TRANSCRIPT: Hour of mercy

Text of Archbishop Aquila's words on steps of Colorado's state capitol

I want to extend my deep gratitude to all of you, too all people of good will in the state of Colorado. Little did I know what impact my letter would have on the people of Colorado. Very few were aware of Senate Bill 175 last Friday.

Click here to read Archbishop Aquila’s “Open letter to Coloradans of good will” 

Click here to read Archbishop Aquila’s “Carta abierta a los católicos del norte de Colorado”

I want to extend my deep gratitude to my Orthodox brother [Father Ambrose Omayas, assistant administrator of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver] who is here, and to all have you who have shown up today to express our concerns with SB 175.

It is important for all of you to give witness, to call your state legislators, both in the senate and in the house, to protest this bill.

Let me clear the air. There have been accusations that some of my comments asserting Senate Bill 175 have not been true. Primarily, it was deemed false that this bill would eliminate regulations on abortion clinics. The fact is that there is nothing in the bill, and for those of you who have read the bill, you are aware of this, that says that this law won’t impact current regulations already in place.

If the intent of the bill is not to change current law, then it should state that explicitly in its language. The main concern that many have about this bill is that is both extreme and dangerously ambiguous. Contrary to what some reports may have tried to pass off as factual, this legislation does indeed open the door to challenge existing regulations, particularly through the court system. Anyone who claims that this law will have no material affect is either naïve or disingenuous.

During this Senate committee testimony this past Thursday on this bill, lawyers and legal experts were split whether it would impact existing laws. What was most telling was to hear the drafter of the bill say that he did not know with 100% certainty that Senate Bill 175 wouldn’t impact current policies.

Click here for raw AUDIO of the Archbishop’s comments

He told one reporter that he was ‘pretty sure’ but pretty sure does not work! [Applause] This is another case of let’s pass it and then see what happens. And that cannot happen in our state. [Applause]

Even more troubling is that this bill would make enacting laws such as those concerning ultrasounds requirements extraordinarily difficult if not impossible. Coloradans are not against common sense regulations on abortions, and they should have the opportunity to be able to debate and pass those regulations rather than using stealth methods that are being used today on this bill. [Applause]

I encourage you to first to continue to pray: pray that the truth will triumph. Pray that the conversion of the hearts of those who are closed to hearing the truth may be open. Pray that the spirit of truth may enter into the halls of this building. And that the spirit of truth will triumph.

All people of good will should desire the truth. If you do not desire the truth, then that means you are leaving everything up to human beings.

It is important too that each of you participate in the political system because you have made an impact. Some of the senators have said they have shut off their phones, some of them said they have never been contacted by so many. [Applause] And you can make a difference. Too many times we have taken a backseat, and Catholics, Christians, and people of good will can no longer take a back seat! [Applause]

We are called to work for the good and for the true. As your archbishop and as a fellow Christian and believer, I can only give you encouragement. But you the laity are the ones who are responsible for getting out to vote, for giving witness and for being the leaven in society.

I stand with you in prayer. But many people who have been calling have said: we do not even know who are senator is, or who our house of representative is. I guess it is important that we should vote. And yes it is! We are called, all of us, to be involved in the political process. And so I give you encouragement to go forward and to enter into the chambers themselves and listen to the debate.

Continue to contact your senators and your representatives and the governor. And most of all, participate in the political system and be sure to vote, and always vote your conscience. Not the ideology of either political party. This is not a party matter. [Applause] It is a matter of truth and of common sense.

And so it is important that we all continue to give witness. I thank you again for all of you have shown up, please continue to pray and pray especially for the defeat of SB 175. Thank you. [Applause]

Let us pray, Lord our God, we come before you trusting in your mercy and in your love. We beg you to pour forth the gift of your Spirit upon all of us gathered here. Fill this building with your Holy Spirit and move the minds and the heart and the consciences, even those that are hardened, that they may come to know your truth, and come to know you. We pray oh Lord for a deeper respect for the gift of life. We pray for honesty, integrity and character in seeking the common good for all peoples. Guide all of us who are present here and we pray all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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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: https://www.cocatholicconference.org/2021-legislative-bills-analysis/  

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.