Faithful Citizenship 2006
Protecting human life forms the foundation of Catholic Church teaching
Second in a Series
By Wisconsin Catholic Conference
"Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment,
deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed." --Gaudium et spes, #27, 1965 as cited in Evangelium vitae, #3, John Paul II, 1995
The foundation of all Catholic social teaching is belief in the sacredness of all people. Each human person is created in God's image and, without exception, has dignity, worth and value that must be protected and respected from conception to natural death.
As Catholics we are called to defend the lives of our brothers and sisters, particularly those members of our human family who are unable to defend themselves. In protecting human life, we must first "begin with a commitment never to intentionally kill, or collude in the killing, of any innocent human life, no matter how broken, unformed, disabled or desperate that life may seem" (Living the Gospel of Life).
This commitment to build a "culture of life" is one that is lived out in our everyday witness to the value of human life. We must live it consistently, vigorously and publicly. As Wisconsin's bishops have stated, this "consistent ethic of life" is a compass that keeps one's devotion to the value of life from being blown off course by the winds of self-interest or the undertow of other values. As such, the consistent life ethic builds on the values affirmed by the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, which state that the beginning, subject and goal of all social institutions is the human person (The Consistent Life Ethic: A Demand of Discipleship).
The Gospel of Life (Evangelium vitae), Pope John Paul II, 1995
Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes), 1965
Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities: A Campaign in Support of Life, USCCB, 2001
The Catholic Campaign to End the Death Penalty
Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics, USCCB, 1998
Faithful for Life: A Moral Reflection, USCCB, 1995
A Letter to Catholics in Wisconsin on the Death Penalty, WCC, 2006
The Consistent Ethic of Life: A Demand of Discipleship, WCC, 1997
As our Founders affirmed in the Declaration of Independence, life is the foundational right, listed before liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And because governments are instituted to secure these rights, it is critical for Catholics to discern a candidate's commitment to the value of all human life and to policies that affirm and protect it.
Because every person is created in the image and likeness of God, we seek to defend human life in all its stages and in every condition. Therefore we call on policymakers to:
Oppose abortion, physician assisted suicide and euthanasia, which are preeminent threats to human life and dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental good and the condition for all others.
Reject scientific research that threatens to pit the weak and the suffering in our
midst against each other. Scientific research in the area of biotechnology, including
embryonic stem cell research and human cloning, relies upon the destruction of early human life. While curing disease and alleviating physical suffering are laudable goals, our human community must reject methods of research that expose human subjects to undue risk. The end does not justify the means. Researchers and policymakers must be challenged to resist defining the value of the youngest members of our human family by their capacity to serve the lives of others.
Specifically, the state and federal governments should, at a minimum, prohibit government funding for research involving the destruction of human embryos.
Oppose reinstating the death penalty in this November's advisory referendum.
(See "Choose Life: Oppose the Death Penalty," #7 in this WCC series.) The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person" (#2267).
Endorse programs that promote adoption and assist pregnant women.
Support funding for programs to care for the aging and those with disabilities and to comfort the dying.
Protect the rights of workers and institutions to object in conscience to particular activities, particularly in the health care arena where the moral objections relate to fundamental questions of life and death.
Reflect on the church's teaching regarding war and peace. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the current war in Iraq, and continuing violence in many regions of the world, the bishops emphasize that nations must protect the right to life by finding ever more effective ways to prevent conflicts from arising, to resolve them by peaceful means, and to promote post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation. Terrorism is a present reality, and the tradition recognizes a right and duty to defend human life and the common good against such aggression and similar threats. While military force as a last resort can sometimes be justified to defend against aggression and similar threats to the common good, the bishops have raised serious moral concerns and questions about preemptive or preventive use of force.
(The Wisconsin Catholic Conference is the civil arm of the state's five diocesan