Murder in the Cathedral

May 31, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

Operation Rescue issued the following statement regarding the assassination of Dr. George Tiller as he served as an usher at his Kansas church.
We are shocked at this morning's disturbing news that Mr. [sic]Tiller was gunned down. Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning. We pray for Mr. Tiller's family that they will find comfort and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ.
I like “shocked” with its inadvertent Casablanca allusion. For years they have been calling Dr. Tiller a murderer, a mass murderer. They wanted him “brought to justice” even though he had committed no crime. And now they are shocked, shocked, to find that one of their followers got the message.

In 1170, King Henry II, frustrated by Archbishop Thomas Becket’s refusal to cede any church jurisdiction to the crown, called out to his underling knights, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest.”* Four knights rode to Canterbury and killed Becket.

The next day, King Henry issued a proclamation. (My memory is hazy here. I think the lines below may be from T.S. Eliot’s version.)
At this disturbing news we are shocked, shocked,
That the Archbishop has been killed by swords.
We wanted on his head to bring down justice
But through peaceful means. We’re not to blame – trust us.

*That is the most famous version of the quote. More recent scholarship has Henry taunting the knights: “What miserable drones and traitors have I nurtured and promoted in my household who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric!”

1 comment:

Sangeeta said...

Interesting intertextuality, Jay. And the role of conservative media personalities can't be downplayed either.