by Gail Quinn
October 31, 1998
On October 24 in Amherst, New York, an assassin under cover of trees and darkness aimed and pulled the trigger of a high-powered rifle. The shot killed a man standing in his kitchen, who reportedly had just returned from synagogue. The victim was Bernard Slepian, an obstetrician who performed abortions.
No one has been caught. No trigger man or woman identified. But this, explains police, was the fifth time in recent years, that shots have been fired into the homes of abortionists in Canada and northern New York.
Cardinal Bernard Law, Chairman of the Catholic bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities condemned the murder. "Like pro-life Americans everywhere," said the Cardinal, "I am shocked and dismayed."
The Knights of Columbus, a major Catholic organization involved in pro-life activities, declared that "the perpetrator of this cowardly action...is not representative of the sentiments of the advocates for protection of the life of all. The pro-life position," said the Knights, must not be judged by a "lunatic action. It had to have been the work of a deluded, unbalanced individual."
There has been a rush to judgment that everyone who speaks against abortion is somehow to blame for Dr. Slepian's murder. A spokeswoman for the Westchester Coalition for Legal Abortion was irresponsible enough to say that said the blame belongs to Cardinal John O'Connor of New York. While she acknowledged that the Cardinal was not involved in the murder personally, she pronounced that "Cardinal O'Connor is accountable for these religious followers who do pull the trigger."
How people can utter such harmful nonsense is hard to understand. How does she even know that the murder was a "religious follower"? Obviously, this spokeswoman was not in St. Patrick's Cathedral to hear Cardinal O'Connor denounce the murder of Dr. Slepian. Perhaps she believes that if people speak out against any kind of problem, it is their fault if some deranged person decides to kill people who disagree. Would she hold Martin Luther King, Jr. to blame for those who committed violence and murder in the name of the civil rights movement?
There is a sad truth in our nation. People who are not mentally stable have a tendency to latch onto prominent persons, institutions and social movements--on both sides. Witness Hinkley's attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan. Witness Eric Rudolph on the run from authorities as a suspect in bombings at an abortion clinic and the Olympics. Is there a connection between abortion and the Olympics? None that I can fathom. Just a hot public issue on one hand, and a world event on the other.
The Catholic bishops of the United States have vigorously denounced violence against persons wherever it has occurred, and they will always do so. The Church teaches, as Cardinal Law notes, "that human life, from its beginning until natural death is sacred, and deserving of respect and protection. This sacredness does not depend on what one does, what one thinks, or what one says. Each and every one of us is God's creation and much loved."
"Our faith," explains the Cardinal, "goes beyond the proscription 'thou shalt not kill.' It demands more. It demands that we speak in ways respectful of the dignity of others. That we speak always to persuade of the rightness of our cause and not to condemn persons." We are called, says Cardinal Law, to "love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to love the man or woman who performs abortions."
The Knights of Columbus vowed to continue "to pursue the goals of the pro-life movement by prayer and education." Those who work to change minds and hearts on abortion do so out of love for human life. They believe in the sanctity of all human lives, including the lives of those who perform abortions.
Every single human life is sacred. There are no exceptions. This is the cornerstone of the pro-life movement.
Gail Quinn is Executive Director of the NCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, Washington, D.C.