Dr. George Tiller was a late-term abortionist for many years. He was murdered while serving as an usher in his Lutheran church on May 31, 2009 by Scott Roeder. What Roeder did was horrific and showed a complete lack of understanding regarding the Christian vision of the dignity of human life. No one who truly follows the One who said "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6) could commit such a terrible act.
Dr. Tiller also seemed to not understand the Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life. No one who kills unborn children for a living as he did is walking the way of truth and life. That being said, he did not deserve to be murdered. Quite the contrary, he needed to live longer to repent and change his life.
I have been thinking of Alessandro Serenelli, the man who attempted to rape and then killed St. Maria Goretti. Serenelli spent thirty years in prison. While in prison he repented of his crime, and after his release sought the forgiveness of St. Maria's mother, Assunta. She forgave him, to the point where they received the Eucharist at Christmas Mass together. Serenelli became a Capuchin tertiary and worked on the grounds of a Capuchin monastery for the remainder of his life.
Serenelli committed a terrible crime. Rather than committing himself further to evil, he changed. Through St. Maria, God worked a miracle in Serenelli, and he spent his life trying to serve that miraculous God.
There is also the story of Abba Apollo. He was one of the Desert Fathers--religious men (and sometimes women) who lived alone or in small communities in the Egyptian desert from the latter part of the second century to about the mid-fourth century. Abba Apollo did not start out as a holy man:
It was said of a certain Abba Apollo of Scetis, that he had been a shepherd and was very uncouth. He had seen a pregnant woman in the field one day and being urged by the devil, he had said, ‘I should like to see how the child lies in her womb.’ So he ripped her up and saw the foetus. Immediately his heart was troubled and, filled with compunction, he went to Scetis and told the Fathers what he had done. Now he heard them chanting, ‘The years of our age are three score years and ten, and even by reason strength fourscore; yet their span is but toil and trouble’ (Ps. 90:10). He said to them, ‘I am forty years old and I have not made one prayer; and now, if I live another year, I shall not cease to pray God that he may pardon my sins.’ In fact, he did not work with his hands but passed all his time in prayer, saying, ‘I, who as man have sinned, do you, as God, forgive.’ So his prayer became his activity by night and day. A brother who lived with him heard him saying, ‘I have sinned against you, Lord; forgive me, that I may enjoy a little peace.’ And he was sure that God had forgiven him all his sins, including the murder of the woman; but for the child’s murder, he was in doubt. Then an old man said to him,’ God has forgiven you even the death of the child, but he leaves you in grief because that is good for your soul.’ (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers by Benedicta Ward, SLG, p. 36)
Abba Apollo murdered a woman and aborted her child. From that heinous crime he turned his life toward God and became a changed man. God turned the evil which Abba Apollo had done into something that caused him to become holy through remorse and forgiveness.
Both Alessandro Serenelli and Abba Apollo found redemption and forgiveness. May George Tiller and Scott Roeder also find redemption and forgiveness. Let us pray for both of them.