WASHINGTON—The bishops chairing two committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) renewed the bishops’ opposition to the death penalty in a message, July 16. The message commemorated the 10th anniversary of the bishops’ Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty and their accompanying message, “A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death.”
“Our faith tradition offers a unique perspective on crime and punishment, one grounded in mercy and healing, not punishment for its own sake. No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so. Today, we have this capability,” wrote Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap., of Boston, chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chair of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
The bishops cited progress over the last decade, including several states abolishing the death penalty, other states enacting moratoria, and death sentences being at their lowest level since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. The bishops also noted Pope Francis’ call for an end to the use of the death penalty.
“Pope Francis, like his predecessors, provides a clear and prophetic voice for life and mercy in calling for all people of good will to work to end the use of the death penalty,” Archbishop Wenski said of the message. “In anticipation of Pope Francis’s visit to the United States in September, we join our voices with his and continue our call for a culture of life. As a people of life, we say it is time for the U.S. to abandon use of the death penalty.”
The full text of the message is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/criminal-justice-restorative-justice/wenski-omalley-end-of-death-penalty-2015-07-16.cfm
Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Wenski Welcome Supreme Court Decision To Review Protocols for Use of Lethal Injection
The chairs of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Committee on Pro-life Activities welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 23 announcement that it would review the drug protocols of lethal injection executions in the state of Oklahoma. The court will consider whether the procedures violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
“I welcome the Court’s decision to review this cruel practice,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami. “Our nation has witnessed through recent executions, such as occurred in Oklahoma, how the use of the death penalty devalues human life and diminishes respect for human dignity. We bishops continue to say, we cannot teach killing is wrong by killing.”
The Court’s decision to consider the case of Glossip v. Gross, brought by three death row inmates in Oklahoma, comes after several lethal injection executions were botched, including that of Clayton D. Lockett in Oklahoma.
“Society can protect itself in ways other than the use of the death penalty,” Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, Chair of the Committee on Pro-life Activities, said. “We pray that the Court’s review of these protocols will lead to the recognition that institutionalized practices of violence against any person erode reverence for the sanctity of every human life. Capital punishment must end.”
The U.S. bishops have been advocating against the death penalty for over 40 years. In 2005, they initiated the Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty and continue to work closely with state Catholic Conferences, the Catholic Mobilizing Network and other groups towards the abolition of the death penalty in the United States.
The bishops join Pope Francis who in October 2014 called on Christians and all people of good will “to fight…for the abolition of the death penalty…in all its forms,” out of respect for human dignity.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in this matter in April.
|The recent HHS mandate requires virtually all employers to include sterilization, abortifacient drugs and contraceptives among the benefits covered in the healthcare plans they offer employees. In the face of this unprecedented new threat, and since prayer is central to the Church’s observance of Respect Life Month, we hope that many will participate in these October prayer initiatives on behalf of religious liberty and conscience. In particular, the “Rosary Novena for Life and Liberty” will inspire Catholics to learn more about our courageous forebears in the faith and even consider making a pilgrimage to one of the many shrines and devotional sites throughout the United States.
Rosary Novena for Life and Liberty
The “Rosary Novena for Life and Liberty” highlights the courageous witness of the saints commemorated during these nine days. They are witnesses to our faith, to the sanctity of every human life and to religious liberty and conscience. Among these men and women are the North American Martyrs, St. Isaac Jogues and companions, who were slain between 1642 and 1646 near present-day Auriesville, NY. We also look to the witness of three new American saints who will be canonized on October 21. Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk maiden, was persecuted for her faith and devoted herself to prayer and acts of charity, ignoring the limitations of her own disabilities. Mother Marianne Cope, OSF spent 35 years caring for the physical and spiritual needs of women and girls afflicted with leprosy in Hawaii. Pedro Calungsod, a missionary catechist, was martyred in Guam while still in his teens.
Cardinal DiNardo calls on Catholics to respect, promote and teach
the ‘transcendent nature of the human person’
Catholics must not shrink from obligation to defend right to life, conscience rights
Respect Life Program marks 40th year
Theme for 2011-12: “I came so all might have life and have it to the full” (cf. John 10:10)
CARDINAL DINARDO ISSUES RESPECT LIFE MONTH STATEMENT
WASHINGTON-In a statement to mark Respect Life Month, October 2011, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston addressed multiple direct threats to human life as well as threats to religious liberty and conscience rights. Echoing Pope Benedict XVI, he invited Catholics to “pray and reflect on how each of us might renew our commitment and witness to ‘respecting, promoting and teaching the transcendent nature of the human person.'”
Cardinal DiNardo chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo reflected on the Respect Life Program’s theme for 2011-12: “I came that all might have life and have it to the full.” “Jesus’ promise of ‘life to the full’ is especially poignant today,” he wrote, “when our culture and sometimes our government promote values inimical to the happiness and true good of individuals and society.”
“The unborn child, the aging parent who some call a ‘burden’ on our medical system, the allegedly ‘excess’ embryo in the fertility clinic, the person with a disability, the cognitively impaired accident victim who needs assistance in receiving food and water to live-each today is at risk of being dismissed as a ‘life unworthy of life’,” Cardinal DiNardo said.
Cardinal DiNardo highlighted factors that undermine efforts to build a culture of life: “We face increasing attempts to expunge God and religious discourse from public life. . Some now even seek to eliminate religiously motivated people and organizations from public programs, by forcing them to violate their moral and religious convictions or stop serving the needy,” he said.
Cardinal DiNardo objected to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requirement to cover all forms of contraception and sterilization as “preventive services for women.” “The decision [by HHS] is wrong on many levels. Preventive services are aimed at preventing diseases (e.g., by vaccinations) or detecting them early to aid prompt treatment (e.g., screening for diabetes or cancer). But pregnancy is not a disease.. Mandating such coverage shows neither respect for women’s health or freedom, nor respect for the consciences of those who do not want to take part in such problematic initiatives,” he said.
Cardinal DiNardo specifically countered claims that contraception is necessary for women’s health, and that it reduces the abortion rate. “Far from preventing disease, contraceptives can have serious health consequences of their own, for example, increasing the risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease, such as AIDS.,” he said. “Studies report that most women seeking abortions were using contraception in the month they became pregnant. Again and again, studies show that increasing access to contraception fails to reduce rates of unplanned pregnancies and abortions.”
The HHS’s “religious employer exemption” is “so extremely narrow that it protects almost no one,” he said. “Jesus himself, or the Good Samaritan of his famous parable, would not qualify as ‘religious enough’ for the exemption, since they insisted on helping people who did not share their view of God.”
“Catholics must not shrink from the obligation to assert the values and principles we hold essential to the common good, beginning with the right to life of every human being and the right of every woman and man to express and live by his or her religious beliefs and well-formed conscience.”
Begun in 1972, the Respect Life Program stresses the value and dignity of human life. It is observed in the 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States. The full statement follows and may be found online in English and Spanish at www.usccb.org/respectlife.
Statement for Respect Life Month
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo
Chairman, Committee on Pro-Life Activities
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
September 26, 2011
This October the Catholic Church throughout the United States will observe Respect Life Month, an annual tradition now in its fortieth year.
Beginning on October 2, 2011-Respect Life Sunday-Catholics across the nation will join together to witness to the inherent equality and transcendent value of every human being.
In countless liturgies and events we will give thanks to God for the gift of human life, and pray for his guidance and blessings on our efforts to defend the most vulnerable members of the human family.
We will voice our opposition to the injustice and cruelty of abortion on behalf of those victims whose voices have been silenced. At the same time, we will remind the living victims of abortion-the mothers and fathers who grieve the loss of an irreplaceable child-that God’s mercy is greater than any human sin, and that healing and peace can be theirs through the sacrament of reconciliation and the Church’s Project Rachel Ministry.
The theme chosen for this year’s Respect Life Program is I came so that all might have life and have it to the full. In this brief explanation of his mission (cf. John 10:10), Jesus refers both to our hope of eternal life, to be restored through his death and resurrection, and to our life in this world.
By following Jesus’ new Commandment of unselfish love, our lives can be richly fulfilling, and marked by joy and peace. In contrast, treating others as either means or obstacles to one’s self-serving goals, while never learning to love generously, is an impoverished way to live.
Viewing life as a “zero sum” game, in which advancing one’s interests requires putting aside the needs of others, can lead to callous unconcern for anyone who is especially weak, defenseless, and in need of our help. The unborn child, the aging parent who some call a “burden” on our medical system, the allegedly “excess” embryo in the fertility clinic, the person with a disability, the cognitively impaired accident victim who needs assistance in receiving food and water to live-each today is at risk of being dismissed as a “life unworthy of life.”
Jesus’ promise of “life to the full” is especially poignant today, when our culture and sometimes our government promote values inimical to the happiness and true good of individuals and society. We face increasing attempts to expunge God and religious discourse from public life. This promotes the dangerous proposition that human beings enjoy no special status by virtue of their God-given humanity. Some now even seek to eliminate religiously motivated people and organizations from public programs, by forcing them to violate their moral and religious convictions or stop serving the needy.
The same forces, aided by advertising and entertainment media, promote a selfish and demeaning view of human sexuality, by extolling the alleged good of sexual activity without love or commitment. This view of sex as “free” of commitment or consequences has no place for openness to new life. Hence contraceptives are promoted even to young teens as though they were essential to women’s well-being, and abortion defended as the “necessary” back-up plan when contraceptives fail. And fail they do. Studies report that most women seeking abortions were using contraception in the month they became pregnant. Again and again, studies show that increasing access to contraception fails to reduce rates of unplanned pregnancies and abortions.
Both these trends-a distorted view of sexuality and a disdain for the role of religion-are exhibited by the Department of Health and Human Services’ recent decision on the “preventive services” to be mandated in virtually all private health plans under the new health care law. The Department ruled that such mandated services will include surgical sterilization and all FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices-including the abortifacient drug “Ella,” a close analogue to the abortion pill RU-486.
The decision is wrong on many levels. Preventive services are aimed at preventing diseases (e.g., by vaccinations) or detecting them early to aid prompt treatment (e.g., screening for diabetes or cancer). But pregnancy is not a disease. It is the normal, healthy state by which each of us came into the world. Far from preventing disease, contraceptives can have serious health consequences of their own, for example, increasing the risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease, such as AIDS, increasing the risk of breast cancer from excess estrogen, and of blood clots that can lead to stroke from synthetic progestin. Mandating such coverage shows neither respect for women’s health or freedom, nor respect for the consciences of those who do not want to take part in such problematic initiatives.
The “religious employer” exemption offered by the Department is so extremely narrow that it protects almost no one. Catholic institutions providing health care and other services to the needy could be forced to fire their non-Catholic employees and cease serving the poor and vulnerable of other faiths-or stop providing health coverage at all. It has been said that Jesus himself, or the Good Samaritan of his famous parable, would not qualify as “religious enough” for the exemption, since they insisted on helping people who did not share their view of God.
All these misguided efforts to foster false values among our youth, to silence the voice of moral truth in the public domain, and to deprive believers of their constitutionally-protected right to live according to their religious convictions, must be resisted by education, public advocacy, and above all by prayer.
The founders of our nation understood that religion and morality are essential to the survival of a freedom-loving society. John Adams expressed this conviction, stating: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
Catholics must not shrink from the obligation to assert the values and principles we hold essential to the common good, beginning with the right to life of every human being and the right of every woman and man to express and live by his or her religious beliefs and well-formed conscience.
As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us last year in one of his Ad Limina addresses to visiting bishops, “a society can be built only by tirelessly respecting, promoting and teaching the transcendent nature of the human person.” That common nature transcends all accidental differences of age, race, strength, or conditions of dependency, preparing us to be one human family under God.
During this Respect Life Month, as we celebrate God’s great gift of life, let us pray and reflect on how each of us might renew our commitment and witness to “respecting, promoting and teaching the transcendent nature of the human person,” thereby shoring up the foundations of a society sorely in need of this guidance.
Bishop Samuel Aquila: “There can be no backing away in the public square from the call to proclaim the dignity of human life”
In a talk presented at the Sept. 22 Gospel of Life Prayer Breakfast in St. Louis, Mo., Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fargo, said, “There can be no backing away in the public square from the call to proclaim the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to natural death.”
The prayer breakfast was sponsored by the St. Louis chapter of Legatus, a lay organization of Catholic business and professional leaders. The text of Bishop Aquila’s talk is posted at http://www.fargodiocese.org/bishop/Homilies/GospelOfLifeInTheChurchAndWorld.pdf.
Bishop Aquila addressed “attacks against life” in society today, including legalized abortion, euthanasia, fertility treatments that disregard the dignity of human embryos, embryonic stem cell research, “unjust distribution of resources, rampant promiscuity that diminishes the truth and meaning of human sexual intimacy, human trafficking, drug trafficking” and terrorism. He also spoke of the tragedy of professed Catholics and Christians who say they are personally opposed to abortion yet publicly support the so-called “right” to abortion.
“In order to be pro-life,” Bishop Aquila said, “we must understand both the inherent dignity of human life and develop a critical eye as to the thoughts and ideas which undermine the truth.”
He thanked the doctors, nurses and pharmacists present “who have refused to participate in abortions or the distribution of abortifacient drugs. You are a true witness to the Gospel of Life and a true leaven in creating a ‘culture of life’.”
Bishop Aquila reviewed the teachings of Pope John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium vitae, The Gospel of Life, emphasizing the pope’s words regarding intrinsically unjust laws. “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is…never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it’ (EV 73).” After reading the quote, Bishop Aquila noted, “Unfortunately for some Catholics in the civil arena, this teaching has fallen on ears that would rather listen to the voice of the father of lies than to the truth of Jesus Christ and the life he alone offers. Rather than being a leaven in the world for the common good of the world they become cooperators with the ‘culture of death’.”
He spoke of the challenge of promoting a ‘culture of life’ in society. “Catholics in the political arena today are too often more faithful to party platforms and partisanship than to their faith in Jesus Christ, his Church and the promotion of a ‘culture of life’. There is a false separation between one’s private life and faith and one’s public life and faith. This started with President Kennedy as he ran for the presidency. As citizens we must take seriously our opportunities to vote and to provide an encouraging witness to those who represent us through letters, calls, emails and other forms of communication.”
He noted that Catholics “must recognize that opposition to intrinsic evils, such as abortion, euthanasia, genocide, embryonic stem-cell research and same sex unions is always required by the faithful Catholic. Because these intrinsic evils are direct attacks on human life and marital dignity, they are non-negotiable for every Catholic.”
He continued, “Every Catholic who supports intrinsic evils is reminded that they will one day stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of themselves and how they lived the Gospel of Life. Furthermore, if they obstinately maintain their support for pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia measures they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion and causing scandal to the faithful of the Church. One sees in the Gospel too that Jesus was most unyielding with those who were obstinate to his message. One has only to read the twenty-third chapter of Matthew. If a Catholic has continuously publicly supported so called abortion rights they are obstinate to the teaching of Christ and His Church. They need to ponder in their hearts the question that Jesus raises with the obstinate. In firm love he asks, ‘how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?’ (Mt 23:33). At the same time, as pro-life Catholics, we must have concern for immigrants, the suffering, the sick and the poor. We must work for the avoidance of war, the elimination of the death penalty and an end to drug-trafficking. If we are truly going to be pro-life and build a true culture of life, all of these are matters of concern.”
As Congress approaches a decision on health care reform, the basis of the legislation is the bill passed by the senate late last year. Some people are still claiming that the senate bill does allow for funding of abortion. This new fact sheet sets the record straight.
Tell Representative Earl Pomeroy to oppose any health care reform package that allows any type of abortion funding.
Representative Earl Pomeroy
Washington: United States House of Representatives
1501 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Telephone: (202) 225-2611
FAX: (202) 226-0893
Bismarck: Telephone: (701) 224-0355
Fargo: Telephone: (701) 235-9760