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October 9, 2003 Edition

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To refuse to take part in committing an injustice is not only a moral duty;
it is also a basic human right.

The Gospel of Life
, Pope John Paul II

Conscience: Protecting rights of health care workers

The dictionary defines "conscience" as the "sense of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct, intentions, or character together with the feeling or obligation to do right or be good."

Many of us consider our conscience that "little voice" inside our heads. It tells us what we should and should not do. It often keeps at us until we do the right thing.

For Catholics and people of other religious faiths, our conscience is formed by the teachings of our faith. We rely on our conscience to help us make decisions on how to act in our daily lives.

Exercising freedom. In free societies such as ours in the United States, we usually have the right to exercise freedom of conscience - as long as it does not interfere with another person's rights or harm another person.

The laws of our country also set up a standard of conduct. In most cases, our conscience would agree with those laws. And so would our faith traditions. For example, America outlaws stealing; there are penalties for thiefs. Most of us agree that stealing is wrong. The Ten Commandments concur: "Thou shalt not steal."

Conscientious objection. But what happens when citizens of the United States do not agree in conscience with a law or policy enacted by our government? Provisions have been made for conscientious objection to some laws, including those being drafted in wars. There are other laws which could go against our consciences, such as those legalizing abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and scientific research in some states.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says Catholics have the right to object to such laws: "If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience." (par. 1903)

Health care workers. In Wisconsin, the state legislature has passed laws protecting the conscience rights of health care workers to refuse to take part in some procedures. But there is a need to expand this protection to health care professionals and facilities in the areas of abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia, and unethical medical experimentation.

Assembly Bill 67 provides that protection. It passed the Assembly on a vote of 63-30 in May of this year. The bill is receiving a hearing on Oct. 7 before the Senate Health, Children, Families, Aging and Long-Term Care Committee.

The Wisconsin Catholic Conference and Wisconsin Right to Life are among supporters of expanding the conscience protection laws. They urge voters to contact their state senators to support this legislation.

As our Holy Father has said, "to refuse to take part in committing an injustice is not only a moral duty; it is also a basic human right." Health care workers in our state have the right to refuse to participate in medical procedures that go against their conscience. Let's protect that right.

Mary C. Uhler, editor

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Immigrants should follow the law
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We reserve the right to edit or reject letters. Limit letters to 200 words or less. All letters must be signed. Please include your city or town of residence.

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P.O. Box 44985
Madison, WI 53744-4985

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E-mail: info@madisoncatholicherald.org

To the editor:

The Sept. 25 commentary by Fr. Bart Timmerman leads me to ask some questions. Father Timmerman states that "a person who illegally immigrates to the United States is a person who happens to not have documentation." And just how is it that they don't have documentation? Is it not their fault they lack documentation because they broke the law?

What message does Father Timmerman send to those legal immigrants who followed the law? Were they foolish for going through the system as prescribed by law, instead of taking an illegal shortcut to be in this country?

The answer to the Mexican situation is to help them fix things in their own country. Isn't that why we have missionaries? To educate people so they can better themselves both in this world and in the next.

History shows that Mexicans voted to leave the same corrupt political party in power for 70 years. Do they not bear some responsibility for failure to vote out those who failed to properly manage their country? Mexico is a nation where the oil production is nationalized. The wealth is there, yet corruption keeps the people poor.

In post Sept. 11 United States, we can no longer not control our borders. The risk is too great. Yes, worker permits should be available for those who wish to temporarily work in the U.S. but have no interest in becoming citizens. That would cover the situation for most current illegals.

And yes, Father Timmerman, we're all the descendants of immigrants. Most of us descended from people who entered this country respecting its laws and became part of the great melting pot. That's the way immigration worked then. That's the way it should work today.

David Gneiser, Berlin

Mary was not an unwed mother

To the editor:

Given the sustained quality of your Catholic Herald editorials, it is disconcerting to read the Sept. 4 editorial repeat the current secular disinformation that Mary was an "unwed mother." If such a claim be true, then do we not have to admit a maiden can imitate Mary by herself becoming an unwed mother?

However, the scripture account is clearly otherwise. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 is direct evidence of how one reads the gospel account of betrothal, for the Deuteronomy text calls the betrothed a wife. The gospels refer clearly to the two events in Jewish culture of betrothals to Joseph (Lk. 1:38) and the receiving Mary into his home as wife (Mt. 1:24). In the interim, Joseph considered divorce. How does one possibly divorce an unwed mother?

Can Mary "sympathize with women in (unplanned pregnancy)" - a term which nurtures our abortion culture? Surely, but in a sympathy stemming from her fiat (Th. 1:38). To imply in any manner Mary experienced an unplanned pregnancy is to totally distort the significance of her fiat in the Incarnation of Jesus.

Marriage cannot be a sacrament in the Church, as instituted by Christ, unless Mary's motherhood belongs to that institution by her son. If Mary, at Gabriel's greeting, was unwed, then Gabriel would have had to say, "Hail unwed mother, full of grace." And we today, to put the prayer in its historical context, would have to do the same.

As you rightly add, "The Hail Mary is a perfect prayer for women and their unborn babies," but not as if Mary was herself an "unwed mother" to make it so.

Fr. Robert Buholzer, Stoughton

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