All Life is Sacred

The Iowa Catholic Conference holds the protection of human life and dignity as a foundational principle, including limitations on late-term and “webcam” abortions. We see human life as priceless and belonging to God.

This leads us to other important concerns. We say “life AND dignity.” Human dignity means those things that are necessary for a genuinely human life: food and water, clean air, shelter, clothing, education, health care, peace and security, a place to work. These are the goods we hold in common with each other, and access in a similar way.

In the eyes of the Church, serving the common good is the reason that political authority exists. Government has a role to play in protecting the common good. At the same time, government should appreciate the limits of its power and recognize the role of mediating institutions.

Definition of Key Concepts of Catholic Social Teaching

We oppose all abortions, no matter the method, but when abortions are taking place, the safety and informed consent of the women involved should be among our chief concerns. We have supported bills relating to prohibition of late-term abortions, informed consent, support services for pregnant women, and re-prioritization of government funds away from abortion providers.

Protecting the lives of these children about to be born should not be considered primarily a partisan issue or even a religious issue. For us, this is a question of the common good. Human life is precious and should be protected in our laws. It is in the best interest of the State of Iowa to welcome these new citizens into our midst. Americans reject permissive abortion and want limits to the unfettered destruction of unborn human life.

We are saddened that the Supreme Court has refused to overturn Roe v. Wade; therefore, we support an amendment to the United States Constitution which would offer full legal recognition of the right to life of the unborn child. For more information on federal efforts, visit We respect the fact that legislation often involves judgments about the most effective and timely means for advancing the protection of unborn children, and we support passage of legislation that can withstand judicial challenge.

Addressing the issues presented by the rapidly advancing arena of biotechnology and healthcare is an extension of our primary moral obligation as Catholics—to defend the life and advance the dignity of every human person.

We meet our obligation in the realm of science and technology as in others, by identifying those in most need of our protection and acting in their defense. In the realm of bioethics, it includes those at either end of the life spectrum, and any others placed at risk by their diminished capacity, whether physical or mental and emotional. According to our moral tradition, as their vulnerability increases, our corresponding obligation to defend and protect them increases, and society can be neither humane nor survive or thrive without first heeding that directive. Consequently, each decision in health care, biotechnology and science is ultimately guided by the prudential judgment of whether it advances life and dignity in its most vulnerable state, or is only accomplished at its expense. It goes to the heart of how we care for one another.

Bioethics is an integral part of Catholic social teaching as it advances the principle of solidarity and provides a path to action. Science and technology that enforce the creation of classes of powerful and weak and give the powerful authority to extinguish or alter the lives of the vulnerable at will undermine the virtue of community and the common good. Personally applying the principles of Catholic social teaching to the details of the daily lives of those around us advances the principle of subsidiarity, and the capacity to protect the most vulnerable and build a humane society from the ground up. Science and technology give Catholics another opportunity to “serve the ‘civilization of love’ and life,” in every profession and vocation, by applying the broad principles to the smallest details and the most vulnerable and anonymous lives.

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Iowa Fact Sheet updated 2019

Our Faith and the Death Penalty

Iowa bishops’ statement on death penalty

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The state of Iowa abolished the death penalty in 1966. The Iowa Catholic Conference opposes its reinstatement.

We challenge the people of Iowa to examine the issue of capital punishment in the light of basic moral and religious values. We are committed to a consistent ethic of life, by which we wish to give unambiguous witness to the sacredness of every human life from conception through natural death. We proclaim the good news that no person is beyond the redemptive mercy of God.

Marking the 25thanniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 2017, Pope Francis said the death penalty is, in itself, “contrary to the Gospel, because a decision is voluntarily made to suppress a human life, which is always sacred in the eyes of the Creator and of whom, in the last analysis, only God can be the true judge and guarantor.”

The recently updated and definitive edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, released September 9, 1997, includes stronger language against the death penalty to reflect the teachings of Pope John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). The new language in the Catechism states that recourse to the death penalty is not excluded “if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” The Catechism then affirms strongly that “today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime…the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically non-existent’” (paragraph 2267).

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has for many decades opposed the use of capital punishment.

As the Iowa bishops said in 2018, “We oppose reinstatement of the death penalty in order to send the message that the cycle of violence can be broken without taking life. We ask the people of Iowa, and especially members of the Catholic Church, to join us in opposing capital punishment out of respect for our common human dignity and in light of the teachings of Jesus about vengeance.”

“Society as a whole, acting through public and private institutions, has the moral responsibility to enhance human dignity and protect human rights. This does not mean that government has the primary or exclusive role, but it does have a positive moral responsibility in safeguarding human rights and ensuring that the minimum conditions of human dignity are met for all.”

Economic Justice for All: Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy, United States Catholic Conference, 1986

It is the position of the Iowa Catholic Conference that government should give the needs of the poor and vulnerable special consideration.

Each and every person is created in the image and likeness of God. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society and fundamental to Catholic social teaching. Because of the dignity of the human person, human rights such as housing, education and human services should be protected.

The Conference supports governmental assistance that strengthens families, encourages and rewards work, and protects all vulnerable children, born or unborn, including those with developmental disabilities. We support adequate funding for job training and child care. We also support efforts to create and preserve affordable housing units as well as rental assistance to low-income families.

The Catholic Church of Iowa is one of the leading social services organizations in the state, and we invite Catholics to offer their time, talent, and money for works of personal charity.

Economic concerns relating to families

In Catholic teaching, the principle of a living wage has long been integral to Catholic understanding of human work. Wages must be adequate for workers to provide for themselves and their families. We have a duty to work when we are able, not only so we can provide for our families and ourselves, but also to contribute to the common good through the fruits of our work. As Pope Francis reminds us, “The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies.”

Therefore, the Church has steadfastly upheld that workers deserve fair and just wages and benefits, decent working conditions and the opportunity to organize. A just wage allows us to develop more fully as individuals, families, and even society as a whole. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2434)

A minimum wage is not the same as a living wage. However, the Iowa bishops have supported an increase in the minimum wage because of its current failure to provide sufficient resources for individuals to form and support families.

As leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities have said, “We write not as economists or labor market experts, but rather as pastors and teachers who every day, in our ministries and churches, see the pain and struggles caused by an economy that simply does not produce enough jobs with just wages. So many of our families find it increasingly difficult to afford basic needs, forcing some to take multiple jobs or, in desperation, even seek out predatory loans.”

The Iowa Catholic Conference opposes efforts to legalize assisted suicide and/or euthanasia.

Each and every person is created in the image and likeness of God. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society and fundamental to Catholic social teaching.

The Catholic Church believes that consciously choosing to end one’s life is wrong, and assisting with someone’s suicide cannot be condoned. It is the destruction of life.

Efforts to legalize assisted suicide can gain ground because many people are understandably concerned about what they may face as they near the end of their earthly life. People don’t want to suffer and are concerned that they’ll be painfully hooked up to life-support machines indefinitely. 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 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. Medical and hospice care is such today that much pain and suffering can be relieved in acceptable ways.

We also should consider what physician-assisted suicide would mean to the medical profession. Trying to distinguish “treatment” decisions from “killing” decisions would be difficult at times. It would bring a new dimension to the healing profession – that of killing. Empowering physicians to kill those who are suffering is not a good way to end suffering.

On a practical level, the legalization of assisted suicide would inevitably mean pressure being put on people to insist on being put to death if they become a perceived burden. What kind of demands will be put on patients who will be perceived as a financial drain on the health care system?

While many in our society want to retain a perceived total autonomy over their own life and death, as Catholics we believe we are ultimately responsible to God for the stewardship of our life. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us all a welcome message of hope.

“Catholic health care ministry is rooted in a commitment to promote and defend human dignity; this is the foundation of its concern to respect the sacredness of every human life from the moment of conception until death. The first right of the human person, the right to life, entails a right to the means for the proper development of life, such as adequate health care.”

Ethical and Religious Directives, USCCB


The Catholic Church has millennia of experience as providers of health care for all, especially the poor. Among the causes that contribute to poverty are “inadequate measures for guaranteeing basic health care” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 447). It is in this spirit we reiterate our Catholic tradition that teaches that health care is a natural human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity.

We believe there are several criteria that should be considered when evaluating a health care proposal. It should 1) ensure access to quality, readily accessible, affordable, life giving health care for all; 2) retain longstanding requirements that federal funds not be used for elective abortions or plans that include them, and effectively protect conscience rights; and 3) protect the access to health care that immigrants currently have and remove current barriers to access.

Ultimately it is the role of our civil leaders to decide what is most practical in achieving the common good. We ask them to set aside partisan concerns and consider this issue with prudence and a commitment to the common good.

Specific positions include:

  • Supports state initiatives that would make health care more readily available and affordable to all Iowans, including immigrants and their children.
  • Opposes abortion, including direct or indirect public funding of abortion.
  • Supports the conscience rights of medical professionals and institutions.
  • Prohibit euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Iowa Catholic Conference supports efforts to fight the trafficking of human beings. While forced labor and sexual exploitation continue overseas, it is much more prevalent in Iowa than one might think. Trafficking in persons is the fastest-growing criminal activity and is on the same scale of gun-running and drugs.

Human trafficking is a crime against the fundamental rights and dignity of the human person. According to a statement made by the Vatican and other religious leaders,

“Modern slavery and human trafficking are crimes against humanity. The physical, economic and sexual exploitation of men, women and children condemns 30 million people to dehumanization and degradation.”

Catholic Principles of Migration   |   Document Related to the Screening of Refugees

At the state level, the Iowa Catholic Conference supports the basic human rights of documented and undocumented immigrants and refugees. This includes fair treatment under the law for all workers including legal representation during deportation proceedings, a just living wage, fair labor practices, safe working conditions, and humane treatment of children and families. We also support legislation allowing undocumented high school graduates who are residents of Iowa to be eligible to pay in-state tuition rates at colleges and universities in the state of Iowa.

We oppose efforts to make state and local police responsible for the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Many immigrants have been forced to leave their homes and countries in order to provide even for the most basic needs of themselves and their families. The desperation of their circumstances does not correspond to the inordinate length of time (sometimes over 15 years) required to wait in line for the present system to process a visa request.

Regarding federal legislation, we believe that those already here, for the sake of family unity and being humane, should receive special consideration that would include eventual citizenship. We support measures that help secure our border but respect human rights and human life. We need a system that is humane for workers and fair to employers.

While Catholics may disagree within the limits of justice on the specific approach to reforming the immigration system, we must agree as a people of faith to live out the scriptural commandment to “welcome the stranger” and defend the God-given dignity of every person.

We urge all Iowans to remember their history as immigrants as we work together towards a fair and compassionate resolution of this problem.

The ICC supports increased assistance for refugees.

Refugees are present in the U.S. legally. They are individuals who have fled their countries of origin and who meet the United Nations’ criteria of having a “well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

As you can imagine, refugees’ initial needs are many: food, clothing, shelter, employment, English language training, and orientation to a new community and culture. In the first 90 days, the U.S. government provides transitional assistance.

Catholic organizations around the country resettle about 30 percent of the refugees who enter our country every year. Catholic Charities here in Iowa will most likely resettle about 250 people this year.