Expect the unexpected

By Jenny Kraska

Expecting the unexpected is usually the best course of action to take when approaching a new legislative session. While there are plenty of expected pieces of legislation there are always other issues that pop up seemingly out of nowhere.  A new legislative session, much like the start of a new year, holds great possibilities and gives us the chance to begin with a clean slate and resolve to do more.

 

One of the most critical issues we will face during this new legislative session is physician assisted suicide. The first day of the session – January 13th – saw the introduction of two physician suicide bills: House Bill 1054 and Senate Bill 25. The dangers of this type of legislation cannot be underestimated. We have seen the devastating effects of this policy in States like Washington and Oregon that have routinely told terminally ill patients on their state-sponsored health systems that the program will no longer pay for prescription drugs or treatments that might be providing a good prolonged quality of life but will instead only pay for the more cost-effective option of a dose of lethal pills.

 

If we want to see the slippery slope of this policy in action look no further than Belgium which began the practice of physician assisted suicide over 30 years ago and has gone so far as to recently legalize the ability for children and dementia patients to be euthanized. Even more recently a lawsuit was filed against a Catholic Belgian nursing home for refusing to allow the family of one of its patients to kill (via euthanasia) the patient in their facility; now the courts of Belgium will be left to determine whether Church-run institutions have the right to refuse to be involved in euthanasia or be stripped of public funding.

 

There will be other very important issues that will arise during this legislative session and the Colorado Catholic Conference will keep you informed about all of these issues via our action alerts that you can sign-up to receive by visiting our website (www.cocatholicconference.org) and clicking on the button that says “Sign Up To Legislative Network”. But it is imperative that we act swiftly and with conviction to oppose physician assisted suicide. Please contact your representative and senator and express to them your opposition to physician assisted suicide in Colorado. Also consider attending a town hall meeting hosted by your elected officials; most officials will list any upcoming town hall meeting on their website. If you need help finding or accessing this information or have questions please don’t hesitate to contact our office.

 

The start of 2016 also marks the “official” start of a presidential election year which is sure to have an effect on politics here in Colorado. An election year is a time of great opportunity. It is an opportunity for all of us as Catholics and citizens to take our faith seriously and allow our voice and values to influence the public square. The unfortunate reality in society today is that too many people retreat from their responsibilities as is relates to participation in the public square. We have all heard the excuses “my vote doesn’t really matter”, “politics are too unsavory” or “there are no politicians that embody all the view that I do”. While at times these excuses can seem well founded; all the excuses in the world cannot absolve us from our duties to participate in the public square.  There will be many opportunities to participate this year- from getting registered to vote, participating in the caucus, voting in the primary and finally voting in the general election. Please don’t forgot to remind your friends and family to do the same; together with one voice we can make a difference and we must not get discouraged or lose hope; as Padre Pio was fond of saying “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry”.

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash