Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, S.T.L. Archbishop of Denver
June 29, 2014

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Pope Saint John Paul the Great wrote in 1981, “The future of humanity passes by way of the family. It is therefore indispensable and urgent that every person of good will should endeavor to save and foster the values and requirements of the family.”1 The truth and timeliness of this statement is as relevant now as it was more than 30 years ago. In fact, many of the challenges our society is facing today can be tied to the breakdown of the family. This is because, as St. John Paul explained, the family “is the basic cell of society. It is the cradle of life and love, the place in which the individual ‘is born’ and ‘grows.’”2 Our Church will be focusing on the family in a particularly intense way between October 2014 and October 2015. This period will begin with the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops meeting in Rome to discuss the challenges to the family in the context of the New Evangelization. It will continue with the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015, and conclude with the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015. Pope Francis has not declared an official “year” dedicated to studying and supporting the family, but I believe that God, in his Providence, has given us this period of time to build up family life and redouble our efforts to support “the cradle of life and love.”

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Stem cell research should interest every citizen.  It offers wonderful hope for future health breakthroughs.  It also poses great risks for the misuse of science by violating human dignity under the guise of advancing it.  The Church affirms that human life is a gift from God.  Therefore it needs to be respected from the moment of conception until natural death.  Crucial distinctions need to be made in the public discussion over stem cell research.

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State laws in Washington and Oregon have changed state prohibitions against homicide and assisted suicide to allow doctors to provide lethal drug overdoses or injections to terminally ill patients. Supporters of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide argue that people in the last stages of terminal illness should have the right to choose when they will die and to do so on their own terms. But killing, no matter what its motives, is never a private matter; it always impacts other people and has much wider implications. As Catholics, we believe that all life is precious, and God, as life’s Author, has sovereignty over it.

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Colorado bishops respond to Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Wood Case:

Today, the United States Supreme Court issued a historic religious liberty decision in the case involving two family-owned businesses – Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties. The case involved two for-profit companies that sued the government to protect their right to operate their companies according to their religious beliefs, specifically, to not have to provide abortion-inducing drugs and services through their employee insurance programs.  In its 5-4 ruling the Court affirmed what the Green Family (Hobby Lobby) and the Hahn Family (Conestoga Wood) have believed all along – that people do not give up their religious freedom when they open a business. Businesses all across the United States express and act on moral views and the Court acknowledged in its majority decision that there is no reason to deny that same freedom to companies whose moral convictions are based on religion.

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January 2009

As the Catholic bishops of Colorado, and consistent with Christian respect for the sanctity of human life, we oppose the use of capital punishment in our state.  We believe that all people have a natural right to life, because every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, who alone is Lord of life from its beginning until its end (cf. Genesis 1: 26-28).

Obviously, behavior that threatens or takes lives cannot be tolerated. Those whose actions harm others must be held accountable. Society has a right to establish laws that protect all people and promote the common good. But the need to punish violent criminals does not logically lead, in our day, to the conclusion that capital punishment should be employed.

We grieve for the victims of murder and the terrible suffering of their families. In capital murder cases, we recognize that grave punishment is needed both to serve justice and to ensure the safety of the community. But we also believe, as Pope John Pau II once observed, that improvements in the penal system of developed countries like our own make the death penalty unnecessary to protect the community.

The state of Colorado has other means available to it besides the death penalty to exact justice and render the criminal unable to do harm. We need to continue the reform of our criminal justice system, and we need to impose punishment in a way that protects society from violence while avoiding further killing under official guise.

All human life, from conception to natural death, including the life of a convicted murderer, has intrinsic value. For the sake of our own humanity, we need to turn away from a mistaken idea of justice based – -in practice- – on further and unneeded violence.

We admire the goals of this year’s effort to end abortion, and we remain committed to defending all human life from conception to natural death. As we have said from the start, however, we do not believe that this year’s Colorado Personhood Amendment is the best means to pursue an end to abortion in 2008.

Unfortunately, even if this year’s personhood amendment is passed in Colorado, lower federal courts interpreting this amendment will be required to apply the permissive 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. It is also likely that the Supreme Court, given its current composition, will either decline to review such a case, effectively killing the state amendment, or worse, actively reaffirm the mistaken jurisprudence of Roe. While the Church respects those promoting this personhood amendment, the Catholic Bishops of Colorado decline to support its passage because it does not provide a realistic opportunity for ending or even reducing abortions in Colorado.

Constructive alternatives to reduce abortions and advance the ultimate objective of ending abortion, however, do exist at the state level.

In the last two years, state level legislative strategies to protect life have included: increased penalties for attacks on pregnant women which result in the death of the unborn child; informed consent and ultrasound legislation which would have required a woman to be notified of her right to receive an ultrasound before an abortion was performed; and a complete abortion ban. The Colorado Catholic Conference actively supported each one of these legislative initiatives and will continue to support these types of initiatives in the future.

The Catholic Church in Colorado has a long and active history of working, through state legislative efforts and other community initiatives, to protect life from conception to natural death. We will continue through every realistic means to work toward this end.

Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Denver

Most Reverend Arthur N. Tafoya, D.D.
Bishop of Pueblo

Most Reverend Michael J. Sheridan,
Bishop of Colorado Springs