Thoughts on Life Issues and Faith Education

Thoughts on Life Issues and Faith Education

Bishop R. Walker Nickless
Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,


Last week, I repeated the Church’s teachings about the five “non-negotiable” life and family issues. These issues are the most fundamental ones currently at stake in our politics; they profoundly impact for good or ill the rights and dignity of every human person. This past Sunday (September 7), Senator Joseph Biden, a Catholic and the Democratic Party’s nominee for Vice-President, again on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” was asked when human life begins. His answer was more complicated than Senator Pelosi’s two weeks before, but he still did not “hold and teach” accurately what the Church teaches.

Mr. Biden made three points in his answer. First, he claimed to accept the Church’s teaching that life begins at conception. Second, he also claimed that this teaching is a matter of faith only, not a matter of reason, and that therefore he could not “impose” this teaching on others by legislating against the “right to choose” to deprive an innocent person of their life. Third, he echoed Mrs. Pelosi’s previous answer in claiming that debate about when human life begins has existed and continues to exist in the Church, and influences the Church’s teaching on abortion.

I can make no assumptions or claims about the state of Mr. Biden’s faith (his first point); to the extent that he does truly believe what the Church believes and teaches, and acts on it, I applaud him for keeping his faith in his political career. Many of my brother bishops and I have soundly refuted the idea that there is any ambiguity in the Church’s teaching on when life begins, or on the evil of abortion (his third point); there is no need to repeat again what was taught clearly enough last week. But his second point once again demands an answer. All too many Catholics, holding public office or voting as citizens, use this false argument to justify their cooperation with evil, or at least their silence in the face of evil. This is not new, but we must not allow it to stand. Christ did not choose to endure the agony of the Cross for this.

Personal opposition to evil cannot be reconciled with willing cooperation in its acts. “Let him avoid evil and do good.” (I Peter 3:11) Either abortion is an evil or not; either the unborn child is a human person or not. Both cannot be true. There is no room for the “tyranny of relativism” on this issue (or the other four non-negotiable issues). If one accepts, as faith has long revealed and as science can now also prove, that the unborn child is a human person, then one cannot deny to that human child the inherent rights of every human person, of which the right to life is the most fundamental of all. Therefore, to deny the morality of the act while accepting its legality is incoherent. The purpose of civil law is to defend the common good; the common good cannot be defended by legislating what is evil. To defend the legality of abortion, one must either deny – in the face of divine revelation, the consistent teaching of the Church, the natural law, and scientific evidence – that abortion is an evil, or admit to cooperating with the evil it represents. (See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1905-1910, 1915-1917, 2272-2273.)

Once again, I ask us all to know the truth that our Church teaches. Once we know the truth, we are to put it into practice.