Two life-affirming developments took place last week that invite our response this summer and beyond. First, the Holy Father announced Aug. 2 that church teaching now makes the death penalty inadmissible and its abolition worldwide will be an ongoing effort of the church. Second, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) initiated a nine-week effort of prayer, fasting and education Aug. 3 in response to the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy. We are asked “to pray that a change in the U.S. Supreme Court may move our nation closer to the day when every human being is protected in law and welcomed in life” (https://tinyurl.com/yckmpe6g).
Pope Francis’ decision to revise the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding the death penalty made headlines worldwide. The church has been moving toward the inadmissibility of the death penalty since the early 1990s, during St. John Paul II’s papacy, based on an evolving discernment of the dignity of all human life.
Recall an extraordinary request St. John Paul II made during a visit to St. Louis, Mo., in 1999, when he asked the governor to grant clemency to a death row inmate. The governor did so. While in St. Louis, the pope gave a homily in which he said: “A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.” (deathpenaltyinfo.org/node/1403)
Pope Francis says the death penalty is contrary to the Gospel “because a decision is voluntarily made to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of whom, in the last analysis, only God can be the true judge and guarantor.” (See Catholic News Service story, Page 1.)
Iowa abolished the death penalty in 1966, but attempts to reinstate it have occurred over the years, including this year. A statement that Iowa’s bishops made in 1998 rings true today:
“… We oppose the reinstatement of the death penalty to manifest our belief in the unique worth and dignity of each person, made in the image and likeness of God. We oppose the reinstatement of the death penalty to give further testimony of our conviction that God is indeed the Lord of life. We oppose the reinstatement of the death penalty to follow the example of Jesus, who both taught and practiced the forgiveness of injustice.”
With the Nov. 6 midterm elections 12 weeks from now, we have a window of opportunity to ask our candidates for governor and the state legislature about their position on the death penalty and physician-assisted suicide. We need to tell them that we support life, not death. Check the Internet to learn when candidates and legislators will be at a venue near you.
Send that same life-affirming message to Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst and your House of Representative members. Ask them to work for abolishment of the death penalty, and to help ensure that with the upcoming change in the U.S. Supreme Court our nation works toward the day when every human life is protected — from womb to tomb. (Visit www.iowacatholicconference.org for information about these issues and contacting members of Congress and the Iowa Legislature).
Meanwhile, the U.S. bishops are concerned that pro-abortion groups are working overtime to ensure that the U.S. Senate rejects any nominee to a court position who does not publicly support Roe v. Wade (the Supreme Court’s landmark decision approving abortion).
So the bishops started a Novena for the Legal Protection of Human Life, which began Aug. 3 and continues through Sept. 28. The Diocese of Davenport’s Facebook page will post information every Friday linking to the USCCB’s prayer resources. Or, you can go directly to the USCCB website at https://tinyurl.com/yckmpe6g.
Two life-affirming developments coincided last week, calling us to prayer and to action to maintain the dignity of life.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor