Iowa Catholic Conference staff participated in a meeting held at the University of Notre Dame this week discussing strategies to increase access and improve the quality of Catholic schools. Diocesan superintendents and representatives of state Catholic Conferences from across the country took part.

Catholic Schools Week starts on Sunday. The theme is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.” We believe that Catholic schools are a vital part of forming disciples of Jesus Christ, as well as offering academic excellence. Here in Iowa there are about 100 Catholic schools with an enrollment of 25,500 students. Those schools employ 5,600 people across the state and pay about $120 million a year in salaries. The vast majority of these costs are paid by tuition from parents and support from a parish budget.

As regular readers of this newsletter are aware, one of our goals here in Iowa is to increase access to our schools by supporting public policies that assist parents. These policies might include education savings accounts, tax credits or other means. As the Iowa legislative session continues you’ll have an opportunity to help out with this issue.

As a part of National School Choice Week, our partners at Iowa ACE sponsored an event on Tuesday with Governor Branstad at the State Historical Building of Iowa. Parents who have chosen a variety of educational options including Catholic, Christian, home and publicly-funded online schools had a chance to speak. Staff and students from Des Moines Downtown School (public) also made a presentation. The key is to provide parents with a lot of choices for their children’s education!

The American Federation for Children released a poll this week showing that 70 percent of Americans express support for “school choice,” and that almost two out of three voters are more likely to vote for candidates who favor expanding school choice.

DOCTOR-PRESCRIBED SUICIDE

A bill to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide was introduced this week in the Iowa Senate. Senate File 2051 would allow “terminal” patients (judged to die within six months) to find a physician who would prescribe drugs that the patient could take to end their life. For more information, go to our website.

There are many problems with the legislation, but we want to share a few thoughts on the bill:

  • As a part of our religious faith, we believe that each and every person is created in the image and likeness of God. It’s not for us to decide when our life should end – that is up to God – but we respect the dying process. Many wrongly believe that the Church says that life-support systems can never be removed. In fact, our teaching distinguishes between killing — which is an intentional action or omission to bring about one’s death or the death of another, and considered unacceptable – and allowing to die, which is withdrawing treatment that is no longer helping a patient and may actually be harming them.
  • We are fortunate to live in a time when there are many options other than doctor-prescribed suicide to address end-of-life pain. We encourage the legislature to support additional resources for training and research in comprehensive palliative (pain-relieving) care.
  • As a practical matter, suicide is contagious. The state has Suicide Prevention Week for a reason. When people notice the state is supporting suicide as a good option for some people, others will look at suicide as a viable option. We see this in the increased suicide rate in Oregon, where they have state-approved assisted suicide.
  • Making doctor-prescribed suicide legal is going to put pressure on vulnerable people. It’s one thing for some to say that suicide is “right for me and my family.” But making that decision legal affects others in the community. People who are old or sick already know they can be perceived as a burden. The availability of suicide by prescription will put some people under pressure to do the same.
  • It’s a lot cheaper for someone who’s really old or sick to die than it is to pay for their health care. How much do you trust all the parts of our health care system to do the right thing? We believe doctor-prescribed suicide will become a threat to anyone viewed as a significant cost liability. Already in Oregon the state has told patients they will decline to pay for certain drugs, but informing them they can get a prescription to kill themselves.

SF 2051 will be a priority to defeat but so far the bill isn’t moving.

IOWA CAUCUSES

The Iowa Caucuses take place on Monday night. Our board chair, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, is reminding us of possible resolutions you can bring to be voted on by your precinct caucus, including a resolution from the Vote to End Hunger Rally the ICC co-sponsored in November. It reads, “Be it resolved that food is a fundamental human right. We support ending hunger at home and abroad by 2030.” This and other resolutions are available on our caucus page at www.iowacatholicconference.org.

The Circle of Protection group has some new videos from presidential candidates on the issues of hunger and poverty. You can watch them all at www.circleofprotection.us/candidate-videos.