The Tennessee Catholic Conference, in keeping with the long and consistent teaching of our faith regarding respecting the dignity of all human life opposes laws that legitimize or support abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment.
Human life is a gift from God, sacred and inviolable. This is the teaching that calls us to protect and respect every human life from conception until natural death. Because every human person is created in the image and likeness of God, we have a duty to defend human life in all its stages and in every condition. Our world does not lack for threats to human life. We watch with horror the deadly violence of war, genocide, and massive starvation in other lands, and children dying from lack of adequate health care. Yet as we wrote in our 1998 statement, Living the Gospel of Life, “Abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human life and dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental good and the condition for all others.” Abortion, the deliberate killing of a human being before birth, is never morally acceptable. The purposeful taking of human life by assisted suicide and euthanasia is never an act of mercy, but is an unjustifiable assault on human life. In assessing our obligation to protect human life, we must begin with a commitment never to intentionally kill, or collude in the killing of any innocent human life, no matter how broken, unformed, disabled or desperate that life may seem.
We urge Catholics and others to promote laws and social policies that protect human life and promote human dignity to the maximum degree possible. Laws that legitimize abortion, assisted suicide, and euthanasia are profoundly unjust and wrong. We support constitutional protection for unborn human life, as well as laws and programs that promote childbirth and adoption over abortion and assist pregnant women and children. We support aid to those who are sick and dying by encouraging effective palliative care. We call on government and medical researchers to base their decision regarding biotechnology and human experimentation on respect for the inherent dignity and inviolability of human life from its very beginning.
Society has a right and duty to defend itself against violent crime and a duty to reach out to victims of crime. Yet our nation’s increasing reliance on the death penalty is extremely troubling. Respect for human life must even include respect for the lives of those who have taken the lives of others. It has become clear, as Pope John Paul II has taught, that inflicting the penalty of death is cruel and unnecessary. The antidote to violence is not more violence. As a part of our pro-life commitment, we encourage solutions to violent crime that reflect the dignity of the human person, urging our nation to abandon the use of capital punishment. Respect for human life and dignity is the necessary first step in building a civilization of life and love.