Denver’s eloquent archbishop issues weak statement on Tiller murder

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, one of the most outspoken Catholic critics of abortion in the country and a major force behind the pro-life protests against President Obama’s appearance and honorary award at Notre Dame last month, issued a four-sentence statement today in reaction to the anti-abortion murder of Dr. George Tiller yesterday in Kansas.

Chaput is an eloquent and voluminous writer and speaker. He has argued repeatedly and at length against abortion and against secularized politics and the influence of contemporary media. He has urged Catholics to speak out strongly in public forums in favor of their beliefs. Last fall he effectively campaigned against Obama as the most “pro-abortion” candidate for president in history. He told Catholics planning to vote for Obama that they would have to explain their reasons “with a clean heart to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life.”

In response to the death of George Tiller, Chaput makes the unfortunate and telling decision to argue primarily against the evils of abortion, the first line of the statement essentially condemning abortion not assassination.

The violence at the heart of every abortion and the abortion industry itself will never be ended by counter violence. The killing of George Tiller is an inexcusable crime that cuts against everything pro-life Americans, and especially religious believers, stand for.

We pray for Dr. Tiller and his family and for an end to the culture of violence that this country seems unable to escape. We ask Catholics across Colorado to do the same.

At very least, the order of the first two lines should be reversed.

It’s clear Archbishop Chaput believes the culture of violence in the country, with abortion at the top of his list, is responsible for Tiller’s death. He puts no direct blame on the violent anti-abortion movement in particular, which he could have taken the opportunity to speak against with unique power and at length for wide public consumption.

Following his teachings, Catholics of good conscience should speak out strongly in public forums and hold him to account. They could demand Chaput speak profoundly with his usual eloquence against the culture of violence that threads through the pro-life movement and that marks our culture with regular incidents of faith-based terror.

The New York Times report from Wichita today:

Scott Roeder, 51, of Merriam, Kan., whom authorities have described as a suspect in Sunday’s fatal shooting here of George Tiller, was once a subscriber and occasional contributor to a newsletter, Prayer and Action News, said Dave Leach, an anti-abortion activist from Des Moines who runs the newsletter. Mr. Leach said that he had met Mr. Roeder once, and that Mr. Roeder had described similar views to his own on abortion.

Commenting on Dr. Tiller’s death, Mr. Leach said, “To call this a crime is too simplistic.” He added, “There is Christian scripture that would support this.”

And from the Times this morning:

In addition to protests outside his clinic, his house and his church, Dr. Tiller had once seen his clinic bombed; in 1993, an abortion opponent shot him in both arms.

Update: Frank Schaeffer throws down the gauntlet to leaders like Chaput.

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