Our Parish Respect Life Committee gathers as a resource for its members to learn and understand what the Church teaches about all life issues. The goal to is support and encourage people to become involved with these issues as a way of proclaiming the Gospel to all nations.
Our primary resource is the USCCB, The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops. The Bishops are our Good Shepherds. We rely on them to teach us and articulate for us the Will of Christ in His mission in the world.
All information can be resourced from them at www.usccb.org/prolife
Our Parish Respect Life Committee hopes to address the many issues of Life as a witness to our Catholic Faith and help you articulate them in the public forum.
Human Life: A Call to Greatness
Religious Liberty and the American Soul
Conscience Protection in Healthcare
Contraceptives and Women’s Well-Being
Responding to Unplanned Pregnancy
Pornography and Our Call to Love
Marriage, the Sanctuary of Life
Doctor-Assisted Death by Suicide
A Call to end the Death Penalty
RESPECT LIFE MONTH
Freedom of Religion – America’s First Right
On this Respect Life Sunday in the Year of Faith, we recognize and celebrate the great gift of our country, the only nation on earth that can claim the principle of religious freedom from its very foundation! Our Nation’s Founders enshrined the right of religious freedom as the very first right enumerated in the Bill of Rights and ratified in 1791.
Within the Declaration of Independence and in their own words, our Founders recognized that these rights came from the Creator and not from any civil government. James Madison called these rights the “most sacred of all property.” So respectful of religious conscience was General Washington that he refused to compel the Quakers to fight in the Revolution even though he desperately needed their numbers.
In the recent history of the Catholic Church, the Second Vatican Council in the document Dignitatis Humanae (Of Human Dignity) stated, “the Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom.”
As American Catholics we owe a debt of gratitude to our Founders and to the Church, but first and foremost to Divine Providence, Who has seen fit to place us in the great country at this time in history through no merit of our own. All is His gift to us.
Over the next two weeks, the Respect Life Group will provide copies of the Constitution and Declaration as well as a pamphlet from the Bishops’ Conference on our obligations to protect our religious freedom. Both of these documents are a good and necessary investment of our time for reflection as serious and responsible Catholic citizens. It is undeniably true that every right has a corresponding responsibility and also that freedom isn’t free!
(Next week: Challenges to the free exercise of our Faith. Also next week: a movie night featuring “For Greater Glory” on Saturday, October 12th at 7PM in the parish office.)
Justice, Terrance Williams and the death penalty
Even when a defendant is well defended, properly tried and justly found guilty, experience shows that capital punishment simply doesn’t work as a deterrent. Nor does it heal or redress any wounds, because only forgiveness can do that. It does succeed though in answering violence with violence — a violence wrapped in the piety of state approval, which implicates all of us as citizens in the taking of more lives.
Turning away from capital punishment does not diminish our support for the families of murder victims. They bear a terrible burden of grief, and they rightly demand justice. Real murderers deserve punishment; but even properly tried and justly convicted murderers — men and women who are found guilty of heinous crimes — retain their God-given dignity as human beings. When we take a murderer’s life we only add to the violence in an already violent culture, and we demean our own dignity in the process.
Both Scripture and Catholic tradition support the legitimacy of the death penalty under certain limited conditions. But the Church has repeatedly called us to a higher road over the past five decades. We don’t need to kill people to protect society or punish the guilty. And we should never be eager to take anyone’s life. As a result, except in the most extreme circumstances, capital punishment cannot be justified. In developed countries like our own, it should have no place in our public life.
Last month here in Pennsylvania, execution warrants were signed for four men. A judge stayed one of the execution warrants, but the three remaining warrants could potentially result in the first execution in our state in 13 years. One of the cases in which appeals seem to be exhausted involves Terrance Williams.
In October, Williams is scheduled to die by lethal injection for the murder of Amos Norwood in 1984, a crime committed when he was 18 and a college freshman. Williams is indisputably guilty of the crime. He’s also mentally competent. His defense attorneys argue that he was repeatedly sexually abused as a youth, including five years of abuse at the hands of the man he murdered, and that this helped motivate his violence. The state counters that all of Williams’ claims — including claims of sexual abuse — have had proper judicial review and been rejected.
Terrance Williams deserves punishment. No one disputes that. But he doesn’t need to die to satisfy justice. We should think very carefully in the coming days about the kind of justice we want to witness to our young people.
Most American Catholics, like many of their fellow citizens, support the death penalty. That doesn’t make it right. But it does ensure that the wrong-headed lesson of violence “fixing” the violent among us will be taught to another generation.
As children of God, we’re better than this, and we need to start acting like it. We need to end the death penalty now.
The Archbishop strongly encourages readers to contact the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, urging them to recommend commutation of Williams’ sentence to life in prison. Please also contact the Office of the Governor and urge the Governor to accept a clemency recommendation from the board, or, in its absence, to order a temporary reprieve. Use the Catholic Advocacy Network at www.pacatholic.org to send an email to the Board of Pardons and the Governor. Or call or write them at:
Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, 333 Market Street, 15th Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17126; phone: 717.787.2596.
The Honorable Tom Corbett, Governor of Pennsylvania, The Capitol, Harrisburg, PA 17120; phone: 717.787.2500.
One of Jesus Christ’s most difficult commandments is to love our enemies. Some enemies are personal, while others are more indirect, enemies of a peaceful society. The Church has upheld this commandment with its stance on capital punishment. The Church offers conditions for moral use of lethal force in cases of self defense (where all other non-lethal means for defense are exhausted), just wars, or in rare cases where execution is the only way to stop an individual from killing again. However, our modern forms of imprisonment our country has afforded us for the past 200 years provides us alternatives that prevent the necessity of executing a prisoner in most cases. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (provided free online by the Vatican at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM) explains these teachings in Chapter 2, Article 5 regarding the Fifth Commandment: Thou Shall Not Kill (see: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P7Z.HTM).
Last month, Archbishop Chaput wrote an article about Terrance Williams, a Pennsylvania man on death row for murder. The Archbishop writes that Williams, who claims he was sexually abused by the man he murdered since he was 13, “deserves punishment. But he doesn’t need to die to satisfy justice.” The defense attorney states that jurors, who were not told about the abuse in his trial, would have opted for life in prison had they known about the abuse. The courts have now issued a stay of execution, but he remains of death row. See the Archbishop’s article here, and his strong encouragement for Catholics to contact the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons and the Office of the Governor and urge them to recommend commutation of Williams’ sentence to life in prison:
It is easy to love those that love us back (Luke 6:32), but we must be mindful of Jesus’ declaration that whatsoever we do for the least among us, we do for Him (Matthew 25:40). Those on death row are truly among the “least” of our society. Our Church challenges us to decrease our desire for earthly justice and increase our focus on compassion, knowing perfect justice awaits all of us before the throne of the Father.
For a brief history of what the US prison system (which began in Philadelphia) was like during the early days of our nation, see: http://www.prisonsociety.org/about/history.shtml
March for Life 2012
Members of MDP parish ventured to Washington, D.C. on January 23 to join the March for Life on the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court “Roe v Wade” decision which legalized abortion in the U.S. MDP was welcomed by our Berwyn neighbors at St. Monica’s parish, to join their chartered bus, which made a stop at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for mass with our Archbishop Chaput to begin the day. Eight from MDP, half of them teenagers, braved the cold and rain to peacefully march with an estimated 500,000 other Americans to voice their opposition to the law. It is estimated An 54 million unborn children have been legally killed in the U.S. since the ruling took effect on January 1973.
“By virtue of the simple fact of existing, every human being must be fully respected… discrimination with regard to human dignity based on biological, psychological, or educational development, or based on health-related criteria, must be excluded…The boundless and almost incomprehensible love of God for every human being reveals the degree to which the human person deserves to be loved in him/herself, independently of any other consideration.” (Dignitas Personae, 2008, n.8)”
Included here is a website that might help in your study of the Church’s Life Issues: