The God of Our Undoing

The death of a child, a doctor's trial

There are days you could not have imagined you would ever see, because the events at hand are so much at odds with what you expected or believe to be right. At such times our lives seem to be arrows speeding toward targets we ourselves can’t see or know-until that target brings us up short, halted and quivering.
I have known Doctor Eugene Turner since I was a high school student in Port Angeles, Washington. I would not hesitate to call him one of the finest people I have ever met. In many ways he has been a primary model for the kind of life I would hope to lead. From our initial encounters, I have seen Turner as a person of compassion, integrity, and balance. Among the thousands who have known and respect him, who could have guessed that one day, just a few years short of retirement, Turner would stand in court to defend himself against a charge of second-degree murder?

Turner is accused of willfully ending the life of Conor McInnerney, an infant under his care. The incident took place on the evening of January 12, 1998. Conor was just three days old. He was brought to the emergency room of Olympic Memorial Hospital in Port Angeles because he had stopped breathing while nursing. The events that followed are less in dispute than how to understand Turner’s actions, intentions, and motives.

According to newspaper accounts, when paramedics arrived at the McInnerney home minutes after receiving the...

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About the Author

Timothy P. Schilling studied English at Princeton and theology at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, and earned a doctorate in practical theology at the Katholieke Theologische Universiteit te Utrecht. Since 2003 he has served on the staff of the Center for Parish Spirituality, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.