The Nevada Catholic Conference is the joint discussions of the Bishops of Reno and Las
Vegas in matters common to our dioceses.
Death Penalty Abolition
The Nevada Legislature is considering a bill (A.B. 237), which will abolish the death penalty
in the state and replace it with life in prison, without the possibility of parole. This is an opportunity
for Catholics to reflect on the Church’s teaching on this issue and to understand the position of the
Nevada Catholic Conference in support of ending the death penalty.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “the Church does not exclude recourse
to the death penalty” if this is the only possible, effective means of crime prevention. Today the
cases in which the death penalty is “absolutely necessary, ‘are very rare, if not practically nonexistent’’’ (CCC 2267).
Weighing heavily against the use of the death penalty is the dignity of human life, which Pope St. John Paul II said “must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society,” he said, “has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform.”
Such was the strength of his defense of human life that St. John Paul in 1999 called for a
global consensus to end the death penalty because “it is both cruel and unnecessary.” In 2011
Pope Benedict made a similar appeal. In his address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in
2015, Pope Francis also called for the global abolition of the death penalty, citing the Golden Rule,
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12) and our teaching that “every life is
sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity.”
There are other reasons that argue for the end to capital punishment. There have been
errors in sentencing. In fact, since 1973, over 150 inmates on death row in American prisons
have been exonerated. Two of them were in Nevada. Studies have shown that minorities are
more likely to be sentenced to death. The costs of prosecuting and administering death penalty
cases are higher than keeping someone in prison for life. Eighteen states and the District of
Columbia have abolished the use of the death penalty. Over 100 nations no longer have capital
For these reasons, we urge the Nevada legislators to review the facts about the use of
capital punishment and to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of
parole. We also urge Catholics to engage in civic dialogue with fellow Nevadans concerning this
issue and, in the particular, the bill before the state legislature.
Please go to the official website of the Nevada Legislature to register your support for A.B. 237.
Click on “Share Your Opinion With Your Legislators”, Select A.B. 237 from the “Select Bill” drop down, then go to the “Your View” line, and click on “For”.
You can also email or telephone your Assemblyman and Senator. On the website, you can click on
“Assembly” or “Senate”, which provide a listing which includes the office telephone number and
email. If you telephone, tell the person who answers that you want to register your support for A.B.
Joint Statement of Bishops Pepe’ and Calvo
Against Doctor Prescribed Suicide
As many of you are aware, there is a bill in the Nevada Legislature to make doctor prescribed suicide legal in Nevada. The bill is SB 261. It provides that a person over 18 years of age who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness with six months or less to live in the opinion of a doctor, may request that a doctor provide a prescription “that is designed to end the life of the patient.”
While the teaching of the Catholic Church against suicide is clear, there are other aspects of SB 261 that we, as Catholics, should also focus on. The very concept of doctor prescribed suicide is an assault on the dignity and worth of human life. The underlying message is that once a person is told that they have a short period of time to live, that person’s worth is diminished, and that if a person is unproductive, weak, and vulnerable, they lose their “value.” Such a concept certainly diminishes the person’s true humanity.
Sadly, it is easier and less expensive to end a life than to care for someone in the midst of suffering. If doctor prescribed suicide becomes “the new norm,” what comes next? Will monetary factors influence decisions on whether or not someone is given the opportunity to battle against a potentially terminal condition?
Physicians are the first to admit that they are notoriously poor in predicting life expectancy in terminal illnesses, and studies have confirmed this fact. It is very common for people with a terminal diagnosis to live much longer than six months – often years longer. Some are ultimately cured. Will it become permissible, and even routine, for health insurance companies to deny further treatment once a person has been given a diagnosis that they will die within six months? It is a fact that in states such as Oregon and California that enacted doctor prescribed suicide, insurance companies have denied payment for potentially lifesaving medical treatments, while offering to pay for assisted suicide instead.
What about our brothers and sisters with disabilities who need continued medical treatment in order to stay alive? Will these disabled persons be deemed to be ultimately “terminal”, and, if so, will government and insurance companies continue to pay for the treatments or equipment necessary to keep them alive, or will disabled persons be pressured to utilize the “assisted suicide option”? Will the elderly, instead of being encouraged to pass on their years of wisdom and love to friends and family, be coerced into taking a deadly prescription, so as not to be a “burden” to their families? In fact, the number one reason listed by patients in Oregon who request “assisted suicide” is not uncontrolled pain – it is being a “burden” to their families!
Another factor which should be considered if the State of Nevada legalizes doctor prescribed suicide, is the impact it may have on persons who are battling depression, suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury, or fighting suicidal tendencies. We believe the message which the enactment of SB 261 would send is that suicide is acceptable, if your life seems to be hopeless.
A basic principle of Catholic moral teaching is the value of all human life. Legalizing doctor prescribed suicide diminishes the value of life, and is an attack on all human dignity.
We urge you to use the information which is provided below to make sure that your legislators know that you value human life, and that you oppose legalizing doctor prescribed suicide.
Use the URL https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/79th2017/A/ to go to the official website of the Nevada Legislature. It will bring up “Share Your Opinion With Your Legislators”. Select SB 261 from the “Select Bill” drop down, and then go to the “Your View” line, and click on “Against”. This will register your opposition to Doctor Prescribed Suicide.