Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In any election, there are always many issues to consider when deciding for whom to vote. What this does not mean, however, is that all issues are equal. There are some issues on which faithful Catholics may hold legitimately diverse opinions. But there are other issues which must never be directly supported through a vote or by any other means. One such issue is the legal protection of human life.
No list of the key voting issues would be complete without mentioning the many threats to human life, which must always be resisted. The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that â€śGod alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end; no one can under any circumstances claim for him/herself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.â€ťÂ By casting a ballot one can save and protect human life or one can participate in destroying life â€“ and all Catholic faithful have an obligation to protect life from conception to natural death. Viewed precisely in this context, voting is truly a moral act.
It is important to note that the issue of defending human life is not limited to abortion. Embryonic stem cell research, assisted suicide, euthanasia, human cloning are all intrinsically evil and must be opposed by all Catholics, in every election. Formal cooperation with intrinsically evil acts can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it.
Clearly, there are many threats that occur throughout the spectrum of human life. However, for the purposes of this letter, I will only focus on two of these issues: threats to life at its beginning and at its end. Needless to say, it is precisely at these two points when human life is most vulnerable and defenseless.
This past year, during the March for Life in Washington D.C., it was astonishing to see the many people who came from this Diocese and from around the country to cry out “no more” on behalf of those who cannot cry out for themselves. Even more impressive and inspiring was that so many were youth and young adults. The future of the Respect Life movement is growing and vibrant, for there are young people ready to take the reins and end the scourge that is abortion.
In fact, evidence of positive change on this issue is already apparent. Polling in recent years shows a significant drop in support for abortion â€“ with polls indicating as many as 62% of American disapprove of abortion. The polls also recognize a record-high number of people identifying themselves as â€śpro-life.â€ť In another change in attitude, well over half of Americans do not support public funding for abortion. This is a substantial reversal of public opinion, and an encouraging trend of change in the culture. These signs are positive and are reasons for celebration, but there remains much work to be done.
Each day children are being killed in this modern-day genocide called abortion. The definition of genocide is the systematic extermination of a whole group of human beings â€“ abortion is the genocide of the unborn. We tend to think of genocide in the context of a civil war or conflicts in the developing world. In reality, genocide is occurring in abortion clinics throughout the United States. Since 1973, the year of the legalization of abortion in this country, there have been more than 53,000,000 babies killed.
Blessed Pope John Paul II noted: â€śA nation that kills its own children is a nation without hope.â€ť Our Faith makes us a people of hope. And as people of hope, continue our efforts in support of life with our vote. Vote PRO-LIFE! Further, vote â€śYESâ€ť in the State of Florida on Amendment 6!
While progress has been made by many groups in evangelizing the culture on the issue of abortion, it seems as though ground is being lost on the issues of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Assisted suicide involves agreeing with the intention of another person to commit suicide and helping to carry it out. Euthanasia consists in putting an end to the life of the handicapped, sick, or dying under the guise of â€śrelieving pain and suffering.â€ť In Florida, the most well-known case of euthanasia was that of Terri Schindler Schiavo, a woman who suffered a brain injury and was later denied food and water until she died. These inhumane and grotesque acts of euthanasia are usually carried out by means of drugs or asphyxiation with the false justification of â€śhelping the person.â€ť If killing you is a means which I am â€śhelping you,â€ť it puts a whole new definition on â€śhelping.â€ť
The basis for such actions is found in the false notion of â€śSocial Darwinismâ€ť which holds that the strongest not only will survive, but only the strongest should be allowed to survive. In contrast, the Catholic Church affirms that all people have inherent God-given dignity and worth, which should be valued and protected until natural death. Assisted suicide and euthanasia are directly opposed to upholding the dignity of human life and are intrinsically evil acts. As written in the Book of Deuteronomy, God alone has the power over life and death: â€śIt is I who bring both death and life.â€ť
As shocking as it may be, Oregon, Washington, and Montana have legalized assisted suicide. Groups have organized throughout the nation and within Florida in the hopes of expanding access to drugs and procedures that would immorally kill human life. At this past year’s Diocese of Venice Bioethics Conference, one speaker attested to individuals being found in their homes, dead from asphyxiation while instructions on how to take their own life lay by their side. It appears that those materials were provided by groups in favor of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
As the election draws closer, I urge the faithful of the Diocese to pray. In our prayer, we must ask the Lord to inspire and guide us to vote prudently. Pray also for the protection of all human life, and how you can contribute to a culture of life and put an end to a culture of death. Lastly, pray for politicians and voters who do not support human life in all stages and conditions; that they may change their view and ultimately protect life from conception to natural death. It is important that these individuals come to understand the magnitude of the tragedy they support, as well as the detriment such gravely misinformed beliefs have on one’s soul. Remember always, it is not the person we judge, it is the act that is wrong.
Correspondingly, if you deliberately vote for a person precisely because of the candidateâ€™s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia, it is gravely wrong. At the end of our lives, we will be called to give an account of our actions and be judged for any evil we might have supported, been complicit in, or failed to prevent.Â In the account of Abelâ€™s murder by his brother Cain, our Lord asks: â€śWhat have you done? The voice of your brotherâ€™s blood is crying to me from the ground.â€ť
Voting in support of â€“ and to support â€“ human life at all stages and conditions is a priority in any election. For those who might criticize faithful Catholics as â€śsingle-issue voters,â€ť we affirm with the Church, not every issue has the same â€śmoral weight.â€ť
Our Faith must infuse how we vote. A vote is always a moral act. As Catholics we are called to vote with informed consciences and to ensure that our Faith trumps individual â€śpolitical preference.â€ť
I take this opportunity to extend to you and your families, the assurance of my continued consideration as well as my prayers during this important time in our Church and our nationâ€™s history.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Frank J. Dewane
Bishop of the Diocese of
Venice in Florida