Iowa Catholic Conference - Cardinal Turkson Visits Iowa; Legislative Update

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, visited central Iowa this week to be part of several events associated with the World Food Prize. At Drake University he discussed the “Vocation of the Business Leader” and noted that the economy should serve the human person, not the other way around.

The cardinal also met with members of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) board and served as the speaker for the official World Food Prize luncheon.

A common thread in his comments was a call for a meaningful dialogue between what I would call “Big Ag” and those who are concerned about the direction of agriculture. There was some discussion about the utility and safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Cardinal Turkson’s response was that biotechnology must be directed by proper ethical considerations based on the dignity of the human person.

At the World Food Prize luncheon, as reported by the Des Moines Register, the cardinal expressed support for biotechnology in feeding the world. He also called for the technology to be used with prudence with all stakeholders being included in the dialogue about its ethical use. On a policy note, Cardinal Turkson said that GMO products should be labeled to "guarantee producers’ and consumers’ rights to information.”

Check out our Facebook page for some pictures of his visit.


The Iowa Catholic Conference is working with our partners, Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education (Iowa ACE) and the Iowa Associate of Christian Schools, to educate the public about a proposal that offers true freedom of choice in education to all families.

Education Savings Accounts would allow parents not enrolling their child in a public district or charter school to receive a deposit of public funds into a government-authorized savings account to be used to cover some tuition costs. It was introduced in the Senate last year and we're working to get it introduced in the House next session. For a video explaining ESAs, go to

Iowa ACE just released the results from recent polling of Iowa voters done by the Friedman Foundation regarding choice in education. The main message I'm taking from the data is that Iowa voters like public and private schools and they like their educational choice for parents too!

Similar research has been conducted in about 20 other states. The unique thing about Iowa is that Iowans like their public schools to a greater degree than most other places. (Although a bare majority of Iowans would send their kids to private or charter schools or home-school rather than public schools if they could.)

Other findings:

  • 48 percent of Iowans support education savings accounts, which is significantly greater than the proportion opposed (38 percent).
  • The current school tuition organization program is supported by a 59 to 29 percent margin!
  • Only 7 percent of Iowa students attend our nonpublic schools, but 38 percent of Iowa parents would enroll their child in nonpublic schools if they could. 

You’ll be hearing more about this as we approach the Iowa legislative session.


Unfortunately Planned Parenthood has filed in Polk County District Court to try and block the Iowa Board of Medicine's new rule on chemical abortions. The rule would, in effect, prohibit “webcam” abortions by requiring a physician to be physically present while abortion drugs are being provided. The rule is set to become effective next month.

The ICC supports the rule. When abortions are taking place, the safety and informed consent of the women involved should be among our chief concerns. In every case, drugs that cause a chemical abortion have serious effects.

We’re waiting to see if the court will actually block the rule. 


Congress has concluded its work on legislation to fund the federal government and address the debt ceiling. The U.S. bishops released a statement welcoming the end of the shutdown. The bishops also were heartened that so many who had been out of work could return to their jobs.

“The shutdown has had a widespread impact on many people, especially the poor, who suffered for lack of basic services during the period,” said Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “With the government now open, beneficiaries of government services, particularly the elderly and children, can hope to resume a normal life with a safety net securely in place.”

The bishops will continue to advocate for a “circle of protection” around programs that serve the poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad. The bishops are still urging Congress to replace the mandatory across-the-board spending cuts (the “sequester”) with a responsible budget that provides adequate funding for anti-poverty programs. 

The bishops also remain deeply concerned regarding the Health and Human Services mandate that will force employers to provide health coverage that entails payment for abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilizations, even if doing so violates the employers’ deeply held religious or moral beliefs. Catholic ministries that provide health care, educational, and social services generally are not exempt from the mandate, and enforcement against them will begin January 1, 2014, putting at risk the poor and vulnerable served by those ministries.


The U.S. House and Senate have passed different versions of the Farm Bill, which has traditionally included crop supports, conservation measures and SNAP (food stamps). Congress has been preoccupied with other matters, but both chambers have now named members of the conference committee to hammer out a final version of the bill. Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Steve King are the members of the committee from Iowa. We have been concerned about the House’s large cuts to the food stamps program.


On Oct. 4, Pope Francis traveled to Assisi, the home of St. Francis, patron of those who promote ecology. The Holy Father celebrated Mass and offered a homily on St. Francis’ life and legacy.  On the environment, Pope Francis said:

“Saint Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to respect all that God has created and as he created it, without manipulating and destroying creation; rather to help it grow, to become more beautiful and more like what God created it to be. And above all, Saint Francis witnesses to respect for everyone, he testifies that each of us is called to protect our neighbor, that the human person is at the center of creation, at the place where God – our creator – willed that we should be. Not at the mercy of the idols we have created! [...] From this City of Peace, I repeat with all the strength and the meekness of love: Let us respect creation, let us not be instruments of destruction! […] We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Obtain for us God’s gift of harmony, peace and respect for creation!”

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Tom Chapman

Executive Director

Iowa Catholic Conference

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