PO BOX 5079 (51102)
SIOUX CITY, IA (51105)


Thoughts on life issues and faith education

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,


Last week, I repeated the Church’s teachings about the five “non-negotiable” life and family issues. These issues are the most fundamental ones currently at stake in our politics; they profoundly impact for good or ill the rights and dignity of every human person. This past Sunday (September 7), Senator Joseph Biden, a Catholic and the Democratic Party’s nominee for Vice-President, again on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” was asked when human life begins. His answer was more complicated than Senator Pelosi’s two weeks before, but he still did not “hold and teach” accurately what the Church teaches.

Mr. Biden made three points in his answer. First, he claimed to accept the Church’s teaching that life begins at conception. Second, he also claimed that this teaching is a matter of faith only, not a matter of reason, and that therefore he could not “impose” this teaching on others by legislating against the “right to choose” to deprive an innocent person of their life. Third, he echoed Mrs. Pelosi’s previous answer in claiming that debate about when human life begins has existed and continues to exist in the Church, and influences the Church’s teaching on abortion.

I can make no assumptions or claims about the state of Mr. Biden’s faith (his first point); to the extent that he does truly believe what the Church believes and teaches, and acts on it, I applaud him for keeping his faith in his political career. Many of my brother bishops and I have soundly refuted the idea that there is any ambiguity in the Church’s teaching on when life begins, or on the evil of abortion (his third point); there is no need to repeat again what was taught clearly enough last week. But his second point once again demands an answer. All too many Catholics, holding public office or voting as citizens, use this false argument to justify their cooperation with evil, or at least their silence in the face of evil. This is not new, but we must not allow it to stand. Christ did not choose to endure the agony of the Cross for this.

Personal opposition to evil cannot be reconciled with willing cooperation in its acts. “Let him avoid evil and do good.” (I Peter 3:11) Either abortion is an evil or not; either the unborn child is a human person or not. Both cannot be true. There is no room for the “tyranny of relativism” on this issue (or the other four non-negotiable issues). If one accepts, as faith has long revealed and as science can now also prove, that the unborn child is a human person, then one cannot deny to that human child the inherent rights of every human person, of which the right to life is the most fundamental of all. Therefore, to deny the morality of the act while accepting its legality is incoherent. The purpose of civil law is to defend the common good; the common good cannot be defended by legislating what is evil. To defend the legality of abortion, one must either deny – in the face of divine revelation, the consistent teaching of the Church, the natural law, and scientific evidence – that abortion is an evil, or admit to cooperating with the evil it represents. (See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1905-1910, 1915-1917, 2272-2273.)

Once again, I ask us all to know the truth that our Church teaches. Once we know the truth, we are to put it into practice.


As all of you know, we are blessed in our diocese to have many Catholic schools. I am proud of the solid foundation laid by my predecessors and those who supported them in establishing our Catholic schools. I applaud parents today who make the sacrifices necessary to provide Catholic school education available to their children and I thank our fine administrators, faculty and staff at all our school for their dedication and commitment to our Catholic educational values and goals.

This past week I had the pleasure of getting up at about 4:00 am two mornings in a row! (I am a morning person, but this, I admit is just a bit early!) I woke early so that I could travel, first to an 8:30 am school Mass and visit for Kuemper Catholic Schools in Carroll. The next day I drove to Pocahontas Catholic School for an 8:40 am school Mass and visit. I was very impressed with the students and faculty in both places. Good things are happening in our schools and I thank all those who make it possible.

In my visits with the students after Mass, I spoke to them about vocations, especially to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Seeds of possible church vocations are planted in our Catholic Schools. It is my fervent prayer that more and more young people listen and respond positively to God’s call to them and give their lives in service to the Lord and His Church. I need all of you to join me in this prayer.

By the way, I went to Pocahontas Catholic School because I was invited by a third grader last spring. She wrote, “It would mean a lot to me if you could come visit our school. I know the kids and the teachers would like that a lot. P.S. write back to me if you can.” I did and the visit followed. Thanks, Olivia, for the invitation!

The most popular question I received as I visited the classrooms was, “How old are you?” I gave them a math problem to help them learn the answer!


Friday night I joined Bishop Heelan High School and many of my fellow priests on the side lines of the Bishop Heelan football game. There is a tradition of priestly support to our football and other teams throughout the diocese. I was very impressed with our young men and their coaches. I prayed with them before the game and blessed them afterwards. I am glad they won or I might not be welcomed back at other games! Everywhere our Catholic students go and everything they do reflects our values and beliefs. May our young people continue to make us proud of them, win or lose and may they continue to be blessed with hope and joy and deep faith.

On Monday, September 8, 2008, I celebrated Mass for the Nativity of Mary with our homeschooled children and their families. It was a wonderful event and gave me the opportunity to celebrate Mass and meet many of our homeschooler children. The Church teaches that parents are the primary educators of their children in the ways of faith. This applies to all parents. Parents may choose to homeschool, send their children to public schools and religious education programs or send them to Catholic schools. In each case, no one has more influence on these young people than their parents. I strongly support parents who take an active role in their children’s faith education. It does make a difference. Let us all continue to pray for parents. Their responsibilities are enormous. They can easily become discouraged or take their role for granted. We need to do all we can to support and encourage them. Thank you parents for your example, your patience and your perseverance in passing on the faith to your children.


And so ends another week of politics, and for me, time with our young people and their educators and parents. The faith life in our diocese is alive and well. I look forward to the upcoming 40 days for Life Program to pray for an end to abortion. This begins in our diocese and many other cities across America on September 24. Please do all you can to participate in this program of prayer, fasting and vigil! Details may be found on our website:

I also look forward to two upcoming meetings for young men interested in learning more about priestly vocations. This program is called Project Andrew and will be held September 17 in Carroll and September 24 in Spencer. Again please continue to pray especially for priestly vocations. Encourage your sons, grandsons, brothers and friends to consider a vocation to priestly service. They may contact our Vocations office on the internet at “thinking of”

Enjoy these beautiful Iowa fall days. Thank you for reading this. May the Lord continue to bless you with peace, joy and hope. May God bless America as we remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. May peace become a reality in our lives.

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City

P.S. The Broncos won their first game!


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