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On Killing Abortionists

The symposium "Killing Abortionists" (December 1994) saddens me. There are two things wrong with it: (1) The participants, even when they regard the killing as wrong, fail to recognize that Paul Hill is an extension of themselves and that they are in no position to condemn him. (2) Such a topic is not a fit subject for a symposium in a respectable journal. I am embarrassed to have visitors see it in my house.

One of the participants, Hadley Arkes, suggests that unless the media would have been willing to condemn as religious zealotry a Jewish assault on Auschwitz guards they have no right to call Hill a "religious zealot." If any of you feel that you are in the same position as Auschwitz inmates then I suppose you must act accordingly, and may God help America . . . .

I believe that the acquisition of a soul is a gradual process, developed in the evolution of the human species. But I know that the question is not decidable, and I will not argue it. For the several years that I have subscribed to First Things I’ve found that your ability to address the most important subjects in human thought has been limited by your obsession with abortion. Sadly, therefore, I will not renew.

Robert F. White
Media, PA

Paul Hill, in my opinion, did wrong in killing an abortionist and his bodyguard. Because his act was highly unlikely to stop any abortions, as opposed merely to delaying them, that act was morally unjustified. In order to save any lives, Paul Hill needed to affect the choices of those mothers who planned to kill their unborn children that day, and violence alone offered them no support for a pro-life change of heart.

Yet fair and rational people may well disagree with me here. The life of a dying person or of a death row inmate may be defended with lethal force under our law, even though the utilitarian gain may be only a few days of continued existence. If we condemn a deadly defense of such persons, it could be argued, we strip them of their equal human dignity.

Paul Hill, then, is not someone beyond the pale. On the contrary, he is someone who has remained heroically faithful to reason and to the truth of human equality-at the probable cost of his own life. Regardless of our moral disagreements with him and of our shared dismay at the political consequences of his act, shouldn’t we be truthful enough to stand with him against a fundamentally unjust legal regime?

A brave and good man is about to be martyred in Florida. We ought all to be there with him, at least in spirit.

Richard Stith
School of Law
Valparaiso University
Valparaiso, IN

I was glad to see the issue of killing an abortionist openly addressed but deeply disappointed in the symposium. There appeared to be a strong hesitation to confront the vital issues head on . . . .

Hill’s stated basis for killing the abortionist was that "Whatever force is legitimate in defending a born child is legitimate in defending an unborn child."

Very few would quarrel with the principle that an attack on a born child merits whatever coercive force is necessary to protect that child. Hill offered a basis upon which he could be challenged and shown to be wrong (a rare bit of courtesy). It did not appear to me that anyone successfully disproved his principle. Most in the symposium did not even seriously attempt to do so.

I would like to respond briefly to some of the relevant issues. There is first the assertion that Hill’s vigilante action violates the legal integrity of America as a law-abiding nation that follows due process.

In 1962 the U.S. Supreme Court told God that He could no longer talk to our children in tax-funded schools, and our children that they could no longer talk to Him. The Court thereby in an official act of government dismissed God from service as our sovereign. As a nation we are no longer His people, He is no longer our God. Most of us stood around and said nothing-not in the name of truth, but in the name of an irrational pseudo-pluralism.

That makes the government of the United States an outlaw government that has lost its right to rule. That rebel status has been reasserted and confirmed over and again by further Court decisions. We no longer consider ourselves under the only sovereign that can give any government its authority to obligate other human beings to obedience.

When in the early 1970s the Court settled Roe v. Wade , it established itself in a tyrannical manner as the decider between life and death of a class of persons, all those in the womb, implicitly telling us that it, the Court, has the authority of God to decide who is a person and who is not. A whole class of human beings were declared nonpersons and therefore disposable at will . . . .

We are no longer a nation under God, and, as a result, we are no longer a nation of due process. The baby in the womb will receive no protection of constitutional law in our courts. We are not a nation of due process, we are a tyranny. The fact that the institutions of due process limp along pretending only helps us maintain our self-deception . . . .

If that abortionist had been on his way, uzi in hand, to murder all the children in a given school building, all the parents in town would have surrounded that school armed with whatever weapon they could lay hands on. It is empty for us to say that, because the Supreme Court has said so, the children in the womb deserve no protection of law, and if necessary, of the combined volunteer citizenry, as would the children in the school.

It is empty to say that vigilante law promotes violence-which, of course, it can. The vigilante violence, however, is being promoted already on a scale that diminishes Mr. Hill’s actions into insignificance. Government runs by violence and/or threat of violence. That is the nature of government. But when government turns legitimately directed violence to ungodly ends, it is indeed the right and duty of citizens to resist a clear and present evil.

If there was no other effective way to preserve the life of those children than to take the life of the would-be assassin, then by the above reasoning, Mr. Hill is not guilty of any crime punishable by law. He acted in defense of other persons whom he, and everyone else around, had good reason to believe were going to be killed by the abortionist . . . .

(The Rev.) Earle Fox
Ambridge, PA

In regard to your symposium on killing abortionists, it seems to me a shame that Oliver Stone is not pro-life. By now he would have discovered a Grassy Knoll in the Paul Hill case, proved beyond a doubt that pro- abortionists and the CIA were behind the whole thing, and have produced a movie starring Kevin Costner as Paul Hill and Jack Nicholson as the abortionist.

Alice Haney
Rialto, CA

While I by no means would openly advocate the killing of abortionists, I am not at all sure what actually motivates this decision. On the one hand, I placate myself with elaborate appeals to order, sanctity of life, democratic due process, etc. I seem to fear an all-out slaughter would be precipitated if this idea were to be widely accepted. Indeed, as Francis Canavan observes, where would this taking of the law into one’s hands wind up? Any zealot could justify the murder of his ideological or religious nemesis as an enemy of the people and humanity. Under such circumstances, a nation under siege by various ideological and religious enemies is not difficult to foresee.

The rule of law must be respected for the good of all, I say to myself. Yes, that is why the killing of abortionists must not be tolerated. This is an argument that must be won by prayer, reason, and appeals to decency. Yes, that is why we must not do such things. We are civilized and such things are beneath us as Christians. We must not fight evil with evil, but fight evil with good. That is why I write letters and pray and appeal the case according to our democratic traditions. That is why I don’t kill abortion doctors.

Or is it? Perhaps I am just a moral coward spinning philosophical and legal excuses for not doing what plainly ought to be done. If that were me and my wife or children waiting to be slaughtered for some legally sanctioned reason, would I not consider the man who stepped between us and our horrific deaths a hero? Even if such a person ultimately fails and the slaughter proceeds, is not that person still a hero? Contrary to Frederica Mathewes-Green, the analogy is perfectly legitimate. First, the murder is a defense of the unborn, not an attack. Second, the point that "as long as abortion is legal you won’t be able to save babies without saving their mothers" holds just as well if abortion is illegal. The determined mother will find a way. Therefore, why make it illegal? You inadvertently fall into the pro-choice argument. Third, whether society sees the abortionist as a criminal is irrelevant. Such reasoning accepts as legitimate the wholesale murder/genocide of Jews, Kulaks, enemies of the people, etc . . . .

As much as I respect those who wrote in opposition to the murder of abortionists, I cannot help but think that all they have done is supply us with legal and moral justification for cowardice. What did the Jews think as they were dragged off? What did the Kulaks think as they were murdered? What did the American black think as he was lynched? What did the Chinese dissidents think as Mao Tse-tung’s sycophants murdered them? If we truly believe that the child in the womb is every bit as much a person as a child outside the womb, can there really be any legitimate excuse for not employing deadly force? If that child could speak and articulate from its mother’s womb, would it not be hysterically screaming and pleading for help, and those screams be falling on deaf ears as we natter on about legal, moral, and philosophical niceties?

Alas, the pro-life movement is faced with a conundrum. Either we insist upon the unborn child as a person with all the legal rights of an adult, including the right to expect assistance in the defense of its life, or we fold up our tents and concede that the child in the womb cannot expect the same legal and moral considerations as the child already born.

I haven’t the time or the inclination to debate every legal, moral, or philosophical argument your contributors have lobbed across the net, but one common thread does run through them all. They all provide justification for inaction so that people like myself can sleep comfortably and not feel cowardly for not giving all to stem the slaughter of the innocents.

One more point if I may. A few of your contributors noted that not all democratically nonviolent means have been exhausted. That statement is ridiculous. All other means for that child, that morning, have been exhausted. Everything is in place and the murder is about to commence. The life of that child is in imminent, undeniable danger. What but violence offers any hope of turning back the hand of the abortionist? Notwithstanding God’s final judgment, there is no other day, no other time, for these babies to be rescued.

Eric A. Voellm
Coxsackie, NY

. . . This reader was gripped by the three strands of argument articulated by the various writers. The contrasts between individualistic justice (read: anarchy) and legitimate governments were well-stated. The appeals to and applications of Just War theory were convincing. And surely your Christian readers were drawn to the scriptural references and applications.

However, there was one important omission. Not one of the writers probed the significance or the consequences of the actions of Paul Hill as they relate to final destinies, opportunity for repentance and faith, or the exclusive role of God in offering salvation and/or meting out judgment to murderers.

Let me explain. Paul Hill now enjoys something he denied his victim. Hill has the opportunity to thoughtfully consider his past actions in the context of legal guilt, punishment, and eternity. Perhaps the symposium itself will give him cause to reflect upon his sins and his crimes. He may choose to repent (or not), but he will have numerous opportunities prior to his own execution to call out to God for forgiveness, for understanding, for mercy-even for justice if that really is the way he sees it. But Dr. Gunn’s opportunities were killed along with his body on that fateful day.

The greatest tragedy is not that Hill usurped the authority of the State but that he usurped the throne of Heaven. Hill’s actions consigned Dr. Gunn to the eternal liabilities of the justice and judgment of God by denying Gunn further opportunity to repent of his own sins against God and crimes against nature . . . .

(The Rev.) F. Michael Womack
Erwin, TN

. . . On the matter of Paul Hill’s violence, can we really be sure that it did not stimulate a beneficial elementary reconsideration for the meaning of killing in the minds of many normally given to pushing the A word out of their minds? Undoubtedly, his death sentence will force that sort of pro-abortion progressivist, hateful of capital punishment, to consider the real meaning of attempting to preserve the life of a single human being.

Ultimately, I agree that the killing of abortionists probably lacks proportionality. But given that we’ve reached that point in our dying civilization where debate often means unopposed "pro-choice" indoctrination in public forums, public schools, and many if not most "Catholic" schools, can we at least consider that among the subtle antecedents of moral entropy might be the accommodationism inherent in an "agree to disagree but not be disagreeable" public posture?

Edward J. Baer
Flushing, NY

I have read with interest your symposium on killing abortionists. There, many pro-life leaders argued against the premise stated by killer Paul Hill: "Whatever force is legitimate in defending a born child is legitimate in defending an unborn child."

The reasoning of many of the symposium participants is weak, and inadvertently strengthens Hill’s case. Dr. Bernard Nathanson described the heroism of two men who successfully assassinated one of the Nazi architects of the Final Solution. Nathan son said that Hill’s position was not quite the same thing, but didn’t explain the difference, if any. Cardinal O’Connor also said we’re not yet as bad as Nazi Germany, because we still elect our legislators and chief executive. Recall that Hitler won election as leader of Germany . . . .

The chilling thing about this entire symposium is that, on the level of logic alone , Hill’s premise wins the argument. Not one of your commentators addressed the question "What should I do to protect this particular child on this particular day?" . . .

The finest comment on the whole Paul Hill affair was stated quite simply by Pat Mahoney, the #2 man in Operation Rescue, who said, "If I had been there, I would have stepped in front of that gun." Mahoney understands what it takes to love babies: a totally unselfish commitment to share their vulnerability, even to the point of dying as they do, inconvenient, ignored, and abandoned.

That is the way of the Cross. That’s Christianity. Every other "solution" to the abortion problem just perpetuates the cycle of violence.

Tom Sheahen
Derwood, MD

. . . Bernard Nathanson gives an absurd justification for the killing of Reinhard Heydrich by Czech partisans: "to act as protectors of the European Jews." In May 1942 the Holocaust was mostly in the future and the role of Heydrich in planning it little known. In any case, Heydrich had a full-time job governing the Czechs: it was a matter of pure conjecture what part, if any, he might eventually play in the Holocaust. As history proved, Heydrich was easily replaceable, and his death did not interfere with the mass killing.

In the light of subsequent events, it is at least debatable whether killing Heydrich was a good idea. To the extent any justification can be found for it, the justification would be that there was a war going on, the Czechoslovak government-in-exile participating in a just war against Nazi Germany on the side of the Allies. The brutal oppression of the Czechs by Heydrich was certainly criminal enough to deserve retaliation as a part of the war effort.

Mr. Nathanson identifies the killers of Heydrich as "two non-Jewish Czechs." Well, he is 50 percent right. Kubis was a Czech; Gabcik (whom you misspell as "Gabeik") was a Slovak.

Ernest L. Fraser
Long Beach, CA

Debating Pannenberg

In his "Christianity and the West: Ambiguous Past, Uncertain Future" (December 1994), Wolfhart Pannenberg makes the observation that religion came to be excluded from public life in the West as a result of the divisive European wars of religion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It follows, he says, that religion cannot be restored to public life "without ecumenical reconciliation among the Christian churches."

But he does not expect that the Christian churches will become one in faith through their ecumenical efforts; instead he expects that each of them will in a certain sense relativize its faith. Each should recognize "the provisional character of our knowledge of God in His revelation"; each should repent of the sin of conflating the absolute truth of God’s revelation with its own credal formulations, which should apparently be thought of as merely human efforts that will always remain in need of revision. On this relativizing basis the Christian churches will be ready to learn from each other, and indeed to learn from "alternative understandings of reality." This already enables them to practice a kind of tolerance that is new in Christian history. It is also a tolerance that will enable Christians to exert a beneficent rather than a divisive influence on public life.

Many Catholic readers, as well as other Christian readers, will have more than one difficulty with this way of grounding religious tolerance. While they quite recognize the distinction between God’s truth and our human understanding and expression of it, they will wonder whether Pannenberg-at least to judge from this essay-rightly understands the participation of the latter in the former, and whether he does justice to the initiative that the spirit of God takes in securing this participation. They can only be pained at the length to which he seems to go in belittling the fundamental difference between Christians and Jews.

But they also have another problem with Pannenberg, the discussion of which preeminently belongs in the forum provided by First Things. Insofar as he does succeed in showing something merely provisional in Christian faith, it is not "the imperative of tolerance" that he establishes. If I have more to learn from you than I had thought, then it is not tolerance but rather simple reasonableness that leads me to listen to you. Tolerance is a way of dealing with disagreements, or it is nothing at all. If Pannenberg is saying that Christians have declared disagreements with each other prematurely and that they should now learn to think in terms of both/and rather than either/or, then he has passed from tolerance to another topic.

And so the question arises for such readers: if they cannot agree with Pannenberg’s way of grounding religious tolerance, how do they for their part go about grounding it? They no more want to return to the religious wars of the seventeenth century than he does, and they agree with much that he says about the ecumenical basis of a renewed presence of Christianity in public life. What alternative theology of tolerance can replace the one of Pannenberg?

Look at the Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Liberty, which affirms the right of non-Catholics in Catholic countries to profess their faith publicly, and to invite others to join their communion. It is a teaching that in effect repudiates the idea of a confessional state. I understand that soon after the Declaration was promulgated by the Council, the Catholic Church both in Spain and in Columbia had to modify its legal standing, and in particular to give up the special privilege whereby only the Catholic religion could act in the public realm. Clearly, there can be no renewal of confessional wars on the basis of this teaching of Vatican II about religious toleration.

And what is this teaching based on? The Declaration contains not a word about the merely provisional character of the creed of the Church, not a word about the difference between revelation as it issues forth from God and revelation as it arrives at the human hearer. It is instead based on the dignity of the human person, who can receive revelation authentically only if he receives it freely and without any coercion. The Council gives not a relativist account of religious liberty, but a personalist account of it. It shows us how to justify tolerance without weakening the truth claims of the Christian faith . . . .

God does not exercise tolerance because of some defect in His understanding of His own truth, or because some human beings will offer explanations of His revelation that complete what is lacking in His own provisional understanding of it. He abstains from coercion only because He wants to be freely chosen and freely loved by His creatures. In other words, Pannenberg’s account of religious tolerance, even if it were an account of tolerance, which I deny, still holds only for our human tolerance but can throw no light at all on the divine tolerance. The personalist account of tolerance, by contrast, holds equally for human and divine tolerance.

John F. Crosby
Franciscan University
of Steubenville
Steubenville, OH

Wolfhart Pannenberg’s look at Chris tianity’s cultural entanglements through the ages was most interesting, though I was surprised at his imperative call for ecumenical unity. His arguments in that case seem to turn on two mutually antagonistic poles: papal ambition was the principal cause of much of the tragedy of the Middle Ages and a modern day ecumenism is necessary to reestablish cultural plausibility.

I, for one, take comfort in the fragmented power structures that rep resent Christianity today. It is our number one safeguard against an all-powerful oligarchy once again attempting to gather more power and influence unto itself. Pyramids of power and influence inevitably attract men (and women) who are interested in power and influence. Ambitions easily become inflamed, thereby recreating the conditions that led to the tragedies of the Middle Ages. We have seen evidence enough in our own day of how the trappings of corporate churchdom have corrupted their creators.

We need more prophets from the wilderness willing to live on locusts and wild honey while proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord. An ecclesiastical UN would be ages in the building and inevitably degenerate into a cockpit for the self-serving and the ambitious. John the Baptist is still a much more authentic and plausible representative of the Savior than any world body speaking from its carpeted and air- conditioned ecumenical headquarters.

Maynard Nordmoe
Knoxville, TN

Professor Pannenberg is to be commended for his attention to the dimensions and sources of Christian intolerance, and for pointedly reminding us that our understanding of God’s Truth is "always provisional and . . . partial." That reminder should be both premise and qualifier for all who presume to address religious matters. Equally, I valued his comments about the consequences of the early dissociation of Christians from Jews, about how Christian eschatological consciousness led to dogmatism and exclusivism, and about how liberty, without religion, "degenerates into license and coercion." Each is a point that deserves frequent expression. . . .

However, I do not see the consistency in the view expressed that, first, "The separation of church and state must never mean the separation of religion from public life," and, subsequently, that "The further the secularist dominance of the general culture advances, the more clearly the Church, in clear distinction from that culture, emerges as the reference point of Christian existence." Elsewhere Professor Pannenberg suggests that ecumenism, human rights advocacy, Christian ideas of freedom-and more-allow at least cautious optimism for the "resurgence of a culture inspired by Christian values" as we approach the beginning of the third millennium. So why then is not a Christian culture, one informed by values and recognizable roots in our Judeo-Christian origins, a plausible alternative not only to the prevailing secular culture we now find ourselves in but also to "the ecclesial form of Christianity" envisaged by Professor Pannenberg? At the very least, the place for this "ecclesial Christianity" within the broader culture needs to be more clearly articulated. Surely a retreat to an ecclesial form of Christianity is not the answer.

Robert W. Heywood
Flint, MI

Is Rome the Catholic Church?

I found myself wonderfully enjoying First Things but was just a bit amused by one comment of Alan Jacobs in "The Second Coming of C. S. Lewis" (November 1994). When he termed Lewis "something of an Ulster Prot" for describing the followers of the Church of Rome as "Papist," he betrayed a certain lack of understanding of the classical Anglican position that Lewis embraced at the time that he became a Christian. It is no secret that J. R. R. Tolkien was more than a bit miffed at Lewis when upon his conversion he rejected the Roman position. But Lewis was too much of the classical scholar and the pragmatist to buy the Roman claims that have been rejected by Anglicans both before and after the Reformation.

While classical Anglicanism has always been quite charitable toward the Roman Church, it has refused to accept its description of itself as "The Catholic Church." For Anglicans, Catholicity is determined by the famous definition of St. Vincent of Lerins, quad ubique, quod semper, quod ad omnibus ("that which has been taught everywhere, always, and by all") the acceptance of which pushes Rome outside the definition. And that well before the papal definitions of the late nineteenth and twentieth century that elevated dogmas with no New Testament basis and completely unknown to Christians of the first four centuries to the status of being required for salvation. John Jewel made exactly this point in his famous sermon at St. Paul’s Cross in the reign of the first and more glorious Elizabeth. He said, "If any learned man of our adversaries be able to bring any one sufficient sentence out of any old doctor or father or out of any old general council, or out of the Holy Scripture, or any one example out of the primitive church for the space of six hundred years after Christ, in proof of the specifically Romish doctrines and practices: I will go over to him."

Those of us who have retained our classical Anglican faith (although the official churches in the United States, Canada, and England have now apostasized) know that we retain and practice the faith that Lewis defended . . . .

(The Rev.) H. Lee Poteet
Fairfield, CA

Funny Fellow?

I can tell Peter Berger why "a number of readers" of First Things mistook his August/September 1994 send-up of eco-feminism for the real thing: It was as dreary and heavy-handed as the real thing. However "savage" his attack may be, the satirist who means even just to get his point across, let alone win a few converts to the good fight, never takes the business so seriously as to forget to be funny.

I don’t really think that the inventor of the Dating Information Kit needs to be told as much. I don’t think either that the author of A Rumor of Angels needs to be reminded of comedy’s deep value as a "signal of transcendence" (to employ his own fine phrase). Above all, I do not think our Peter really wants to be "off to Poco," there to double date with Aglaia Holt, Chelsea Rabinowitz-Hakamoto, and "a friend" of Chelsea’s. It looks pretty obvious to me that the humorlessness of this crowd has begun to rub off on him.

I recommend a short sabbatical, holed up perhaps with some of those very writers (Swift, Thackeray, Muriel Spark) in whose company Mr. Berger, at the top of his form, may rightly be said to travel. I pray he will not devote his talent to dirges, elaborate maledictions, or worst of all, sociological analyses . . . .

Brawn Sullivan
Marysville, CA

For someone with so dreary-sounding a title (Director of the Institute for the Study of Economic Culture), Peter Berger has an antic sense of humor. I found his article in the December 1994 issue ("Reflections on the President’s Underwear") hard to read, not that I mean it as negative comment. It is difficult to read anything in which almost every sentence requires the reader to throw back his head and guffaw. But the subtext of serious comment was also welcome.

I have long thought that laughter (or wit or humor, as you will) is one constituent of the "image and likeness" referred to in Genesis. Mr. Berger supports my thesis . . . .

Charles J. Sheedy
Woodhaven, NY


I wholeheartedly agree with much of what James Nuechterlein says in "Some of My Best Friends" (December 1994). Certainly Catholics and Protestants are often "united by the imperatives of our common faith in a common cause." I rejoice with him as well that "we will almost certainly find regular occasions for making common cultural and religious arguments in public."

But there are disturbing evidences of an underlying patronizing attitude toward those who would not follow the path of his enlightened "quasi- ecumenism." The same attitude is present in those who would claim that religious differences are not rational, basic differences at all, but that differing religious perspectives are really just so many roads all leading to the same place, where, of course, the speakers have already arrived. The same attitude is present, unfortunately, in the declaration "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," with its theological and eschatological use of the word "convergence."

Mr. Nuechterlein patronizes Protestants with a statement such as: "For those traditionalist Protestants for whom Catholicism and Orthodoxy are not, or at least not yet , acceptable choices-well, we indulge in (mostly) improbable hopes for reform within our various churches" (emphasis added). Later he states that "the widespread opposition to the statement ["Evangelicals and Catholics Together"] suggests that not all minds have been changed." Obviously, Mr. Nuechterlein knows where we all are headed, and, but for our intellectual and spiritual obtuseness, we will all get there soon. But he patronizes Catholics as well with this statement, in the context of the one about Protestants just quoted: "[T]here are Catholics who cannot understand why Holy Mother Church should concern herself with schismatics," again with the implication that these poor folks may yet see the light. What he does not take into account is that many Protestants and Catholics believe that the Reformation really did happen, and that it happened because of real, down-to-the-very-roots-of- the-faith theological differences. And they believe, to the dismay and (often) the disdain of convergence-types, that the "other side" really is wrong.

Mr. Nuechterlein himself suggests that many of the (former) Protestants who have found a home in the Catholic Church went looking in the first place because they sensed that something had gone terribly wrong: "[A]ll too many Protestants, in their habit of translating the faith into either the Social Gospel or indiscriminate niceness, had lost any grasp on justification at all." Likewise, many (former) practicing Catholics who have begun participating in Bible study groups in Protestant churches have, by their own admission, discovered the gospel of Jesus Christ, with its central theme of justification by faith alone, for the very first time .

Mr. Nuechterlein-along with the authors and signers of "Evangelicals and Catholics Together"-obviously has a view about "mere Christianity," and his view is that the deep theological differences between Protestants and Catholics will dissolve into it. To which I, and many Catholics and Protestants, say, "No thanks." These differences are deep, they matter, and we must continue, even as we find opportunities for common cause in the world, to persuade others of the truth as we know it to be.

Niel Nielson
Wheaton, IL

Orthodoxy Defended

The December 1994 issue of First Things made two references to the Orthodox Church that I must challenge.

In James Nuechterlein’s otherwise excellent article "Some of My Best Friends," he writes of "a move of disheartened Protestants to Rome (or, more esoterically, to Orthodoxy)." Why "esoterically"? While not yet found in every village and county, there are at least several thousand parishes and half a million faithful (less conservative estimates range upward of two or three million) in North America. The transition from the languages of the immigrants to English is moving quickly and is complete in a great many parishes. We have many individual converts, some parishes have converted, and there are even several small denominations that have returned to the classical Christian faith. This year we marked the 200th anniversary of the landing of the first Orthodox missionaries in Alaska and are well past the 250th anniversary of the first Orthodox liturgy in North America. Publication of scholarly and popular books on Orthodoxy has skyrocketed and includes collections of testimonies by former Protestant ministers and seminarians who have embraced the Orthodox faith. So I repeat, why "esoterically"?

More troubling is the item "A Sense of Heightened Expectation" in The Public Square. It may be that the Vatican expects an imminent breakthrough in relations with the Orthodox Church, resulting in restoration of communion. If so, this is an entirely unrealistic expectation. Even if the question of "jurisdiction" were resolved-by which I presume you mean that the Vatican would recognize the patriarch of Constantinople as a sort of junior pope with regional authority in the eastern Mediterranean and part of Eastern Europe-there would remain a number of serious and unavoidable questions: Will the Vatican renounce the unbiblical, illicit, and heretical addition of the Filioque to the Creed? Will Rome cease to deny the Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit and the Communion of the Precious Body and Blood of the Lord to infants? Will there be a renunciation of the Immaculate Conception and the erroneous Augustinian model of Original Sin? Will Rome agree that its primacy came from the decision of the Church, based on practical considerations, and not as a divine and eternal right? Will "papal infallibility" be renounced (or possibly be radically reinterpreted as the office of announcing and defending the conciliar consensus of the Bishops in union with their presbyters and faithful)? What of the debate over the Epiclesis and the place of the Holy Spirit in Eucharistic theology? One could also mention Purgatory, Limbo, indulgences, and surplus merits-debated now not with Protestants but with a Church that upholds the veneration and intercession of the Saints and prayers for the dead, but has always rejected the aforementioned Roman innovations.

Fr. Steven Sarafian
Green Bay, WI

Official Appreciation

On behalf of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), and in keeping with a resolution adopted by this Commission at its November 14-16, 1994 meeting, I want to express our appreciation to First Things for publishing "The Homosexual Movement: A Response by the Ramsey Colloquium" (March 1994).

In a most profound way this statement gets at the heart of the issue raised by the homosexual movement-"an extreme individualism, a call for autonomy so extreme that it must undercut the common good." This statement provides convincing philosophical and scientific grounds to refute the superficial but frequently repeated assertions that gay and lesbian advocates seek no more than an end to discrimination.

What is at stake in the contemporary debate is indeed a movement to change the very foundations upon which public life in our society is founded. Such a revolution ought indeed to be challenged-and this statement succeeds effectively in turning the agitation present in many circles today with respect to homosexual behavior, including those of churches and synagogues across our land, "into civil conversation about the kind of people we are and hope to be."

Samuel H. Nafzger
Executive Director, CTCR
The Lutheran Church-
Missouri Synod
Saint Louis, MO

On Anencephalic Infants

As a Catholic, a cardiologist, and an ardent supporter of the pro-life position I take exception to the statements expressed by Paul C. Fox on the subject of anencephalic infants ("Babies and Body Parts," December 1994).

This argument simply does not concern the sensibilities of nursing staffs, or the fact that anencephalic births are uncommon, or that some have faulty organs unsuitable for transplant. The argument also does not have anything to do with the retarded, the brain damaged, Alzheimer victims, the aged, or those described as living in a "vegetative state." Let us be very clear on this. The argument concerns an embryologic disaster resulting in a biologic preparation without a cerebral cortex and without the potential of ever having one, so that any semblance of conscious life is forever foreclosed. The subject in question is no more human than an amputated extremity artificially perfused.

One may posit that a soul exists. Our tradition at least in times past deferred to Aristotle and Aquinas and their formulation that the soul operates through the agency of the brain, i.e., the brain is necessary but not sufficient for the operation of the soul. In the case at hand the brain by definition does not exist and never will exist in the temporal order. The fate of the soul in eternity is a matter not accessible to us.

Dr. Fox’s position lacks balance as well as precision. There are infants born each year with congenital heart malformations so complex as to be beyond surgical remedy. The brain of such individuals is intact and if allowed to develop (heart transplantation) would be able to experience the full mystery of conscious life.

Slippery slopes can be negotiated as long as the proper distinctions are made and held. The AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs has acted properly. The decision can be defended on both philosophic and theological grounds. Reflexively negative and tangential responses to all innovative efforts by the scientific community in this difficult area do not well serve the cause of the pro-life position.

Patrick J. McCormick, M.D.
Orland Park, IL

A Moving Account

I was deeply moved by Gilbert Meilaender’s account of the reaction at Oberlin to his part in the statement regarding homosexuality by the Ramsey Colloquium ("On Bringing One’s Life to a Point," November 1994). Aside from the questions of right and wrong and from any indignation toward the despicable extent to which "politically correct" dogmas have encroached on freedom and scholarship in institutions of learning, the very personal and devotional way he responded is commendable and exemplary. His self-effacing use of Psalms, his candor, his acknowledgment of the spiritual hazards in being persecuted, and his willingness to let these events drive him more deeply into his own faith were for me to bring my own "life to a point." Although I share his views, I would like to think I would have been similarly moved even if I did not agree with him. To fail to protest his treatment would seem to deny one a claim to courage or integrity.

(The Right Rev.)
C. FitzSimons Allison
Georgetown, SC