The top 12 Colorado legislative issues that Catholics need to know about

Colorado Catholic Conference breaks down the 2021 legislative session

The 2021 Colorado legislative session is in full swing. There are many positive bills pertaining to the advancement of Catholic social teaching, but also many other bills potentially harmful to the Church also making their way through the General Assembly. Each legislative session, the Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC) works to ensure that Catholic values are being promoted and defended in the Capitol.  

The Conference is the united voice of the four Catholic bishops of Colorado in public policy. Its mission is to promote the common good consistent with Catholic Social Teaching in public policy and government relations.  

As of April 16, the Conference is working on the following top-12 bills that, if enacted, could significantly impact the lives of Catholics in Colorado. For a full list of the legislation the Conference is working on, please visit here: https://www.cocatholicconference.org/2021-legislative-bills-analysis/ 

For regular updates and other information, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network here. 

Five Bills the CCC is Supporting:   

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters 
HB 1101 requires counties to provide multilingual ballot access if either 2,000 adults or 2.5 percent of the adult population primarily speaks another language. Many Colorado counties have significant populations where English is not the native language. Those communities may not be as proficient with English language ballots. HB1101 does not permit noncitizens to vote; however, it does promote inclusivity for every member of Colorado’s voting community to effectively engage their civic duty. 

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status 
HB 1191 prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee or applicant based on that individual’s COVID-19 immunization status. The Colorado bishops affirm the utility of COVID-19 vaccinations to promote public health; however, the bishops have also stated that if anyone has a moral opposition to the vaccine, they should not be forced to violate their conscience.  

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families  
SB 027 allocates funding for nonprofit organizations that provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need. Helping low-income families obtain basic necessities for caring for their infants, especially during a pandemic, promotes Catholic teaching on caring for the poor and vulnerable. 

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing  
This bill specifies that verification of lawful presence of a noncitizen is not required of any applicant for any license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare. The CCC supports better pathways to citizenship for noncitizens, but it is equally important Coloradans give noncitizens the ability to work, which promotes human dignity and flourishing.   

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes 
SB 146 promotes restorative justice by establishing practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons upon their release. Developing an effective transition plan, particularly for inmates deemed eligible for special needs parole, is an important step to limit recidivation for individuals who may have difficulty integrating back into society.   

Six Bills the CCC Opposes:  

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination 
HB 1108 claims to ban discrimination based on “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression.” However, it actually discriminates against anyone with a different belief about human sexuality and forces them to conform to government-mandated beliefs. In addition, HB 1108:  

  • Compromises the safety and privacy of biological women (including minors) by allowing biological men who identify as women to enter into private spaces reserved for biological women, including bathrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms.  
  • Allows biological boys who identify as girls to compete in girls-only sports, taking away athletic opportunities for biological girls.  
  • Has a narrow religious exception to public accommodation, which may be interpreted to not apply to religious-affiliated institutions like Catholic schools or hospitals. 
  • Offers no protections for private individuals to practice their well-founded convictions on human sexuality in the public sphere. 

This is an especially damaging bill to freedoms of conscience, expression, and religion for all Coloradans.  

On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing for HB21-1108 after Senators adjourn from the Senate Chamber (likely around 10 a.m.). The committee hearing will be held in Room SCR 352 in the Capitol. You can testify in-person, remotely, or provide written testimony. We strongly suggest you testify in-person or remotely. To sign up to testify, click here. 

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage 
SB 016 expands the list of family planning services required to be covered by Colorado health insurance carriers. These “family planning services” and “family-planning-related services” are not clearly defined in the bill and could include abortions. SB 016 removes the requirement that services be provided by a certified family clinic and, even more concerning, it removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing these services to a minor. This means that if SB 016 is enacted, pregnant minors could potentially abort their child without parental consent at a “family planning” clinic that may not be certified with a licensed physician on staff. This is an especially harmful bill to sanctity of life and parental responsibility.   

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program 
SB 009 would create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives. The Catholic Church teaches that sex belongs only in marriage, and in marital sexual intercourse there is a symbolic bodily unity of man and wife. Therefore, in every form of contraception there is an effort to destroy the procreative potential of an act that God has given us as a unique sign of married love. This makes contraception outlined in SB 009 also a violation of the sanctity of life. 

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals 
SB 025 offers financial incentives for low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services and sterilization services. This bill violates the Catholic Church’s teaching on sanctity of life.  

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests 
SB 031 will make it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent. The CCC supports the right to peacefully protest but recognizes the responsibility of law enforcement to act to ensure public safety, particularly when protests turn violent.  

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest 
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. If enacted, women will be able to use public tax dollars for an abortion at any licensed facility for cases of rape and incest. Citizens who have a well-founded conviction against abortion should not have their tax dollars used to end the lives of innocent children. Additionally, SB 142 may require religiously affiliated licensed facilities to perform abortions contrary to their ethics.  

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period 
SB 193 would eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support. This violates sanctity of life. 

One Bill the CCC is in “Amend”: 

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act 
As written, SB 88 creates a new statutory cause of action that has serious constitutional and due process problems. For example, the bill would impose liability on private and public institutions for failing to comply with statutes that weren’t enacted at the time of the alleged misconduct. It also holds organizations liable even if they had no reason to believe that the abuser was a danger to children. Finally, the bill revives claims that are barred by the statute of limitations even though the Colorado Supreme Court and Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS) have said it is unconstitutional. Passing a bill with constitutional and due process problems will only delay opportunities for survivors to receive compensation and it will not promote true restorative justice. While the Catholic dioceses of Colorado work to ensure support for survivors of childhood sex abuse, they also believe this bill should be fair, reasonable, and constitutional. 

How You Can Help:  

If you are interested in personally advocating for or against any of these bills, you can: 

  1. Call and email your state representatives. 
  1. Testify before state legislative committee in-person, online, or by written testimony. 
  1. Become informed on the issues and legislation impacting your community and spread the word in your parishes and social circles.  

The Colorado Catholic Conference would like to help advise and train any individuals willing to testify in committee. Testimonials are an important part of the legislative process and allow lawmakers to understand the full impact of the legislation they are considering. If you are willing to share your story or concerns with any of the above12 bills or other legislation on our website, please contact us directly at CCC@cocatholicconference.org  

To stay up to date on Colorado legislative issues as they affect the Catholic Church, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE. 

COMING UP: Father and son, deacon and priest: Deacon dads and priest sons share special bond as both serve God’s people

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The bond between a father and son is one of God’s greatest designs; however, when father and son are both called to serve the Church as deacon and priest, that bond takes on a whole new meaning. Just ask these two dads and their sons, all of whom answered the call to serve the people of God at the altar.

Deacon Michael Magee serves at Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield, while his son Father Matthew Magee has worked as the priest secretary to Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila for the past several years and will soon be moved to a new assignment as parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Boulder. Deacon Darrell Nepil serves at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Denver, and his son, Father John Nepil, served at several parishes within the archdiocese before his current assignment as a professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.

However different their journeys may have been, all four have something in common; mainly, that far from seeing their vocations as a reward from God, they have received them as an uncommon gift of grace that has blessed their families and individual relationships with each other abundantly, knowing that God acts in different ways to help us all get to Heaven.

Interwoven journeys

Deacon Michael Magee was ordained in May 2009, at the end of Father Matt’s first year of seminary. Little did they know that God would use both of their callings to encourage each other along the journey.

Deacon Michael’s journey began when a man from his parish was ordained a deacon.

“I simply felt like God was calling me to do something more than I was doing at the present time,” he said. “I had been volunteering for a number of different things and was involved in some ministry activities and in the Knights of Columbus. And I thought the idea of being a deacon would be simply another activity for which I could volunteer.”

He didn’t know what it entailed at the time. In fact, he believed it was something a man could simply sign up for. To his surprise, the diaconate was more serious – and it required five years of formation and discernment. Yet he was so drawn to it, that he decided to do it anyway. But as he learned more about the nature of the diaconate during his formation, he became more nervous and unsure about whether God was really calling him to that vocation. 

While his doubts remained all the way up to his ordination, Deacon Michael was faithful to his studies, trusting that God would lead him in the right path. 

And God did — through the calling of his own son to the priesthood.

Deacon Michael didn’t realize that his son Matthew had paid close attention to his father’s faith journey and had found in it a light that gave him courage to discern the priesthood.

Father Matthew Magee (left) and his dad, Deacon Michael Magee (right), were both encouraging to one another as they each pursued their respective vocations. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)

“Seeing my dad, as a father, growing in his relationship with the Lord was really influential for me on my own desire to follow Christ,” said Father Matt. “Looking at his courage to discern his own vocation and follow God’s plan in his life gave me the strength and courage to be open to the same thing in my life… He played a very important role, whether he knew it or not at the time, and whether I knew it or not at the time.”

On the other hand, Father Matt didn’t know that his dad was in turn encouraged by his own response to God’s calling. 

“As I went through all those doubts, I watched Matthew’s journey in seminary and listened to how he was dealing with that in his life. And, as he just articulated very well, I also saw those same qualities in him,” Deacon Michael said. “Seeing a young man in his 20s willing to consider following God for the rest of his life also gave me the courage to continue on in my own journey, to see it through.”

God’s way of uplifting them in their vocations through each other’s journey is something they are very grateful for. 

This unusual grace impacted Father Matt during his first Mass, when his dad, as deacon, approached him before the Gospel reading and asked for the traditional blessing by calling him “father.”

“It was a really special moment for me. He’s certainly my biological father and raised me. But then there’s something different when we’re at the altar in a clerical capacity — there’s a strange reversal of roles when we’re giving spiritual nourishment to the people — a father asks the new father for the blessing,” he said.

In both of their vocations, Deacon Michael and Father Matt see God’s Providence and the unique plan he has for all of us.

“We all have a vocation, even if it’s something we may not expect,” Deacon Michael concluded. “You may feel anxiety or worry about what it’s going to look like, but trust in God. He will take care of things as he always does.”

A bribe for Heaven

For Deacon Darell and Father John Nepil, the journey was different, but not any less providential.

While he grew up Catholic, Father John wasn’t interested in setting foot on any Church activity during his teenage years. His saving grace was perhaps what many parents have to do to get their teenagers to Church: bribe them.

“His mom and I basically bribed him to go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference,” Deacon Darell said with a laugh. “He didn’t want to go, but we’d heard so many good things about it, that we said, ‘We’re going to make this happen, whatever it takes.’”

So the Nepils came up with a creative idea.

“He owed me some money for a uniform that he had needed for a job in the summer. So, I said, ‘Listen, if you go to the Steubenville of the Rockies Conference, I’ll forgive your debt. And he did, he and his brother went. And John especially came back a different boy. He literally was converted with a lightning bolt at that retreat.”

To this day, Father John marks his conversion to Christ from the summer before his senior year in high school when he attended that conference. 

As it happens with stories worth telling, the details of how much money he owed his father have varied over the years, and it’s a matter of debate among them, but Father John remembers it was close to $500.

“That’s subject to each one,” Father John said laughingly. “But what matters is that they offered to forgive my debt if I went to this retreat – it was money well spent.”

Besides this important event, Father John said that his dad influenced him in many ways by the simple fact of who he was as a father.

“My dad’s faith and moral character were a rock for me during some difficult teenage years,” he said. “He’s a great example of a man who was always faithful and lived a really outstanding moral life, but then as he deepened in love with Christ, he decided to give of himself in a more profound service.”

Father John Nepil (left) and Deacon Darrell Nepil (right) both had rather roundabout ways to their respective vocations, but they both say serving God’s people together as brothers in Holy Orders is a great joy. (Photo provided)

Besides his desire to serve and follow God, the seed that would eventually lead Deacon Darell to the diaconate was planted by a coworker, who would also take holy orders: Deacon Joe Donohoe.

“One day he said to me, ‘You should be a deacon.’ And, of course, I laughed at him and said, ‘I don’t have time for that. My life is too busy.’ But it only took him to suggest it for the idea to keep coming back to my head, and God kept nudging me. Eventually I decided I really wanted to do that,” Deacon Darell said.

The ability to share at the altar during the Mass has deepened the natural relationship of father and son and given Deacon Darell and Father John new opportunities to grow closer to God. 

One of the most meaningful times came when Deacon Darell had a massive stroke in 2018. While he was in the hospital, Father John was able to visit and celebrate Mass at his bed and pray the rosary with him every day, as he had come back from Rome and was working on his dissertation.

“It was probably the most privileged and intimate time I’ve ever had with my father,” Father John said. “It was an amazing gift that really changed our relationship.”

“I feel like that’s a huge reason why I healed and why I am here today,” Deacon Darell added.

“It’s a real gift to have my dad as a deacon and a brother. It’s a tremendous honor. It’s one of the great joys of my life.” Father John concluded. “That’s really what has bonded our relationship together: the sheer desire to serve Jesus, especially in holy orders.”