Brief summaries of the church teaching on various life topics are given below. For more detailed discussion, see the Life Issues section of the web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/
Women who have had abortions are invited to experience healing and forgiveness through Project Rachel. Confidential calls are taken at 713-741-8728. A prayer booklet for post-abortive women is available here.
Conscience and the Catholic Voter:
Contraception (Birth Control):
Euthanasia/ Assisted Suicide/ End of Life Care:
"More and more lonely elderly people exist in big cities, even in situations of serious illness and close to death. In such situations, the pressure of euthanasia is felt, especially when a utilitarian vision of the person creeps in. In this regard, I take this opportunity to reaffirm once again the firm and constant ethical condemnation of every form of direct euthanasia, in accordance with the Church's centuries-old teaching." Pope Benedict XVI (Address to the Pontifical Academy for Life Congress on the theme: "Close by the Incurable Sick Person and the Dying: Scientific and Ethical Aspects" (February 25, 2008).
A general guideline for end of life care is that pain should be alleviated as much as possible, and consciousness should generally be preserved to allow the person to prepare for death. The administration of food and water is a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act, and should never be withheld in order to cause death. When death is near and a person is no longer able to assimilate food and water, it is not necessary to provide assisted nutrition and hydration.
For brochure Life Matters: At the End of Our Days click English or Spanish
For the brochure The Difference is the Difference: Sexual Difference and the Defense of Marriage, click here.
In Vitro Fertilization:
"In reality, the origin of a human person is the result of an act of giving. The one conceived must be the fruit of his parents' love. He cannot be desired or conceived as the product of an intervention of medical or biological techniques; that would be equivalent to reducing him to an object of scientific technology." 2 See also the pamphlet from the USCCB: Life Matters: Reproductive Technology in English or Spanish.
1. Life Issues and Medical Choices: Questions and Answers for Catholics, by Janet E. Smith and Christopher Kaczor, Servant Books, 2007. ISBN 978-0-86716-808-2. The statement is referenced to Donum Vitae.
2. Donum Vitae (The Gift of Life), 1987, from the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, available at http://old.usccb.org/prolife/tdocs/donumvitae.shtml
Stem Cell Research and Cloning:
Moreover, it has more recently been found that stem cells can be obtained from umbilical cord blood, bone marrow, and other tissues. These cells are referred to as "adult" stem cells, and there is no ethical problem with their use. Adult stem cells have in fact actually been used successfully in clinical trials to help patients. A method has also been recently developed to easily produce stem cells from ordinary adult skin cells. These cells can therefore be formed from each patient's own skin, yielding tissue genetically identical to his or her own body. The use of these more versatile cells still presents problems for clinical use, but they are the same problems as are also presented by embryonic stem cells. In spite of the availability of these non-problematic sources of stem cells, some researchers continue to advocate for the use of embryonic stem cells.
Cloning is another way to produce human embryos, simply for the purpose of harvesting their stem cells, rather than obtaining embryos created by the process of IVF. While many people object to cloning human beings for reproductive purposes, the process of creating embryos for the purpose of research is referred to as "clone and kill." The bishops of the United States, in their statement "On Embryonic Stem Cell Research" say, "As believers who recognize each human life as the gift of an infinitely loving God, we insist that every human being, however small or seemingly insignificant, matters to God—hence everyone, no matter how weak or small, is of concern to us." A human being is a human being is a human being. However a human being comes into existence, the gift of life is a gift from God, and must be respected. The church therefore obviously condemns the practice of cloning human embryos for the sole purpose of destroying them.