Blind guides and the ‘Dirty 100’

When I visited the Little Sisters of the Poor last month, I saw elderly men and women being treated with compassion, respect and charity by the sisters who run Mullen Home for the Aged in Denver.

I learned this week that not everyone respects the sisters when I saw that the National Organization for Women named them to its “Dirty 100” list. In their estimation, these Catholic sisters, who give their lives to God and selflessly serve poor elderly people who cannot afford the care they need, have crossed a line.

What did the sisters do to earn that label? They are refusing to go along with the Obama administration’s contraception mandate and filed a lawsuit to obtain relief from the fines that they face for not complying. In other words, they exercised their freedom to live out their faith, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

In its June 30 decision about the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties cases, the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged that for-profit business owners do not forfeit their right to religious freedom when they enter the market place. In the meantime, there are dozens of nonprofits that are seeking similar recognition, including the Little Sisters of the Poor.

But NOW is so focused on promoting the mandate that it is blind to the good done by people of faith. Instead, it is ready to smear the good name of the sisters, several Catholic hospitals, universities, homeless shelters, dioceses and the numerous other companies named to the “Dirty 100.”

It does not matter to them that people voluntarily apply to work for Hobby Lobby, the Little Sisters of the Poor, Priests for Life or the rest of the 100 organizations they list. Nor does it seem to matter that these same applicants know they are asking to work at a place run by people of faith.

The tunnel vision of NOW and its supporters leads them to say that people who hold these beliefs should be shunned. They must not be tolerated; they are “dirty.”

The root of the problem lies in their misunderstanding of what freedom is. True freedom is the ability to do what is good (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1733). But these activists, like many Americans, think freedom means the ability to do what one wants.

These two ideas about what freedom is inform our society’s perception of “rights.” The first definition of freedom leads to a concrete set of rights that require the pursuit of the good. But the second definition means anything can be a right, including birth control, assisted suicide, same-sex unions, abortifacients and the list goes on.

This misunderstanding of freedom has brought our culture to the point where the Obama administration, NOW, Planned Parenthood and others argue that contraceptives and sterilization somehow trump religious freedom. Their end goal is not the freedom to do what is good, but the ability to choose, regardless of the morality of that choice.

Here in Colorado, opposition to the Hobby Lobby ruling is being led by one of our state’s two senators, Mark Udall. He has joined with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to co-sponsor a bill in the U.S. Senate to ban employers from refusing to provide any health care coverage that is guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act, including contraception, abortifacients and sterilization.

Sen. Udall is being supported in his effort by Planned Parenthood Action, NARAL and the National Women’s Law Center.

The health care system in our country and our society at large would not be what it is today without the contributions of people who were able to act upon their faith. Religious freedom has allowed people concerned with pursuing the common good—that which is true, good and beautiful—to enrich society with their desire to serve God in their fellow man.

Without a true understanding of freedom and the need to protect it, American society is being formed by people seeking momentary pleasures or conveniences like contraception without weighing their true cost. Pope Francis warned in “Evangelii Gaudium” (53) about the “culture of exclusion” that this approach to life creates, in which self-satisfaction trumps concern for the other or any consideration of what is good for society.

When a desire for what is truly good guides our decisions, we are able to recognize the beautiful contributions of people like the Little Sisters of the Poor, instead of calling them “dirty.” I urge all of the faithful of northern Colorado to show your support for the sisters and other organizations that have stood up to the administration’s mandate. I also ask you to contact Senator Udall and urge him to withdraw his bill.

May God bless you in your efforts to find true freedom in your lives by escaping the slavery of sin and pursuing the holiness God calls you to!

For information on how to contact Colorado Senator Mark Udall, as well at Senator Michael Bennet, click here.

COMING UP: Colorado Catholic Conference 2021 Legislative Recap

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On June 8, the First Regular Session of the 73rd General Assembly adjourned. Over 600 bills were introduced this session. Policy primarily focused on transportation, agriculture, healthcare, fiscal policy, and the state budget. However, the legislature also considered and passed many bills that could impact the Catholic Church in Colorado.  

Some bills that were passed will uphold Catholic social teaching and protect the poor and vulnerable of our society while others pose potentially harmful consequences to the Catholic Church, its affiliated organizations, and Colorado citizens who wish to practice their well-founded convictions. There were also many bills that were considered by the legislature that did not pass, including two bills that would have upheld the sanctity of life and two that would have expanded education opportunity for K-12 students.  

The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), as the united voice of the four Colorado bishops, advocated for Catholic values at the Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was heard in the shaping of policy.  

Below is a recap of the CCC’s 19 priority bills from the 2021 legislative session. For a full list of the legislation the Conference worked on, please visit:  

For regular updates and other information, please sign-up for the CCC legislative network here.  

Six bills the CCC supported that were either passed or enacted

Note: Passed means the bill was approved by both chambers of the legislature and is pending the governor’s signature as of June 9, 2021. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.  

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters – Passed  
If enacted, counties where either 2,000 adults or 2.5% of the adult population primarily speak a language other than English will be required to provide a ballot in that language. 

HB 21-1075 Replace The Term Illegal Alien – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1075, the term “illegal alien” was replaced with the term “worker without authorization” as it relates to public contracts for services.  

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families – Passed  
If enacted, the state government will allocate much-needed funding for nonprofit organizations to provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need, including Catholic Charities.  

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing – Enacted    
With the enactment of SB 77, verification of lawful presence will no longer be required for any applicant for a license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare.  

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes – Passed  
If enacted, SB 146 will establish practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons.  

SB 21-158 Increase Medical Providers for Senior Citizens – Passed  
If enacted, SB 158 will allocate more funding for senior citizen care, which is currently understaffed and underfunded.  

Eight bills the CCC opposed that were passed 

HB 21-1072 Equal Access Services For Out-of-home Placements – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1072, Colorado law now prohibits organizations that receive state funding for placing children with adoptive or foster parents from discriminating on, among other things, the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or marital status. This new law will likely to be impacted by the imminent Fulton v. City of Philadelphia U.S. Supreme Court decision. 

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1108, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” are now recognized as protected classes in Colorado nondiscrimination code. This may have serious religious liberty implications for individuals and organizations that wish to practice their well-founded convictions on marriage and human sexuality. 

SB21-006 Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil – Enacted 
With the enactment of SB 006, human remains can now be converted to soil using a container that accelerates the process of biological decomposition, also known as “natural reduction.” 

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program – Passed 
If enacted, SB 009 will create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives.  

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage – Passed 
If enacted, the definition of “family planning services” and “family planning-related services” will not be clearly defined in law and could potentially include abortion. Furthermore, SB 16 removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing family planning services to a minor.  

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals– Passed 
If enacted, SB 025 low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services and sterilization services.  

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest– Enacted  
The enactment of SB 142 removes the requirement that, if public funds are being used, a physician must perform an abortion at a hospital, and instead allows for abortions to be performed by any “licensed provider.”   

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period– Passed 
If enacted, SB 193 will eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support.  

Five bills the CCC supported that failed  

HB21-1017 Protect Human Life at Conception – Failed 
HB 1017 would have prohibited terminating the life of an unborn child and made it a violation a class 1 felony.  

HB 21-1080 Nonpublic Education and COVID-19 Relief Act – Failed 
HB 1080 would have established a private school and home-based education income tax credit for families who either enroll their child in private school or educate their child at home, thereby expanding education opportunities for families during and after the pandemic.  

HB 21-1183 Induced Termination of Pregnancy State Registrar – Failed 
HB 1183 would have required health-care providers that perform abortions to report specified information concerning the women who obtain the procedure to the state registrar of vital statistics, thereby increasing transparency in the abortion industry.   

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status– Failed  
HB 1191 would have prevented individuals from being coerced to take the COVID-19 vaccine by either the state or by employers.  

HB 21-1210 Modifications to Qualified State Tuition Programs – Failed 
HB 1210 would have allowed families to use some of their private 529 savings account funds for private K-12 school tuition for their children, including at Catholic schools.   

One bill the CCC opposed that failed 

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests– Failed 
SB 031 would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent.  

Two bills the CCC was in an “Amend” position that passed  

SB 21-073 Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault – Enacted  
With the enactment of SB 073, the statute of limitations on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct will be removed as of January 1, 2022. Under this law, victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil cause of action if the statute of limitations has not expired, the abuse happened in Colorado, and the abuse could be considered a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor if it was a criminal case. 

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act– Passed  
If enacted, SB 88 will allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue public and private institutions for abuse that occurred between 1960-2022. Victims would have three years to bring a historical claim, starting from January 1, 2022. Claims brought during this window would be capped at $387,000 for public institutions and at $500,000 for private institutions, with the ability of a judge to double the damages depending on how the private institution handled the situation. Despite unanswered constitutional concerns regarding SB 88, the Colorado Catholic dioceses will also continue to offer opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to receive support in a non-litigious setting.   

While the legislature has adjourned the 2021 legislative session, there is still the possibility that they will reconvene later this year. To stay up-to-date on Colorado legislative issues and their impact on the Catholic Church in Colorado, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE.