Violence and Abortion

First of all, I’m not advocating violence. In fact, I’m looking for a good argument against violence. So here’s my question, where does the distinction lie between attacking a criminal, in the process of his crime, in order to prevent the crime, and attacking an abortion doctor who is actively aborting a baby? I’ve looked for an answer on this site and all I’ve been able to find is the ends don’t justify the means which seems to imply that it is wrong to prevent a crime as well.

Same thing. Even though the outcome (preventing the crime) is good. The means of that outcome (violence toward a person) is bad. Things can not be half-good/half-bad. If it’s not all good, then it’s all bad. There is an absolute truth when it comes to good and bad, wrong and right.

The difference you are noticing is in the moral culpability. This varies based on the person, their intent, their knowledge of the facts, the maturity of their conscience, their ignorance of the truth, and many other variables and circumstances that are surrounding the situation.

If someone throws a rock at a guy trying to rob an old lady and the guy randomly hits his head and dies, that’s a little different then walking into an abortion clinic with a bomb. Both may be wrong, but they are very different in terms of the moral culpability.

I guess more of what I’m looking for is: not whether or not the attack is fatal but why one can act, with violence (lethal or not), to prevent a crime, like a robbery or an assault, but one cannot use the same violence against the abortion doctor. Where is the distinction there? Or is it just a matter of policy that the Church believes we should tackle the problem only through non-violent means?

You aren’t supposed to act with violence no matter what. No matter what you are trying to do. Even if you kill a person trying to kill you. You still murdered someone and that is wrong. The circumstances may remove some of the moral implications, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s wrong.

A person can by their own free will do whatever they want. The circumstances that surround the situation determine the moral culpability only. The circumstances don’t do anything to make the action more or less right, or justified.

Killing someone who is trying to kill you is not murder. Also, what you are saying, if I am reading what you are saying correctly, is that a police officer or soldier who uses violence (whether lethal or non-lethal) is not a sinner only because he is not culpable. When a soldier in a just cause act violently against his enemy he does not sin. Culpability isn’t lessened when the soldier fights because there is no sin to be culpable for.

You must obey the law of your country, even if you don’t agree with it. Since abortion is (sadly) legal in many countries, you have no right to stop anyone in getting that procedure.

By the way, In my dream world, abortion would be outright banned.

Though I am not certain of the Law, perhaps you are seeking justification through fellow Citizen Duties.

So, it’s a matter of obedience to the state. That’s fair. Thanks a lot.

Partially. That means your best weapon against abortion is try to convince others it’s wrong, and elect those people who agree with you that it should be banned.

What about in the case of Nazi Germany. It was legal to harm Jews yet, I would imagine, one could use force to prevent another from harming a Jew. The state answer is good, but it seems like there is more to it than that. It seems that there is more difference between stopping a robbery and an abortion than just the fact that the state forbids one and protects the other. I really want to hammer out that difference to have a solid argument against violence to abortion doctors.

If you want to have a solid argument, don’t use a highly emtional metaphor like the Holocaust.

Instead, focus on what you have in this present day world. A gruesome, disgusting procedure that needs to be stopped.

Now, think about this-what will stop it? Will charging into abortion mills stop it? No. You’ll risk your own life and the life of innocent people. What if you injure or hurt someone that isn’t there to get an abortion?

Obey the law, work to change it. That’s the best answer you’ll get.

Again, the circumstances (self defense) doesn’t change the absolute truth that killing someone is murder.

Culpability refers to the damage to your soul. Culpability doesn’t involve facts, it involves circumstances. Killing someone in self-defense may (depending on the situation) be less harmful to a persons’s soul than killing someone out of envy. But the fact that they killed someone and that is a grave sin remains.

Again, read this carefully. REGARDLESS of CIRCUMSTANCE. Taking the life of a human being is wrong. It doesn’t matter. Absolutely nothing you can do on earth will make the taking of another persons life any less of a sin or any less wrong.

The difference you are sensing is the circumstances not the action. Only by the circumstances will God judge a person.

Moral teaching isn’t based on Civil Law. You are not obligated to follow civil law if it’s in direct violation of a moral truth.

Sorry if it came off as emotionally charged. I only brought that up because it is an easy to use example that most people know about. I agree with you that vilence is bad and ineffective in the pro-life struggle. I am only looking for the distinction that makes it morally wrong. Then again, I think I just found the distinction. To use force against a Nazi harming a Jew prevents that crime and gives the Jew a chance to flee. This saves his life in the short term, and gives him a chance to get away from the danger. With abortion, attacking a doctor only delays the act, fulfilling the short term, but does nothing to prevent the act from being completed since the baby cannot flee.

It’s ok. Things can get emotional sometimes. :thumbsup:

It’s not really anything to do with the ability to flee.

We are called to do everything we possibly can to treat people with dignity and respect. We may be called to intervene from time to time when someone is violating the dignity and respect of another human being. When we intervene we are to do so first with love and compassion and do everything we can to that effect.

In some cases people intervene a sinful way. The reasons for this is where the culpability comes into play. Was the person about to be killed and responded on the instinct of self-preservation? Or did the person carefully plan out a revenge plot against someone?

These circumstances affect the moral implication of the sinful action. They do not affect the sinful action itself. Someone killing out of self defense may have less culpability than the person that murdered for revenge. BOTH are guilty of the sin, both did something very wrong, but one of them is going to have more moral culpability than the other based on the circumstances.

This is a great question, and I’m still waiting on a good answer!

to 06convert, I sent you a private message concerning where I think we are disagreeing.

Paulaner. You are correct. I misspoke in one of my posts by saying that all killing is murder. That is not correct. While killing someone is still killing someone regardless of circumstances. It’s only murder if it’s the willful and wrongful taking of a persons life. Thank you for the clarification. :thumbsup:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit