul II wrote of abortion in 1995.

7A doctor killed for performing abortions had been a minister of death, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, a high Vatican official, said. While the doctors killer should be prosecuted, the doctor is not an innocent. He is guilty, with an immense culpability. Added a spokeswoman for the bishops of the United States, Abortion itself incites reaction.

7Writing in the Wall Street Journal in 1994, papal spokesman Joaqumn Navarro﷓Valls called abortion as heinous as killing any other human being.... Abortions already represent the greatest systematic slaughter of mankind ever known.

7After Doctor David Gunn was killed in 1993, Bishop George Lynch said the murder was regrettable but that prochoice advocates forget about the unborn infants put to death every twenty seconds. Bishop Austin Vaughan signed a statement opposing the use of lethal force against abortionists but adding that the moral law of God does not unequivocally condemn the use of force to stop persons who seek to harm innocent human life.

7Visiting Poland in 1991, Pope John Paul II equated abortion with the Holocaust. The cemetery of the victims of human cruelty in our century is extended to include yet another vast cemetery, that of the unborn child.

7Preparing for Earth Day 1990, Cardinal John OConnor of New York declared, One of the most dangerous environments in the world today is the mothers womb because millions of babies are killed there each year.

Doctor Henry Morgentaler, who has done more than anyone to make abortion legal and accessible in Canada, has experienced physical violence and death threats from antiabortion activists. A survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau,

Dr. Morgentaler believes violent rhetoricincluding the rhetoric of abortion as murdergives the nod to violent acts. In 1995, he wrote a letter to Pope John Paul II to ask him to stop the rhetoric.

Violence against medical workers who perform abortions implicates the violent language in which some religious leaders condemn them, Morgentaler wrote. You speak of abortion as murder, crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize, careless destroy[ing], the deliberate killing of an innocent human being, etc. Continuous exhortations in such terms inevitably incite unbalanced and impressionable minds. Spurred on by religious leaders, among whom you are the foremost, these people direct their hatred and violence against people like me who not only provide abortion services to women but also believe abortion to be a womans right. Those who are inflamed by violent rhetoric strike out against those of us who believe that by offering safe medical abortions we not only protect the women involved against death, injury, and loss of fertility, but we also make it possible for children to be born when they can be welcomed and treated with love and affection.

I would like to point out to you that many people, including liberal﷓minded Catholic theologians and other Christians, believe that abortion is a difficult moral dilemma and that the decision whether to abort or not should be left to the individual conscience. Doctor Morgentaler noted that, where abortion is illegal, as many as 200,000 women die each year from clandestine and therefore unsafe.

I appeal to you to issue an unequivocal condemnation of violence against health care workers who provide abortion. I appeal to you to reexamine your attitudes and statements ... in the interest of saving the lives of women across the world who might die needlessly and also of minimizing the real and continuing threat of violence by abortion opponents. I appeal to you to stop using murder, the killing of the innocent, and similar inflammatory terms, which incite indignation, anger, hate, and violence. Please refrain from comparing abortion to the Holocaust. As a survivor of the Holocaust, I personally find such a comparison gratuitous, insulting, and obscene. Many people, in particular Jews, share my feelings about this....

An appeal on your part to moderation would go a long way to diminish violence against abortion providers, Doctor Morgentaler implored. Should you ... modulate your views and teaching on abortion, or at least ... moderate your condemnation and exhortations to the faithful to follow your position, it could possibly save lives.

-- Frederick (, August 25, 2000



-- al-d. (, August 25, 2000.

Murder is, by definition, an act that puts one beyond the pale of society. A murderer is an outcast and a criminal and requires punishment. Because murder is a violent crime, violent punishment is generally accepted as fitting and proper.

Yes. It is easy to see how having a moral leader of the community declare you a murderer from the pulpit could lead to violent actions against you.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, August 28, 2000.

-- (, September 19, 2001.

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