Faced with headlines about violence at an abortion facility, the late Cardinal John O'Connor of New York City took to the pulpit and, digging into the writings of the Catholic Catechism, Pope John Paul II and Gandhi, stated the obvious. Do you remember that very candid quote?
"If anyone has an urge to kill someone at an abortion clinic, they should shoot me," said the late Cardinal John O'Connor, preaching to his New York City flock in 1994. "It's madness. It discredits the right-to-life movement. Murder is murder. It's madness. You cannot prevent killing by killing."
The cardinal added, in an online forum:
"Where does this spiral end? How is it limited? Surely, we are all as tired of abortion as we are tired of murder. But we must fight murder without conforming to it or condoning it," wrote the cardinal. ... Let us attend to God's revelation: 'Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good' (Romans 12: 21).
Now, I bring this up as law officials in Colorado Springs begin the process of digging into the history of the man arrested as the gunman in the horrifying standoff at a Planned Parenthood. Apparently, Robert Lewis Dear has a previous criminal record.
And what about motive? Here is a recent update, as posted at The Colorado Springs Gazette:
The Associated Press reports Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers says authorities aren't ready to discuss a possible motive of the gunman who attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic there, but says people can make "inferences from where it took place."
Suthers says investigators have interviewed Dear, but that authorities still want to learn more about him, suggesting that his mental health was part of the investigation.
Now in this case, the tragic reality is that it is much easier to articulate the motives of the local police officer who was one of the first responders and lost his life in the fighting.
The officer's name: The Rev. Garrett Swasey.
Are you seeing that title -- "The Rev." -- in front of his name? I put it there because of information included in the sidebar printed this morning by The New York Times.
Garrett Swasey, 44, the University of Colorado Colorado Springs police officer who was shot and killed while responding to a shooting at a Planned Parenthood office, was described by his fellow church members and friends as a courageous man and loving father who drew strength and inspiration from his Christian faith.
He was married, with two young children, and had been on the campus police force for six years. He also spent seven years as a co-pastor at Hope Chapel in Colorado Springs. “Here’s a guy who worked full time as a police officer, and then gave a great amount of time to his local church and didn’t get a dime for it,” said Scott Dontanville, a co-pastor who knew Officer Swasey for 15 years. “He did it because it was the thing that he felt he needed to do.”
Mr. Dontanville noted that although Officer Swasey would “disagree with the abortion industry,” it would not have been a factor in his actions on Friday.
“I don’t think that was on his mind,” he said. “He was there to save lives. That’s the kind of guy he is.”
Swasey was a co-pastor of a local evangelical congregation, Hope Chapel. Click here for a recording of his final Advent sermon, Sunday before last, preaching from Hebrews 3. This congregation calls pastors "elders," a term that is usually associated with some form of ordination.
This appears to be a pretty typical evangelical congregation and it has posted its doctrinal statements here. The statement on marriage and family makes it clear that this is a doctrinally conservative, pro-life church.
It is the belief of Hope Chapel that God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption. We believe marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in a covenant commitment for a lifetime. Marriage is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church. Marriage also provides the man and the woman the framework for intimate companionship, the channel for sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race. ...
We believe children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord.
So at this point, we have very little information about the motives of the alleged killer and officials are being careful, as are most journalists. Some, however, are are suggesting that this attack may somehow have been inspired by the recent undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, focusing on Planned Parenthood practices and the exchange of tissues from aborted children for funds (with people arguing about whether these funds represented a "sale" of the tissues or a reimbursement for the cost of handling and transfering the tissues).
However, journalists do know quite a bit about the motives of this pro-life pastor and police officer who, with his actions, made this statement to the gunman as he tried to protect people whose lives were at risk: "Shoot me."
As you read the coverage in the days ahead, look for additional information about both of these men. What were their motives? Let's see. Was the gunman acting alone? Was he linked to any organizations involved in protests against abortion? There are many questions for journalists to investigate.
On a related issue, check out this Gazette sidebar that sought reactions from local and national activists who are opposed to abortion. Here is how it opens, with reactions from a local activist in the Respect Life office of the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs:
Joseph Martone Jr.'s cellphone logged 61 calls and text messages Friday while he was in Las Vegas for the Thanksgiving holiday. Some people wondered if he was OK. Others were curious. Was he involved in the deadly shooting and hours long standoff at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood?
No. It wasn't Martone who killed a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police officer and two civilians and wounded nine others Friday afternoon at the clinic at 3480 Centennial Blvd.
"I pray it's not related to the abortion business," he said in a telephone interview Friday night. "I hope it's not about that."
Although Martone is a familiar and adamant protester at the Planned Parenthood clinic -- he has been arrested three times for trespassing and served jail time and paid fines for those transgressions -- Martone said he prefers prayer over violence.
"It's a really sad thing, no matter what the reason," he said. "No matter how much I despise Planned Parenthood, no one deserves to go through this, and I pray for everybody involved."
There is one jarring word in that, from my perspective.
Martone "PREFERS" prayer over violence? Wait. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that he is committed to prayer and protest, but is opposed to violence? Once again, he is part of the local Catholic pro-life network. Right?
FRONT-PAGE IMAGE: Released by the Colorado Springs Police Department.