Over fifty years ago the Archbishop of Detroit, then Cardinal John Dearden, expressed the desire for a way all three branches of government could hear from a unified Catholic voice. He believed the Catholic Church had an important perspective to share on the issues of the time that could benefit the common good, especially regarding educational justice, civil rights, and the treatment of migrant workers. Now, in 2015, Michigan Catholic Conference continues to live out his vision as a voice for the Church in the public realm, providing statewide advocacy for the common good of all people.
At the start of every legislative session, the Board of Directors of Michigan Catholic Conference issues advocacy principles to guide staff during the two year period. In 2015–2016, the board has identified religious liberty, economic justice and regulatory policies, human life and dignity, education, children and families, health care, restorative justice, immigration and select federal issues as key issue areas that require the Church’s advocacy. Together, these issue areas demonstrate the dedication of the Church to defend justice and human dignity at every step of an individual’s life.
The teachings of the Catholic faith promote a sense of solidarity, a sense that all individuals are connected as part of the human family and deserve respect, and it is relevant to the larger conversation about current issues. The Catechism of the Catholic Church specifically states that “love of neighbor is inseparable from love for God,” and calls us to engage in society (1878). Because of the importance of solidarity, Catholics and the Church are called to share their morals and experiences in public.
The opportunity for Catholics, and those of all faiths, to freely exercise their religious beliefs is a vital right enjoyed by Americans. The protection of religious liberty has allowed people and institutions of faith to make long lasting contributions to the community. During the 2015–2016 session, staff will work to protect religious liberty from government interference and ensure the works of Catholic agencies, such as hospitals, schools, and Catholic Charities, will be able to continue their service to those in need.
There are a number of other important issues that will be debated in the coming legislative term. Revenue estimates for 2015 and 2016 are lower than previously projected, and as a result, the budget process will contain many discussions of cuts to government services. Before cuts are made, consideration must be given to the struggles many low-income Michigan residents, including children, are facing. As education plays a critical role in reducing poverty, Michigan Catholic Conference staff will also strongly emphasize the need for quality educational opportunities for all children.
Additionally, staff will follow the impact of the courts on policies impacting marriage and families, restorative justice, and religious liberty. At the federal level, the U.S. Supreme Court announced in January that it would consider the definition of marriage in four cases, including one challenging Michigan’s 2004 Marriage Amendment. Back in December 2014, the court also announced that it would examine the possible resentencing of juvenile offenders who received life without parole before the Miller v. Alabama decision in 2012. Michigan Catholic Conference will also continue to seek legal relief from the federal contraceptive mandate.
Catholics across the state are able to contribute to MCC advocacy throughout the 2015–2016 session. Interested individuals can sign up for the Catholic Advocacy Network, a grassroots system that allows them to stay informed about current issues and email their elected officials to promote or oppose specific policies: www.micatholic.org/can/.
To read more about Michigan Catholic Conference’s policy principles and objectives for the 2015–2016 year, visit www.micatholic.org.