Of course this appeared over at First Things' On The Square. RR Reno gets it exactly right, with the necessary distinctions on the Tiller murder: The murder must be condemned and it must be condemned for the right reasons. The wrong reasons are, of course, that the doctor was serving women and being "a hero" for continuing to abort late-term infants in spite of threats. You can be a martyr for the wrong reasons. You can condemn murder for the wrong reasons, too.
The right reasons, of course, are that (1) only a just authority has the right to take a human life and that (2) no individual has that authority in cold blood (self-defense is a horse of a different color). Here is Reno:
"The emphasis on "unlawful use of violence," the evocation of "vigilantism," and the description of Tiller's killer as a "vigilante killer" are all exactly right. We are all sinners, but it is painfully obvious that Dr. George Tiller acted in wanton disregard for the sanctity of life. Killing him did not violate the principle of innocence. Moreover, he gave no evidence of stopping. As a result, perhaps something like the principle of necessity can be satisfied. But it is certainly obvious that his killer was acting as the law unto himself. He arrogated to himself the roles of jury, judge, and executioner. He violated the principle of legitimate authority."
The news made me literally sick to my stomach, and I still can't write too much about it, so I'll use Reno's conclusion:
"I have always loathed revolutionary vanguards, terrorists, and assassins. I have never felt any attraction to John Brown. On the contrary, he strikes me as a dangerous man who was capable of horrible crimes. The same holds for Che Guevara and others. They have imagined that the noble truth of their cause justifies their disregard for the laws of society. But law transcended is law destroyed, and law destroyed invites barbarism, as the history of the twentieth century so sadly illustrates.
Pro-life leaders rightly condemn vigilante violence. It is a principled stand, not a public relations maneuver. Legitimate authority restrains the grossest forms of evil. The existence of a civil society allows us to exercise our consciences on behalf of the unborn rather than being absorbed by the cruel need to fight for our own survival. The rule of law provides the fundamental condition for any right-to-life movement that seeks to protect real lives rather than to congratulate itself on its moral purity."