An authentic Catholic view of public policy does not pit “pro-Life/pro-marriage” Catholics
against “social justice” Catholics. We are BOTH. In public policy, we make distinctions and
recognize that some issues are a priority because they lay the foundation for all others.
These issues are the protection of human life, religious liberty and the crucial importance
of marriage between one man and one woman as the cornerstone of the family, the “domestic church.”
Protecting Human Life
It is the unchanging, and unchangeable teaching of the Catholic Church that human life is intrinsically valuable and should be protected from conception to natural death. The issues of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and physician-assisted suicide have a special claim on the consciences of faithful Catholics. It is the solemn obligation of all Catholics to work for the day when the most vulnerable among us enjoy the full and equal protection of the law, and the loving care of society.
Religious freedom is our “First Freedom,” the most cherished guarantee in the Bill of Rights. The understanding of religious liberty that has been the hallmark of American political culture for two centuries is now at risk, however. There are those who would define down our First Amendment right of “free exercise” of religion to mean nothing more than the ability to worship in private. This is a dangerous and unconstitutional development. The newly elected Governor of Kansas has taken aim at the Adoption Protection Act. This is a frontal assault on Religious Liberty in Kansas and must be opposed.
Pope John Paul II described the family as the fundamental unit of society, and at the heart of the family is the indispensable institution of marriage. For all of human history and across all cultures, the defining characteristic of marriage has been the union of man and woman, as is our design. Every child deserves a mother and a father, and this should be the aspiration of society. Out of its ancient recognition of the unique importance of the family, the Catholic Church stands in strong support of efforts to ensure its preservation.
Flowing from our priority issues we take on other important points of policy for our Church and society, further pursuing our call to serve as Catholics.
It is a tragedy that through no fault of their own or their families, so many of our children are not provided the tools they need to succeed in life. Where children are educated so often decides the matter of if they are educated. It is fundamentally unfair to deny parents choice with respect to their children’s education. The Catholic Church supports the freedom of parents to choose a school for their children with a safe, productive learning environment, and rejects the notion that a parent’s address and income level should determine a child’s educational opportunities.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” These words, engraved inside the Statue of Liberty, speak to the unique character of our country as a nation of immigrants. Catholics derive their special concern for the immigrant from the many biblical accounts of immigration, from Abraham to Jacob, to the Israelites’ passage into and out of Egypt, to the flight of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph themselves out of their homeland. The Catholic Church supports reform of our immigration system that is merciful, charitable, and compassionate to those here simply working for a better life, while also recognizing the legitimate responsibility of the federal government to maintain control of our nation’s borders and security.
For decades, the Catholic Church has supported reform of America’s health care system and has promoted the idea that all people should have access to medical care. What policies would best serve that end has been a matter of considerable debate, a debate that continues in the context of the health care reform bill recently approved by Congress. What is not open for debate amongst faithful Catholics, however, is the fact that abortion is not health care and that no American should be forced to pay for another person’s abortion. The new health care reform law fails that test. In the coming days, Catholics must work to ensure that the new law’s provisions in favor of federal financing of abortion are reversed, and that the conscience rights of medical personnel to decline involvement in procedures they find immoral be respected. True health care reform is in service of the goal of expanding health care opportunities for all, in particular the poor.
For 2000 years, the Catholic Church has manifested a special concern for the poor and the vulnerable. This is a central tenet of our faith. The Church is a provider and supporter of services that help those among us most in need of assistance. In these difficult economic times, those with little, and those unable to help themselves, are in particular need of society’s compassion.