Does this action or policy serve the well-being of people? What an important question to ask before decisions are made, at all levels of society. Pope Francis has written that the goal of economics and politics is “to serve humanity,” and the ultimate test of a nation is how it treats the most vulnerable, not just those with influence or money (Pope Francis, 6/17/13).
At the state level, this very question guides the work of Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state. In January, a new legislative session began at the State Capitol, and in response, Michigan Catholic Conference issued its biennial publication, A Blueprint for the Common Good. This platform serves as the organization’s guiding advocacy principles for the coming two-year period.
Politics should not simply provide an avenue for elected leaders to exercise power. Yes, elected officials have important responsibilities and a number of opportunities to contribute to change. In that capacity, officials also have an obligation to defend the dignity of all. At the same time, each person must also stand up to make their voice heard, helping to adopt the most beneficial policies for all. By engaging with the three branches that impact public policy at the state level, especially the Legislature, MCC asks the relevant questions: Is the State of Michigan serving people well? Are these policies respecting people’s inherent dignity? What more can Michigan be doing to meet the needs of the marginalized?
The Catholic Church has a rich history of action in the public realm, both through her charitable services and her commitment to social justice. Informed by the Church’s teachings and action, MCC advocates for the needs of the most vulnerable, including the unborn, the elderly, the sick, the disabled, the refugee, and the unemployed. In 2017 and 2018, MCC will work on a variety of issues, guided by A Blueprint for the Common Good, to stand up on issues of human life and dignity, the preferential option for the poor, religious liberty, children and families, education, health care, restorative justice, and immigration and refugees. MCC will also address federal policies with the Michigan Congressional delegation at the request of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
As lawmakers begin to consider legislation and the state budget for the upcoming year, MCC is committed to advocating for adequate funding to protect student safety at all schools, to support the needs of low-income families, to promote alternatives to abortion for women in crisis pregnancies, and to preserve programs that help Michiganders access health care. Michigan Catholic Conference also anticipates the possibility of continued work on criminal justice reform, to encourage genuine rehabilitation and lower recidivism. As these issues—and others—are discussed and debated, policymakers benefit from the diverse perspectives of those who send candidates into office.
Often, individuals feel unequipped to participate in community discussions, and in this divisive climate, the atmosphere feels all the more intimidating. But one does not have to work professionally on certain issues to care about the dignity of all people, whether that is in a mother’s womb, within the foster care system, in a health clinic, at work, or in prison. It simply starts with a desire to help and serve in the spirit of the common good.
Does this action or policy serve the well-being of people? Catholics, and others of goodwill, are invited to play a part in helping that answer to be “yes.”