January 13, 2006

Be Our Guest

Death penalty and immigration are key legislative issues

By Glenn Tebbe

For almost 40 years, the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) has offered a moral and social justice perspective regarding state legislative issues.

Again this year, the ICC looks forward to working within the legislative process by providing a readily accessible source regarding the position of the Church on matters affecting the common good. The Church examines all issues in the light of her principles on social doctrine and the Gospel. While the Church is realistic in its approach to addressing issues, taking into consideration the political realities and likelihood of success, there are times when the issues are of such importance that the Church must speak with a prophetic voice, in spite of political realities. Two such issues are priorities for 2006 in the Indiana General Assembly.

The first is the use of capital punishment in Indiana. During 2005, five individuals were executed by the state. This is approximately half as many as were executed from 1977 to 2004. Another person is scheduled to be executed on Jan. 27 and more await an execution date. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently noted in its statement, “A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death,” “the sanction of death, when it is not necessary to protect society, violates respect for human life and dignity.”

We urge Indiana legislators to reconsider the death penalty law and its effect upon society. Jesus showed us that the only true way to justice is through mercy and reconciliation, not violence.

Immigrant concerns within our state also continue to be a concern of the Indiana bishops. While the Church does not advocate undocumented immigration into the United States, it affirms the human dignity of the undocumented who live within our midst and makes every effort to ensure that their basic human needs are met and that their human rights are respected. Although immigration policy is a national issue, there are state policies that can facilitate or restrict one’s ability to provide for one’s family.

Of specific concern this session is the problem of obtaining a driver’s license. In Indiana, driving is critical to support one’s family. Getting to work, obtaining groceries and taking care of the ordinary needs of one’s family require driving a vehicle. Allowing immigrants to obtain driving privileges not only benefits immigrants, it is a matter of safety for all Hoosiers.

Neither issue is popular or likely to be addressed. However, the Church’s moral position is not based on popular opinion. The issues it addresses are not only those in which it is likely to be persuasive. The Church’s role in society as noted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church is to “bear witness to man, in the name of Christ, to his dignity and his vocation to the communion of persons. She teaches him the demands of justice and peace in conformity with divine wisdom” (#2419).

The ICC shares in this responsibility, and looks forward to examining other issues with these same criteria throughout the 2006 session of the General Assembly.

(Glenn Tebbe is executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference.)


Local site Links: