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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Zmirak on Tiller

Here is a fine piece by John Zmirak on why (a) Tiller was a murderous monster and (b) killing abortionists nevertheless cannot be morally justified. No doubt the Leiters of the world will soon be telling us what Zmirak "really" thinks...

Comments (33)

What a great piece. I'm glad he mentioned Frankie Schaeffer. I couldn't bring myself to. (Ick. Frankie "my dad once threw potted plant at my mom so now I make phony apologies for the existence of evangelicals" Schaeffer.)

And I'm so pleased to see (wink) that Zmirak carefully reads my comments. I've independently mentioned both the eventual push to criminalize pro-life speech (with the danger inherent in pro-lifers' self-muzzling) _and_ just-war criteria in this context. I think Zmirak could have gone even one step more: Something like just-war criteria should apply to _individual proposed acts_ of vigilantism as well. After all, nobody is under any illusions that a given vigilante is actually going to be part of some overall uprising. Well, okay, maybe some kooks on the left are under that illusion. But pro-lifers know better. And I think the individual act fares even worse, and worse more concretely, on the "reasonable chance of success" scale than would some larger movement.

Good article - thanks for the link.

Wow! JZ always delivers, but his excellent one-minute Catechesis here should be internalized through daily recitation. Kind of an Angelus for modernity. Nothing left to say;

As the soul is more significant than the body, the Church's mission of preaching the gospel and administering the Sacraments is more important even than saving innocent lives. Pope Pius XII knew that and acted accordingly, trying to save as many innocent Jews and others as he could without depriving millions of souls of the Sacraments. He paid for his decision with his reputation – a price I am sure he would pay again.

This price of patience, of painful solidarity with the suffering and grim, tedious activism in the face of apparent futility, is the cross we must carry today. Instead of dying nobly (much less killing) for a cause, we are called to live and suffer for it humbly – each in our various ways. As time goes on, as more madmen take it upon themselves to execute mass-murderers like George Tiller, the State they are provoking will respond with increasing force. Pro-lifers who stay faithful to Just War teaching, and live within the law while fighting to change it, will pay the price.

Edward Feser: "... and (b) killing abortionists nevertheless cannot be morally justified."

Ah! So it's not murder which contrary to morality, but killing simply?

On the other hand, Zmirak's is a good essay.

OK, Ilion, I hereby assert: "The murder of abortionists nevertheless cannot be morally justified." Happy?

Mr Feser, you're a professional, are you not? Surely one in your position must understand that care and precision in language matters very much.

But then, what is murder? Do we appeal *merely* to the law-of-the-land to understand what is and is not murder, or do we appeal the true Law?

You may recall that yesterday in commenting on Mr Beckwith's item I had asked, "Is there not an important moral difference between doing a gratuitous evil "so that good may come of it" … somehow! … and doing an evil to prevent an even greater known evil?"

And, apparently, I'm to be lumped in with the "the 'anything to win' brigade" for my troubles.

Yet, despite that amusing charge, are not the positions of Zmirak, and of you, (and of Douglas Wilson ... and of me, when you get down to it) examples of what I has asking about?

It's implausible in the extreme to claim that this essay shows that "killing abortionists cannot be morally justified." Zmirak's criteria for "morally justified" killing of abortion doctors are:

1. A just cause, defending the innocent from attack.

"Check."

2. A situation that long experience has shown cannot be resolved by peaceful means.

Zmirak says that this criterion is "not yet" satisfied. I suspect many pro-lifers, who think it's been a "long" time since Roe v. Wade, facing the prospect of a "long" Obama administration, would disagree. In any event, "not yet" doesn't imply "won't be soon", much less "won't ever be".

3. An evil proportionate to the evils that will come from war.

Zmirak says that it's "not clear" that this criterion is satisfied. Really? You, professor Feser, think that Dr. Tiller was "a more evil man" than Jeffrey Dahmer. Can you really consistently hold that the "evil" he committed was not "proportionate" to that of his assassination and its aftermath?

4. A reasonable chance of success.

Well, if media reports are to be believed, Dr. Tiller was one of two or three doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions. How is killing him not a "success" for those committed to the view that such procedures are murders on a par with the murders of Jeffrey Dahmer? Suppose there were three serial killers in the country. Wouldn't killing one of them bring with it a reasonable chance of successfully stopping serial killings?

The best Zmirak can possibly be said to do is to provide reasons for thinking that Tiller's murder *was* not justified. "Cannot be"? Hardly.

I appreciated the thoughts and ideas from the essay, although I tend to agree with Geoff's comments. He put to words what I was thinking. I'm not entirely sure that framing the argument for resistance to the state sanctioned killing of humans in a just war category is the only option. I once read that John Knox rebutted Queen Mary saying: "If their princes exceed their bounds, Madam, it is no doubt that they may be resisted even by power." The Christian thinker cannot escape the dilemma before him/her, so far the decision has been deferred at the expense of lives-to our shame.

Why does it have to be either deadly force or non-violent protest as the only options. I somehow think that if it had to be one or the other, we'd have no choice but to be like the early church martyrs whose deaths did eventually have a positive effect on the Roman population and government. I believe that God has demonstrated that He moves in particular ways when Christians sacrifice selflessly for others, and the Church has not done this in any significant way to save the lives of those going to the executioner. Instead we aren't willing to stop our daily routines of work, daily family life, school, hobbies, recreation,....to step in the way. We really dont act like it's an offense to God or that it's murder at all.

A movement of violent but not deadly resistance to state sanctioned murder seems to me to be a viable option that has not been considered [until now, not even I have considered it], but why not? As violent as is necessary to stop the abortion industry at what ever the personal cost. Otherwise the stench of death is rising to God's nostrils from our midst since our neighbors are being killed daily.

Ilion: Yes, of course I care about precision. In fact, that's why I didn't originally write ""The murder of abortionists nevertheless cannot be morally justified" -- since "murder" is immoral by definition, the statement is a tautology. Hence the use of "killing" instead.

But of course I know that "killing" isn't always wrong; e.g. capital punishment, when carried out by lawful governmental authority, is not always wrong. But I trusted readers would know what I meant. Do you know why? Because the post was a brief two-line link to someone else's article, that's why, not a treatise!

Never occurred to me someone would nit-pick every trivial point, but if there's one thing I should have learned from blogging it is that that is something one should always expect...

Oh! Now that cuts; to be accused of one of my pettest of pet peeves of dealing with other human beings!

Edward Feser: "Yes, of course I care about precision. In fact, that's why ...

But of course I know that "killing" isn't always wrong; e.g. capital punishment ...

Never occurred to me someone would nit-pick every trivial point, but if there's one thing I should have learned from blogging it is that that is something one should always expect

"

Let's review this, shall we?

I asked a question pertinent to both Zmirak's article (*) and to your "brief two-line link to" it.

You responded with the insinuation that I was engaging in pointless pedantry.

I responed to that insinuation.

You responded with the open accusation that I was/am engaging in trivial and uncharitable nit-picking.


(*) Which article, by the way, does not establish that the killing of Tiller was intrinsically immoral; rather, that the killing of abortionists by private persons is an unsound strategy. The main reason for that being that -- unless we are willing to declare war upon the State, and then suffer all that entails for all of us -- it will merely provoke the pro-abortionists, who currently control the State, to seek more draconian ways to marginalize and silence us.

But, they're going to do that anyway; the mere fact that we are here and that we keep pointing out that (elective) abortion is exactly murder ensures that.

Ilion, please, let's not squabble over this. I value the comments you've made here and at my own blog. It seemed to me that your objection was to my choice of words in the post, rather than to Zmirak's argument, but if I misunderstood you I apologize.

Re: Zmirak's argument, it seems to me that you are assuming that his point is a prudential one rather than a moral one. But that is incorrect. In just war theory, if the chances of success are nil or very low, that fact itself entails a moral imperative (not just a prudential one) to refrain from violent action. Hence since (as Zmirak argues) vigilantism amounts to war against the existing government, given that the chances of success in such a war are nil, there is a moral imperative, and not just a prudential one, to refrain from vigilantism.

That was a great article. I think that the Just War argument is really the only legitimate one against the killing of Tiller. I regard all the other hand-wringing about how "tragic", "unspeakably evil", etc, it was to be rather pathetic hysterics, and I regard the stuff about how he was a "brother in Christ" and how the killing "robbed him of the chance to repent" (as if he didn't have ample opportunity to repent every day of his cushy life) to be downright nauseating.

Btw, Zmirak's Just War argument underlines why I have held, and continue to hold, that the killing of Tiller was not a murder. It's true that it was killing, and it's true that it was unjust, and it's true that murder is unjust killing.

However, I understand murder to be unjust killing where the injustice is perpetrated against the person who is killed. However, that's not the case here. The injustice of the crime has nothing to do with Tiller. The injustice of it pertains to its likely outcomes: It is more likely to bring unnecessary persecution of Christians than it is to actually save anybody or to change government policy.

As far as Tiller was concerned, however, this was pure justice. He was executed for atrocities of which he was guilty, and for which he richly merited execution.

"...someone who turns out to be a longtime schizophrenic with flimsy ties to the uttermost fringe of the pro-life movement, whose obsession is waging an anarchist war against the "tyrannical" U.S. government."

This is merely an assumption. Until Roeder is questioned using the appropriate methods we cannot be sure just who is involved. Such questioning, we are told would likely "result in important intelligence that leads to the government thwarting a terrorist plot". Of course, once those Mr. Roeder names are appropriately questioned more names will be produced. Rinse and repeat.

However, I understand murder to be unjust killing where the injustice is perpetrated against the person who is killed. However, that's not the case here. The injustice of the crime has nothing to do with Tiller.

I disagree. Human dignity still requires that someone be judged by the state for crimes, particularly for capital punishment. Tiller's death was unjust just because a person took power over him that only the state could legitimately exercise. That person was clearly not acting under color of state authority, as in the case of a quasi-state organization attempting to replace the state authority, in which case the Just War criteria might apply. Rather, precisely because it was NOT that sort of act (as Mr. Zmirak's argument rightly establishes), any appeal to a sort of quasi-state authority is specious. As a result, this is simply one man unjustly taking power over another man's life without even a colorable claim of state authority. That is clearly an injustice against the victim, and it was in this case as far as I can tell.

Which article, by the way, does not establish that the killing of Tiller was intrinsically immoral; rather, that the killing of abortionists by private persons is an unsound strategy. The main reason for that being that -- unless we are willing to declare war upon the State, and then suffer all that entails for all of us -- it will merely provoke the pro-abortionists, who currently control the State, to seek more draconian ways to marginalize and silence us.

Actually, the direct taking of human life without color of state authority is intrinsically immoral. All the Just War argument presented by Mr. Zmirak proves is that one must have justification that would be sufficient to justify overthrowing the state before one can reasonably take that authority. If you lack that justification, then you would have no legitimate basis for claiming the authority to judge abortionists and no rational basis for claiming that your actions were capital punishment as opposed to murder.

"Actually, the direct taking of human life without color of state authority is intrinsically immoral. ..."

Don't be silly, Mr Prejean; the State does not *own* us; the State does not own anything, including its own existence and the power and authority by which it does or does not do justice.

Jonathan Prejean:

I disagree. Human dignity still requires that someone be judged by the state for crimes, particularly for capital punishment.

I disagree with your disagreement. You cannot possibly have a natural or intrinsic right to something that relies on the existence of a state capable of providing it to you. Human dignity exists independent of the state, and hence the honoring of human dignity cannot be something that relies on the existence of a just state.

You have a right not to be killed unjustly. The "right" to a fair, state-approved trial is a sort of meta-right, invented by us to protect actual intrinsic rights, by minimizing the chances of executing innocent people (thus violating their right to not be killed unjustly) and to prevent the societal chaos that results from everyone taking the law into their own hands. The former consideration doesn't apply here, since Tiller was guilty, but the second consideration does, as per the Just War argument. That's why I say that the killing was unjust, but no injustice was done to Tiller.

Edward Feser: "Re: Zmirak's argument, it seems to me that you are assuming that ..."

Now see, I see myself as making a conscious effort to avoid assuming things (and of recognizing the assumptions which cannot be avoided); I *concluded* that Zmirak is really making a prudential argument, I *concluded* that his argument is a prudential one dressed in the ill-fitting clothing of a moral argument.


Edward Feser: "Re: Zmirak's argument, it seems to me that you are assuming that his point is a prudential one rather than a moral one. But that is incorrect. In just war theory, if the chances of success are nil or very low, that fact itself entails a moral imperative (not just a prudential one) to refrain from violent action."

I'm pretty sure that I fully understand *how* he argued; and frankly, I'm no more impressed by the form of the argument as presented than Geoff appears to be.

And also, I'm pretty sure that I see the consequentialist core of his argument, the underlying rationale for the argument. Unlike him (and, seemingly, you), I don't need to hide from myself that the reason I reject the private killing of abortionists, even though they fully deserve it (and even though the abortion regime and mindset is destroying America), is that I don't want the bloodshed and destruction of another US civil war. I don't need to hide from myself that having looked, as best I am able, at the likely consequences of overthrowing the abortion regime, I draw back from that.

Yet, the fact remains that to "refrain from violent action" is *also* to make a choice, it is *also* an action which proceeds from an act-of-will. In this case, that we "orthodox Christians" (I echo Zmirak's formulation) have chosen to "refrain from violent action" *allows* some few others to engage in obscenely immoral violent action ... which immorality will, ultimately, destroy the nation. Approaching fifty millions of Americans have been killed by abortionists over the years because we "orthodox Christians" have *chosen* the action of "refrain[ing] from violent action" to put an end to the slaughter. Does our avoidance of the horrors of a civil war, which horrors would, of course, be known in full only after the fact, really justify *that* horror?

Sometimes, real morality requires that we get our hands dirty.


Edward Feser: "Re: Zmirak's argument, it seems to me that you are assuming that his point is a prudential one rather than a moral one. ..."

Then, after laying the unpersuasive just war component of his argument on us, Zmirak says that "As the soul is more significant than the body, the Church's mission of preaching the gospel and administering the Sacraments is more important even than saving innocent lives. Pope Pius XII knew that and acted accordingly, trying to save as many innocent Jews and others as he could without depriving millions of souls of the Sacraments."

I'm sorry, that's even less persuasive than the just war component ... *and* it's more consequentialism. Moreover, I don't believe many Catholics even believe that -- would not *everyone,* Catholic and Protestant alike, accuse some hypothetical missionary who *merely* preached the gospel to starving people, but did not feed them though he was able, of having woefully failed to give the gospel to those people?

And, being very low-church, I see "administering the Sacraments" as so much magical mumbo-jumbo; to argue that "administering the Sacraments" takes moral precedence over acting to save human lives leaves me cold as an argument. Now, I can grant that Catholics may certainly see "administering the Sacraments" as an integral part of "preaching the gospel" ... but, once again, will we not all condemn the hypothetical missionaries who *merely* preach the gospel to starving people they could act to feed?


John Zmirak: "... As time goes on, as more madmen take it upon themselves to execute mass-murderers like George Tiller, the State they are provoking will respond with increasing force. Pro-lifers who stay faithful to Just War teaching, and live within the law while fighting to change it, will pay the price. Some of us may end in jail, like the good Joan Andrews. If matters escalate into a full-scale persecution, such as happened in Mexico, there may well come a time when we are called on to act like the Cristeros, to make the bitter choice of accepting civil war instead of tyranny. ..."

Or, as I said earlier, Zmirak's argument against private persons executing abortionists is *really* that "the killing of abortionists by private persons is an unsound strategy. The main reason for that being that -- unless we are willing to declare war upon the State, and then suffer all that entails for all of us -- it will merely provoke the pro-abortionists, who currently control the State, to seek more draconian ways to marginalize and silence us."


John Zmirak: "This price of patience, of painful solidarity with the suffering and grim, tedious activism in the face of apparent futility, is the cross we must carry today. Instead of dying nobly (much less killing) for a cause, we are called to live and suffer for it humbly -- each in our various ways. ..."

Overlooking, as best I am able, this thing Catholics have for "solidarity with suffering," what then? Should the patience of "orthodox Christians" with respect to the enormity of the abortion regime finally bear proper fruit before the nation is destroyed, what then?

Let us say that the fruit of our patience is a bumper-crop ... that, say, 90% of Americans finally stop lying to themselves and admit to the moral horror of abortion and reject it. Will we leave on place the fiction that "abortion is a private matter between a woman and her health-care provider?" Of course not, we'll outlaw it, and we'll impose severe sanctions on the abortionists and possibly the customers.

But, what does it mean to outlaw a thing? It means to command -- ultimately upon pain of death -- that that thing may not be done. *All* laws which command either action or non-action have always within them an implicit (or even explicit) death-penalty for non-compliance.

The moral difference between that hypothetical future and this present reality is that as more of us will be approving the executions of abortionists, and as those executions can be expected to be carried out by the State, we will deem it legal in contrast to the present illegality of private persons executing abortionists.

But, if it is true that even though abortionists are moral monsters (and deserving of death) the "killing [of] abortionists nevertheless cannot be morally justified" now, how can a mere shift in the number of citizens countenancing such make it moral?

Zmirak is, of course, not arguing that the "killing [of] abortionists nevertheless cannot be morally justified." He is rather argung that in the circumstance of a private person executing one, it cannot be morally justified. And, his argument, dressed though it is in the clothing of just war theory, is nonetheless an argumant to prudence and consequence.


And, for that matter, just war theory is itself, at root, addressed to prudence and consequence. Just war theory rejects the assertion that to engage in warfare is intrinsically and irredeemably immoral, asserting rather that we can determine from the ends and (likely) consequences whether specific wars, and specific acts within war, are moral or immoral.

[*grimace* how in the world did I end up writing "argumant?"]

Ilion, to take account of consequences does not by itself make one a consequentialist, and to reject consequentialism does not entail ignoring the consequences of our actions. Just war theory says that there are absolute moral principles which may never be violated whatever the consequences -- which is incompatible with consequentialism -- but it also allows that within the boundaries of those principles the potential consequences of our actions are a morally, and not just prudentially, relevant consideration.

The wording at the begining of my post ["... that his argument is a prudential one dressed in the ill-fitting clothing of a moral argument."] could, and should, be better phrased. But, of course, I can trust you to see what I mean, rather than merely what I said, can I not?

Edward Feser: "... to take account of consequences does not by itself make one a consequentialist, and to reject consequentialism does not entail ignoring the consequences of our actions."

I can assure you that I don't *see* myself as having argued that.

Has anyone noticed that the following assertion by Zmirak, which is pivotal to his argument, is obviously wrong?

When the State allows an activity, and you use force to prevent it, you are declaring war on the State.

Killing abortionists does not constitute war against the state, even if the killing is organized. I wouldn't see it as war at all, unless the pro-choice people also formed armed groups to resist, and even then it wouldn't be against the state. So why this automatic application of just war theory? The only hint I saw of any problem with that was in Lydia's first comment, where she says that "something like" just war criteria should apply here.

No one has even attempted to sketch an outline of that "something like." Wouldn't there be an awful lot of philosophical heavy lifting required in order to derive, from a just war theory which doesn't directly apply, a theory of the just use of force that would apply to this kind of situation? It seems that illegally killing individual fellow citizens differs from war in some pretty important ways, not least of which (again, in reference to Lydia's comment) is the definition of "success."

I'm not familiar with Catholic just war doctrine beyond the level in Zmirak's article, so forgive me if I'm missing something obvious about it.

Deuce:
You cannot possibly have a natural or intrinsic right to something that relies on the existence of a state capable of providing it to you. Human dignity exists independent of the state, and hence the honoring of human dignity cannot be something that relies on the existence of a just state.

If you're going to disagree, then it would seem incumbent on you to state a reason, as I did. It isn't clear to me how this qualifies.

First, the assumption is simply gratuitous, based on some sort of "noble savage" notion of pre-social man that supposes that government is not intrinsic to human nature. That strikes me as a false notion of individuality incompatible at least with Catholic teaching on the subject. In any case, no reason is given for the truth of the premise, and I am not inclined to accept it. In many ways, anarchy IS an inferior state that deprives people of what is befitting to their individual dignity.

Second, even accepting your premise, you still wouldn't have answered my argument. Nothing requires there to be a state for someone to have a right not to be killed by other men. And people have an innate right not to be killed by other men who don't have the authority of the state.

Third, one of the elements of human dignity that you ironically do sacrifice in the absence of the state is justice. If there is no state, then lots of crimes necessarily go unpunished, because there is no state to punish them, and no individual has authority to punish them (outside of immediate self-protection for life and property, which isn't even a punishment). There's no just way to remedy injustices, because the human dignity of the wrongdoers requires punishment by a state, not by individuals.

The "right" to a fair, state-approved trial is a sort of meta-right, invented by us to protect actual intrinsic rights, by minimizing the chances of executing innocent people (thus violating their right to not be killed unjustly) and to prevent the societal chaos that results from everyone taking the law into their own hands. The former consideration doesn't apply here, since Tiller was guilty, but the second consideration does, as per the Just War argument. That's why I say that the killing was unjust, but no injustice was done to Tiller.

Being guilty doesn't mean that you deserve death as a matter of justice. It only means that you are liable to judgment by a competent authority (in the legal sense) to determine whether you deserve death as a matter of justice. A judge can choose to be merciful, for example, which is not unjust. Thus, it's more than just a question of "social chaos," as you put it. Even if individuals were perfectly correct in their determination that a crime had been performed, it would still be an injustice for someone with no authority to judge the case and to impose a punishment. To judge the justice of taking a man's life is something that no one but the duly-appointed sovereign has the authority to do, much like confecting the Eucharist is something that only a priest can do. You can say whatever you want, but that doesn't make it so.

Ilion:
Don't be silly, Mr Prejean; the State does not *own* us; the State does not own anything, including its own existence and the power and authority by which it does or does not do justice.

I never said that the state owns us, nor that it did not owe its existence to the people collectively. But that power is a collective power, not an individual one. It is a natural state of a community, not of any one individual. If some people are going to impose sentence on other people, they must take the responsibility of forming a state under rule of law to do it.

No one has even attempted to sketch an outline of that "something like." Wouldn't there be an awful lot of philosophical heavy lifting required in order to derive, from a just war theory which doesn't directly apply, a theory of the just use of force that would apply to this kind of situation? It seems that illegally killing individual fellow citizens differs from war in some pretty important ways, not least of which (again, in reference to Lydia's comment) is the definition of "success."

I concur that Mr. Zmirak has skipped a step in his reasoning. What I think he means to say is that to make a claim of authority to enforce justice as against the state is an act of war against the state, which I think is right.

I've made a similar argument on the reverse side with respect to the patience of the martyrs. Technically, if you're sentenced to death wrongly (like, say, St. Sir Thomas More), then everyone trying to kill you is an unjust aggressor, and you have a right in principle to use whatever force is necessary. But where they are acting under color of government authority, then I think you're in a different situation, more analogous to the just war situation. Unless the regime is so unjust that its authority should not be respected as a state at all (effectively conditions of revolution), then even the fact that it is taking your innocent life does not justify violent resistance.

I've only skimmed these comments, but one thing that I haven't yet seen is the following prudential consideration: if pro-lifers repeatedly murder (or kill, if you prefer) abortion-doctors, they will set back their movement more and more. Yes, it's true, slavery was ended by a war; but segregation was ended by peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience. (There were also killings in the name of civil rights, but (a) those didn't help the cause of racial equality before the law, and (b) there were also killings by forces that could plausibly be linked to pro-segregationists.)

I think it's also important to keep in mind that the pro-life movement has been gaining since 1973. More and more restrictions are being placed on abortions; South Dakota passed a law that makes abortions illegal; and, if I'm not mistaken, most people nowadays think that abortion is immoral, even if it should be permitted by the state. As our life-saving technology gets better, and as pictures of fetuses and understanding of the gestation process gets more widespread, I think the pro-life movement will pick up steam.

(And, I also think that the passing of proposition 2 in California was of great help to the pro-life cause; as people become less and less sanguine about torturing animals, and insist on doing something about it, it's going to become harder for them to be less sanguine about murdering fetuses, especially fetuses in the second and third trimesters.)

One last point, unrelated: I think many of you are underestimating the effectiveness of pro-choice apologetics: it is quite easy to take the fact that fetuses don't have complex mental lives, and are dependent on their mothers for life, as extremely morally salient features of them. And when pro-choicers point out that fetuses, like animals, can't make contracts, don't have sophisticated mental lives, and, frankly, are invisible, it's easy for many people to conclude that there really is a stark moral difference between fetuses and adults. (The follow-up, that those same differences hold between babies and adults, is usually not pointed.) So I think that the degree of moral culpability involved for defending abortion is significantly less than that involved for defending slavery, especially given that pro-slavery apologetics weren't done for quite a while until after slavery was challenged. (At least, so I have been told by one of my colleagues.)

Jonathan Prejean:

First, the assumption is simply gratuitous, based on some sort of "noble savage" notion of pre-social man that supposes that government is not intrinsic to human nature. That strikes me as a false notion of individuality incompatible at least with Catholic teaching on the subject. In any case, no reason is given for the truth of the premise, and I am not inclined to accept it. In many ways, anarchy IS an inferior state that deprives people of what is befitting to their individual dignity.

I'm sorry, I didn't realize I was obligated to defend a fact of logic. Should I next provide evidence that circles can't be squares?

You have offered no evidence for your whole state/"quasi-state entity" framework, except to suggest that it is in some way implied by "Catholic social teaching". Zmirack's article itself contains one example that contradicts you here: the Cristeros. They were a rebellion, but not a "quasi-state entity". They were simply trying to force the existing state to change its policy.

Nothing I said commits me to the notion of a "noble savage", or to deny that having a government is superior to anarchy. The fact remains, you cannot have an intrinsic right to something that cannot be granted without the existence of a state, because there is no guarantee that a state exists to provide it to you.

And people have an innate right not to be killed by other men who don't have the authority of the state.

Among other things, this would imply that it is wrong to defend yourself and others from a killer in the absence of a state.

Third, one of the elements of human dignity that you ironically do sacrifice in the absence of the state is justice.

You logically could have justice, but invariably won't. People still have the option of behaving justly in the absence of a state, but history (and especially pre-history) indicates that they don't.

If there is no state, then lots of crimes necessarily go unpunished, because there is no state to punish them, and no individual has authority to punish them

You ought to recognize this as a reductio ad absurdum of your argument. It is a contradiction to acknowledge, on the one hand, that the state doesn't intrinsically exist, and, on the other hand, to state that we have an intrinsic right to justice administered by the state.

The fact remains, you cannot have an intrinsic right to something that cannot be granted without the existence of a state, because there is no guarantee that a state exists to provide it to you.

Except that I never made a claim that the state had to be there to provide it to you, only that the state was the only authority competent to take it away from you. That's why your assertion was, and remains, entirely illogical.

You have offered no evidence for your whole state/"quasi-state entity" framework, except to suggest that it is in some way implied by "Catholic social teaching". Zmirack's article itself contains one example that contradicts you here: the Cristeros. They were a rebellion, but not a "quasi-state entity". They were simply trying to force the existing state to change its policy.

Uh, try the Bible. The reservation of the power of the sword to the state and the obedience to state powers (short of legitimate revolution) is spelled out pretty clearly in Romans 13. "Trying to force the existing state to change its policy" is not the same thing as judging that justice is served by someone's death for his crimes. You're equating two things that have nothing to do with each other.

The fact remains, you cannot have an intrinsic right to something that cannot be granted without the existence of a state, because there is no guarantee that a state exists to provide it to you.

You have an intrinsic right to be nurtured by your parents as an infant, even though there is no guarantee that your parents won't be killed. If they aren't, it doesn't mean that you don't have the right; it simply means that you're in a situation where you'll be deprived of what you should have as a matter of right. But as I said, this isn't even one of those cases.

Among other things, this would imply that it is wrong to defend yourself and others from a killer in the absence of a state.

Killing in self-defense is an accidental or indirect result of trying to disable him. You don't have a right to defend yourself because the aggressor has been judged worthy of death, but rather because you have a right to disable someone unjustly trying to harm you, and sometimes deadly force is the only thing that can reasonably do that. A death resulting from lawful self-defense, then, is an accidental death, not an intentional one. Consequently, what I said doesn't imply anything of the sort, at least if you've been paying attention to what I'm saying.

You logically could have justice, but invariably won't. People still have the option of behaving justly in the absence of a state, but history (and especially pre-history) indicates that they don't.

Yes, but if there is no deprivation of justice, then there is no need for the state to restore it by the power of the sword. Ergo, the state isn't strictly necessary for the protection of justice, only contingently. You're just digging your own logical grave.

You ought to recognize this as a reductio ad absurdum of your argument. It is a contradiction to acknowledge, on the one hand, that the state doesn't intrinsically exist, and, on the other hand, to state that we have an intrinsic right to justice administered by the state.

It actually shows that your own claims are absurd. We have an intrinsic right to justice, and because there are wrongdoers and only the state can restore justice when there are wrongdoers, we contingently require a state. But feel free to keep chasing your tail; eventually you'll tire out enough to listen (I hope).

Look, I've thought of a very easy example. Suppose that you yourself are the guilty person; you know with absolute certainty that you wrongfully killed someone. Do you have the right to commit suicide? Of course not! It's not even morally right for you to judge *yourself* in the absence of a state; how on earth could it be right for any individual to judge anyone else?

Once again: the State does not own the Man.

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