Our voices make a difference

Faithful citizens tip scales at Capitol

Dr. Tom Newman wheeled himself to the microphone before a committee of state lawmakers and a crowd at the Capitol, who were gathered to listen to heart-wrenching testimony of personal trials and passionate views on both sides of physician-assisted suicide.

The doctor, who said he is a cancer survivor and uses a wheelchair, testified at the Capitol for the first time in February. He told lawmakers the destructive legislation would confuse the meaning of “death with dignity,” especially for the disabled like his son, who died of ALS.

“This bill dignifies suicide because it redefines it,” he said Feb. 6. “The words ‘death with dignity’ is a ploy. It’s a political marketing tool … to sell to the public the comforting idea of physicians’ tacit approval of suicide given by lethal means.”

After 11 hours of testimony from the public, lawmakers defeated the bill.

It was a victory for life and example of the critical role parishioners like Newman, of Risen Christ Parish, play in the political process at the state Capitol, said Jenny Kraska, executive director for the Colorado Catholic Conference.

“It was unexpected,” Kraska said of the bill’s failure. “It gave me faith in the process that people’s voices do make a difference. It wasn’t necessarily any one particular thing that got it killed. It was really a combination of things, and a big part of that was people’s participation.”

Votes count and participation makes a difference, she said, like when parishioners helped to defeat an abortion-rights bill in May 2014.

“Ever since Senate Bill 175 (failed to pass), there seems to be more of a commitment from people to be involved in the process, even if it’s just making a phone call or sending an email,” Kraska said.

By email, phone or in person, parishioners who voiced their opinions made a difference in the legislative session that ended May 6, she said. However, many Catholic-supported bills failed to pass a divided legislature at the Capitol, where partisanship determined the fate of many pro-life initiatives.

Parishioners can also influence the legislature by taking their faith to the voting booth.

“Ultimately, we have no one to blame but ourselves if things happen that we don’t like,” Kraska said. “We hold the power to a certain extent to vote people in and out of office and hold them accountable for how they do vote.”

Bills defeated by the Democrat-controlled House included tax credits for private school education, free exercise of religion on college campuses, licensing requirements for abortion clinics, and protection for unborn life after a failed abortion.

Particularly disappointing was the defeat of Senate Bill 268, the fetal homicide bill that would have recognized unborn babies as victims of certain crimes, Kraska said.

The bill was drafted in response to the attack on Michelle Wilkins and the death of her 7-month-old unborn baby in Longmont.

It’s an issue that should have drawn bipartisan support, but was voted down—a “deeply disappointing” decision, she commented.

“The failure to enact a fetal homicide law in Colorado is a grave miscarriage of justice that leaves future unborn victims of crime unrecognized in Colorado law,” the Colorado bishops said in a statement after it was defeated 5-6 along party lines May 4. “It is our hope that legislators in Colorado will recognize their error in judgment and seek to rectify this inadequacy in Colorado law as soon as possible. In the meantime, let us continue to pray for all unborn victims of crime and their families.”

Kraska said she believes many of these bills will return for debate in the next session, but nothing will change at the Capitol unless parishioners make their voices heard.

“That’s what it’s going to take to change some of these things we don’t like to see as a Catholic community.”

Colorado Catholic Conference Scoreboard

House Bill 1194 Request funding for a program designed to expand access to long-acting reversible contraception, such as IUDs, for low-income women and teenagers.
CCC’s position: Opposed
History: Killed in Senate committee

House Bill 1135 Make physician-assisted suicide legal.
CCC’s position: Opposed
History: Killed in House committee

Senate Bill 45 Create income tax credits for private and home-school education.
CCC’s position: Supported
History: Killed in House committee

Senate Bill 77 Create a parents’ bill of rights related to the education, health care and mental health care of minors.
CCC’s position: Supported
History: Killed in House committee

Senate Bill 268 Enable homicide or assault charges on perpetrators of crimes against unborn children from conception until live birth.
CCC’s position: Supported
History: Killed in House committee

House Bill 1037 Ensure religious freedom for student groups at colleges.
CCC’s position: Supported
History: Killed in House committee

House Bill 1112 Require a physician to protect the life of an infant born alive after a failed abortion.
CCC’s position: Supported
History: Killed in House committee

House Bill 1128 Require that abortion clinics are licensed by the state government.
CCC’s position: Supported
History: Killed in House committee

House Bill 1162 Ban abortions based on the gender of the baby.
CCC’s position: Supported
History: Killed in House committee

House Bill 1171 Restrict a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion.
CCC’s position: Supported
History: Killed in House committee

 

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

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

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