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  • Godwin Cotter

In the Shakespearean tragedy, MacBeth, the hero-villain commits a murder. Shortly after he hears a voice mocking him: "Sleep no more. Macbeth doth murder sleep." For the rest of the play, Macbeth is a morose, sleep-deprived spiritual zombie. He drags his listless and emotionally numbed-out soul through his increasingly unravelling fortunes. But, rather than repenting, Macbeth doubles down and commits further murders to secure his stolen position, even as his life is drained out of the last dregs of hope. His despairing efforts are to no avail, and the play ends with his final defeat. In contrast, in this comic page, the shooter repents of his sin and distances himself from it by giving himself up to the authorities. He can never bring his victim back to life, but, in a way, he brings himself back to life.

Melvin Dennis, the name of the shooter is a reworking of the name of Dennis Malvasi, a real life person who would be 71 right now. Dennis Malvasi had a rough childhood, the seventh child of 12 children born to Jenny Malvasi. Twelve of his first 14 years of life were lived in St. Joseph Home, a Catholic orphanage in Peekskill, New York. At age 14 he was reunited with his mother but lived in poverty and difficult circumstances.

As an adult, Malvasi lived a colorful and somewhat edgy life that included an 18-month tour of duty in Vietnam and numerous and varied career ventures such as an ambulance paramedic, a licensed pyrotechnician and a fairly successful stint as a stage actor. After being almost stabbed to death in by a mugger in 1973, Malvasi began carrying a concealed weapon. Subsequently, he did time in a New York state prison for carrying an unlicensed 25 caliber pistol on the New York city subways.

In 1985 four separate New York City abortion clinics were bombed and Malvasi became both a suspect and a fugitive. In 1987 he surrendered himself to police after Cardinal John O'Connor, a well-respected Catholic prelate, urged the man the press had dubbed “the mad bomber” to give himself up.

After his release from prison, Malvasi married Loretta Marra and the couple had three children. Malvasi had used his pyrotechnician skills to avoid any loss of life when he was blowing up abortion clinics. While such actions always involve risk and the endangerment of life, Malvasi seemed to be doing what he could to avoid any "collateral damage". However, in 2001, Malvasi and his wife sent some meager financial aid and electronic communication to James Kopp, an international fugitive hiding out in France. Kopp was a suspect in five shootings of doctors who provided abortions in both Canada and the U.S. Three of the shootings were lethal. Although Malvasi and his wife claimed to have believed at the time that Kopp was innocent of the charges against him, both were sentenced to two years in federal prison for harboring, concealing and aiding the flight of a fugitive.

After being released in 2003, Malvasi and his family went off grid and are believed to be living under new names in New York or New Jersey.

The Talmud says it well: “Whoever destroys a single life destroys the whole world, and whoever saves a single life saves the whole world. While it is rare that pro-lifers engage in murder for the cause, there have been some who have ignored the commandment “thou shalt not kill” in twisted attempts to re-shape the world to be more pro-life.

Pro-lifers sometimes make the point that if the womb had windows, if mothers could look at and fall in love with their babies in-utero, they would never have abortions. In like manner, I think no one would ever use lethal violence against their neighbor if they could only see into the hearts and souls of those neighbors. When you consider another human being as beyond redemption, you may be saying more about yourself than the other person.

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