By Kathleen Gilbert

WICHITA, Kansas, June 2, 2009 ( – Two American religious leaders have accused U.S. Catholic bishops of sharing the blame for the murder of Kansas late-term abortionist George Tiller because of their advocacy for legal protection for the unborn.

Tiller was shot and killed Sunday morning at a Wichita Lutheran Church where he was serving as an usher. The suspected murderer, Scott Roeder, was apprehended shortly following the incident. Reports have surfaced that Roeder suffers from mental instability linked to a schizophrenia diagnosis, and is believed to have acted alone in the murder.

In a Huffington Post column yesterday titled “How I (and Other 'Pro-Life' Leaders) Contributed to Dr. Tiller's Murder,” Evangelical leader Frank Schaeffer apologized for his involvement with the “hate-filled rhetoric” he associated with the “religious right.” Schaeffer is the son of the late, prominent evangelist Francis Schaeffer.

Earlier this year Frank Schaeffer, who has joined the Greek Orthodox church but is still considered a leader of the Evangelical movement, abandoned the strong pro-life position of his father and told an interviewer that he believes abortion should remain legal. Schaeffer said that thirty years of attempts to overturn the US Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade have failed and that the “black and white” pro-life position is counterproductive.

“The same hate machine I was part of is still attacking all abortionists as 'murderers,'” wrote Schaeffer this week. ”And today once again the 'pro-life' leaders are busy ducking their personal responsibility for people acting on their words.

“The people who stir up the fringe never take responsibility,” he continued. ”But I'd like to say on this day after a man was murdered in cold blood for performing abortions that I—and the people I worked with in the religious right, the Republican Party, the pro-life movement and the Roman Catholic Church, all contributed to this killing by our foolish and incendiary words.”

Marquette University theology professor and former Jesuit priest Daniel Maguire published a statement on The Religious Consultation website lamenting the fact that Tiller was murdered “for honoring the law of the land.”

“He is not the first doctor to so die and unless we get serious about this form of terrorism, he will not be the last,” wrote Maguire. ”Religious and political leaders who fan the flames of anti-choice, anti-woman fanaticism are not without guilt.” 

As soon as news of Tiller’s murder broke, pro-life and religious leaders across North America and in the U.K. issued statements unequivocally condemning the murder of the abortionist. (See all the statements here.)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, like countless pro-life groups across the United States, issued a statement, saying:

“Our bishops' conference and all its members have repeatedly and publicly denounced all forms of violence in our society, including abortion as well as the misguided resort to violence by anyone opposed to abortion,” said Cardinal Rigali, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

“Such killing is the opposite of everything we stand for, and everything we want our culture to stand for: respect for the life of each and every human being from its beginning to its natural end. We pray for Dr. Tiller and his family.”

To contact Marquette University:
Rev. Robert Wild, S.J.,
Marquette University
O'Hara Hall, 101/102
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53233
414-288-3161 (FAX)
[email protected]

See related coverage:

A Portrait of an Alleged Murderer: The Life of Suspected Tiller Killer Scott Roeder

Abortion Proponents “Exploit” Tiller Killing, Label Pro-Life Advocates “Domestic Terrorists

U.S. Bishops Express ‘Profound Regret’ about Shooting Death of Abortion Doctor


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