Since its formation in 1963, Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC)—the public policy voice of the Catholic bishops in our state—has actively championed issues that promote the common good of Michiganders and serve the most vulnerable. For nearly sixty years, MCC has lived its mission and built positive relationships with lawmakers, other advocacy groups, and experts. These relationships have helped accomplish policy goals in fidelity to Catholic teaching.
Professional advocacy at the State Capitol continues to be critical, and MCC remains committed to carrying out its work with integrity and perseverance. At the same time, lawmakers want to hear from constituents in their local communities. In 2005, MCC launched what is known today as the Catholic Advocacy Network (CAN). This email-based platform provides Catholics with weekly legislative updates and offers opportunities to actively participate in the democratic process by sharing their values with lawmakers.
The CAN provides Michigan Catholics with a powerful tool. Prior to the passage of term limits, many elected officials had the opportunity to understand the legislative and budget process more thoroughly, as well as address issues of concern with advocacy organizations. Today, term limits have created regular turnover, giving officials less time to learn about all the issues of concern to the people they represent. The CAN provides Catholics the opportunity to communicate directly with these officials. Some examples of its effectiveness include:
- In 2013, Catholics and other pro-life advocates successfully gathered enough petition signatures for a measure that prohibited taxpayer funding of abortion on the state health care exchange. The Network helped disseminate information, and the measure became law.
- People of faith reached out to then-Governor Rick Snyder in 2015 to advocate for conscience protections for child-placement agencies. The bills, which were enacted shortly thereafter, protect the ability of faith-based organizations to provide foster care and adoption services for the state’s vulnerable children, in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs.
- In 2019, after Catholics encouraged lawmakers to pass juvenile justice reforms, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed eighteen “Raise the Age” measures into law. “Raise the Age” gave judges the discretion to charge 17-year-olds as adults based on the severity of the crimes, rather than automatically doing so by age, and connected juveniles with age-appropriate rehabilitation.
- Grassroots messages helped defeat legislation in the 2019–2020 legislative session that would have expanded predatory lending practices and harmed families already struggling financially.
The Catholic faith calls for each of us to prioritize participation in public life. The U.S. bishops tell believers that “we are called to walk with those who suffer and to work toward justice and healing,” including through action in politics and policymaking. Each Catholic has the opportunity to “bring their faith and our consistent moral framework to contribute to important work in our communities, nation, and world on an ongoing basis… [living] out the call to holiness” (USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship).
MCC uses the Catholic Advocacy Network to send weekly Lansing Updates, informational emails that share the latest news from the State Capitol. When needed, staff also send out action alerts, or specific opportunities for members to email their officials about a policy issue in a timely manner. The process takes but a few moments: MCC provides a prewritten message that members can edit if they wish, members enter their address, and the system finds the relevant official before sending.
It is true that many considerations contribute to a legislator’s vote on any given issue: personal positions, partisan affiliation, or other constituent or organization feedback. At times, grassroots advocacy may not impact votes. However, at the very least, lawmakers in Michigan should hear from members of the Church before voting, especially as Catholics bring a concern for those often ignored in society. The Holy Father recently wrote “good politics will seek ways of building communities at every level of social life,” and it is important for each of us to participate in order to achieve “good politics” (Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti).
Catholic voices not only CAN make a difference, they do. Sign up for the CAN by entering an email today.