Church Teaching

Life Issues

"Human life is sacred. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society."

-- U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 44

Since every person is created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ, each one is invaluable and worthy of respect, a fellow member of the human family. From the moment of conception to natural death, each human being -- from the tiniest embryo to the frailest elderly person, from the recent immigrant to the loneliest homeless person to the convicted prisoner -- has an inherent God-given dignity and a right to life consistent with that dignity. Church teaching tells us that we must integrate this belief in the dignity of all human life into our society on behalf of the common good.

Abortion

mother and child"Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person -- among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life."

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2270

"Direct attacks on innocent persons are never morally acceptable, at any stage or in any condition. In our society, human life is especially under direct attack from abortion."

-- U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 44

Euthanasia - Assisted Suicide

"Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person -- among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life."

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2324

"As Catholic leaders and moral teachers, we believe that life is the most basic gift of a loving God -- a gift over which we have stewardship but not absolute dominion. Our tradition, declaring a moral obligation to care for our own life and health and to seek such care from others, recognizes that we are not morally obligated to use all available medical procedures in every set of circumstances. But that tradition clearly and strongly affirms that as a responsible steward of life one must never directly intend to cause one's own death, or the death of an innocent victim, by action or omission. As the Second Vatican Council declared, "euthanasia and willful suicide" are "offenses against life itself" which "poison civilization"; they "debase the perpetrators more than the victims and militate against the honor of the creator."

-- U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Administrative Committee
Statement on Euthanasia, 1991

Embryonic Stem Cell Research

"Because it should be treated as a person from conception, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed like every other human being."

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2323

"Because every human life is sacred, our Church embraces scientific and medical advances that save lives, cure diseases, and improve health, as long as those advances are not made by exploiting, harming, or killing another member of our human family."

-- Virginia Bishops pastoral letter, Science at the Service of Life

Death Penalty

Life Issues"Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm -- without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself -- the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

-- Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2267

"In Catholic teaching the state has the recourse to impose the death penalty upon criminals convicted of heinous crimes if this ultimate sanction is the only available means to protect society from a grave threat to human life. However, this right should not be exercised when other ways are available to punish criminals and to protect society that are more respectful of human life."

-- U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death
, November 2005