Minnesota

Minnesota: Legislative Update

By Jason Adkins (March 14, 2012)

The legislative session is set to end on April 30, and the deadline for bills to be heard in committee is fast approaching. Legislators are eager to pass a bonding bill, work out the details of a Vikings stadium, and head home to hit the campaign trail.

There are, however, other important pieces of legislation that the Minnesota Catholic Conference is monitoring and either supporting or opposing. Here is a brief overview of some of the key issues:

Educational opportunity

MCC supports a package of legislation designed to expand choice in education by allowing parents to choose the school that best serves their child’s needs.

S.F. 388 (Nienow) does three things: It (1) expands the existing lineup for tax credits for parents whose children attend non-public schools; (2) creates new tax credits for individuals and organizations who give to organizations that provide scholarships for students to attend non-public schools; and (3) also creates enrollment options scholarships (vouchers) for students to escape underperforming schools. It has passed the Education Committee, and is now in Taxes.

Individual bills on each provision of S.F. 388 are also working their way through the legislative process. The enrollment options scholarship bill (H.F. 273 —Woodard) is currently being reviewed by the House Education Finance Committee. The Equity and Opportunity in Education Tax Credit (individual and corporate tax credit) (S.F. 641 — Senjem/H.F. 1059 — Loon) awaits committee hearings in both houses. The tax credit expansion (S.F. 764 — Kruse/H.F. 1293 — Loon) also awaits hearings.

Safety net

MCC opposes H.F. 2080 (Daudt), which would make cuts to services provided by the Minnesota Family Investment Program. MFIP is an assistance program designed to provide benefits to families with children.

MCC believes the bill could place significant burdens on Minnesota families and drive them deeper into poverty. The bill also moves away from recommendations made by the bi-partisan Poverty Commission.

Among the most troubling changes is the reduction in lifetime benefits from 60 months to 36 months. Another modification would eliminate benefits when a family reaches 100 percent of the federal poverty level, rather than the 115 percent under current law. These changes are not wise in difficult economic times, will make it more challenging to climb the ladder out of poverty, and will have the most impact on children, who receive approximately 70 percent of MFIP benefits.

The bill has passed the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee and was to be heard by the Health and Human Services Finance Committee on March 13.

Abortion

Two pieces of abortion-related legislation could significantly ensure women’s safety when procuring an abortion, and deserve support.

The first (S.F. 1921 — Robling/H.F. 2340 — Holberg) would impose a system of licensing and inspections on abortion clinics. The provisions of this bill will protect the lives and health of Minnesota women by ensuring that abortion providers meet minimum health and safety requirements.

The bill has passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and was to be heard in Judiciary on March 13. It awaits a hearing in the House Human Services Reform committee.

The second bill (S.F. 1912 — Gazelka/H.F. 2341 — Peppin) would ban “webcam abortions.”

Planned Parenthood recently admitted to doing “webcam abortions” in Rochester. In this dangerous procedure, an abortionist administers the deadly RU486 abortion drug remotely, using a closed-circuit connection from St. Paul. To ensure that women’s safety comes before profit, webcam abortions ought to be prohibited.

The bill has passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and now sits in Judiciary. It awaits a hearing in the House Human Services Reform Committee.

Health care

The Catholic Church and Catholic health care providers have long advocated for health care reform that promotes access, quality and affordability. Instituting a state-level health insurance exchange as required by the federal Affordable Care Act could provide a true market to help Minnesotans afford and purchase health care coverage.

MCC and the Catholic Health Association believe a state-level exchange, rather than one imposed by the federal government, would best serve the needs of Minnesotans by capitalizing on Minnesota’s long tradition of health care innovation and excellence. Therefore, we have jointly encouraged legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton to work together to create an exchange.

Minnesota should implement an exchange that respects the principle that true health care and medical ethics uphold the sanctity of life from conception through natural death. Creating a state exchange enhances the possibility that abortion coverage will be excluded from insurance coverage except as an add-on rider, and at the same time could help protect people from cost-saving measures incurred during end-of-life care.

For more information and an update on the status of these bills, please visit the House and Senate home pages. For action alerts that allow you to receive key updates and email your legislator directly, be sure to join the Minnesota Catholic Advocacy Network (MNCAN), which can be found at http://capwiz.com/mncc/mlm/signup.

Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Minnesota: The Message of the Church Never Changes

L’Osservatore Romano

The following is an interview given by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St Paul and Minneapolis to L’Osservatore Romano’s Nicola Gori.

Considering the recent economic crisis, do you think the Church could suggest ways to humanize the world of finance so that it is more equal and fair?

I believe that this question has been taken on quite well by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Encyclical Letter, Caritas in Veritate, in his Address to the College of Cardinals and the Roman Curia on 22 December and more recently in his address to administrators of the Province of Lazio on 12 January. The Holy Father points out that that financial crisis is basically a crisis of ethics and anthropology, stating: “Insofar as they are instruments, the entire economy and finance, not just certain sectors, must be used in an ethical way so as to create suitable conditions for human development and for the development of peoples” (Caritas in Veritate, n. 65).

Benedict XVI also wrote: “Development is impossible without upright men and women, without financiers and politicians whose consciences are finally attuned to the requirements of the common good” (ibid., n. 71). Adding finally that “There cannot be holistic development and universal common good unless people’s spiritual and moral welfare is taken into account, considered in their totality as body and soul” (ibid., n. 76). The Holy Father stated: “As this year draws to a close, Europe is undergoing an economic and financial crisis, which is ultimately based on the ethical crisis looming over the Old Continent. Even if such values of solidarity, commitment to one’s neighbor and responsibility towards the poor and suffering are largely uncontroversial, still the motivation is often lacking for individuals and large sectors of society to practice renunciation and make sacrifices. Reception and will do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. In defending personal interest, the will obscures perception, and perception thus weakened is unable to stiffen the will. In this sense, some quite fundamental questions emerge from this crisis: Where is the light that is capable of illuminating our perception not merely with general ideas, but with concrete imperatives? Where is the force that draws the will upwards? These are questions that must be answered by our proclamation of the Gospel, by the New Evangelization, so that message may become evident, so that proclamation may lead to life” (Address to College of Cardinals, 22 December 2011).

“It is important that a renewed humanism be developed, in which the human identity equates with the category of person. The current crisis, in fact, is also rooted in individualism, which obscures people’s relationship dimension and leads them to withdraw in their own small world, concerned primarily with satisfying their own needs and desires, with scant consideration for others. Are not speculation and leases, the increasing difficult integration of young people in the labor market, the loneliness of so many of the elderly, the anonymity which often characterizes life in the neighborhoods of the city and the at times superficial view of situations of marginalization and poverty a consequence of this mindset?” the Holy Father stated in his Address to the Administrators of the Lazio Region on 12 January 2012.

The Church offers the idea of the common good over and against what is often the triumph of individualism and greed. Many financiers see people simply as consumers and a means to an end (money), ignoring their inherent dignity as persons as well as the dignity of their labor. Faith is a key component here. Economic actors and market forces are reflections of decisions made by human persons who, while created in the image of God, are in need not only of the life of grace but also the moral virtues if they are to act in a manner that justly serves the common good. While there is a role for appropriate regulation of financial markets and the economy, what is needed even more so are moral leaders who understand the legitimate goal of profitability while maintaining a sense of social responsibility. The weakening of faith, especially in the Western world, has led to a weakening of the social bonds we have with one another. This gives rise to the temptation to view our neighbor as something to be used for one’s gain.

How is the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis involved in the fight for a culture of life?

The Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis has a department of five full-time persons dedicated to addressing the questions of marriage, family, youth and life. Through their leadership, efforts are directed to encompass the USCCB’s Pastoral plan for pro-life activities which include work in four main areas: Public Information and Education; Pastoral Care; Public Policy Program; Prayer and Worship. The Archdiocese has been involved in a Respect 4 Life Pro-Life curriculum supplement for our Catholic Schools for grades K-8. We honor local Catholics involved in the pro-life effort as a way to inspire and motivate more to the cause with the Champions for Life Awards. We participate in ongoing education for parish volunteers and educational resources for Clergy, as well as Project Rachel, a post abortion outreach and education for those affected by abortion. We have an archdiocesan lifefund, which provides financial assistance for women and families while pregnant or with a child under one year of age. Our Community Caring for Life Groups and Respect Life Committees in the parishes to carry out the Respect Life work outlined by the USCCB’s plan. It includes two workshops a year. The Archdiocesan Youth Advisory Board made up of High School students from the area Catholic High Schools supports for pro-life activities in their schools.

We write a monthly newsletter highlighting Respect Life news and events as well as options for legislative action. We held a Prayer Service for Life on 22 January where more than 3,000 individuals gathered in prayer to end abortion. Communication contacts throughout the diocese promote action on legislative issues requested by the Minnesota Catholic Conference and the USCCB’s office for Pro-Life Activities.

The Association with the Archbishop’s Biomedical Ethics Commission educates and informs lay people and clergy on biomedical ethics through a web presence and as a resource to field and direct specific questions from individuals. We offer programs and information on Respect for Life topics such as: euthanasia, infertility, abortion and post abortion healing, end of life planning through advanced health care directives as well as other topics. The Respect Life outreach works collaboratively with outside Pro-Life Organizations such as crisis pregnancy centers, sidewalk counseling services, pro-life lobbying and pro-life educational resource organizations.

Our Catholic Medical Guild assists doctors in knowing their faith and helping them to serve the Culture of Life in their professional settings. They also support through mentoring young medical students.

I, myself, presided at the end of the Forty Days of Prayer held at a neighboring hospital which, until now, has had the largest abortuary in the City of St Paul. A few weeks after I held the prayer service, the administration of the hospital announced that it was closing the abortuary. This was a remarkable result of the power of prayer.

Through the good services of the Knights of Columbus, tombstones have been erected in parishes and on the campus of the University of St Thomas, commemorating the millions of babies who have died through abortion. Such reminders are constantly raising awareness about the dignity of life in the minds of our people.

Religious freedom is a cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution. Recently there seem to be some exceptions to this right. Is it for reasons of national security or is it the beginning of a change of heart?

I think it is important to note that the first freedom in the Bill of Rights is the freedom of religion. We are beginning to see the erosion of that freedom and a morphing into a more narrow “freedom of worship”, in that we are free to worship privately where and how we please but not to bring faith or religion into the public square. This is seen in the recent HHS ruling mandating that medical insurance plans include contraceptives, sterilizations, and even drugs to induce abortion, the closing of some Catholic adoption agencies because they refuse to place children with homosexual couples, and the USCCB being denied a grant to help victims of sexual trafficking because of their teaching against abortion. At the same time, we see the current administration arguing before the Supreme Court (and losing unanimously) that religious groups should be subject to discrimination lawsuits when they choose their leaders according to internal religious standards that secular courts might find unfair.

Thus, the reason that lies behind these threats to religious freedom derive, in my opinion, from a secular ideology, perhaps best represented by the mission of Planned Parenthood. In this context, a secular reading of “happiness” in terms of self-interest and self-gratification has become more prominent. For some, religion, itself, has become an impediment to “happiness” and thus must be done away with.

The upcoming Synod on the New Evangelization challenges American Catholics. Has the proclamation of the Gospel changed in a society that is at times hostile and indifferent to its message? If so, how?

I believe that this question goes directly to the heart of what the New Evangelization is all about. Fundamentally, the message of the Church never changes: Jesus is Lord, yesterday, today and tomorrow. However, we need to ask ourselves how we proclaim this truth to a world that is seemingly oblivious and indifferent to the realm of the supernatural. As pointed out above, the American culture is characterized by a heightened individualism, a rampant secularism and a pervasive hedonism that tends to consider the self first, acquaintances second and the stranger last.

Thus, a secular and individualist account of happiness creates new challenges for the proclamation of the Gospel. Modern technology also poses certain advantages and disadvantages to proclaiming the Gospel. The rise of social media such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc., has been both a positive and challenging reality. The positives include the ability to communicate quickly and being able to connect and interact with hundreds or thousands of people on a regular basis. The challenges are that the information passed on must be brief and can often be incomplete or distorted. In addition, true conviction and faith is now seen by many as quaint, out-of-touch or even dangerous to modern, Western sensibilities. This question makes me think of a G.K. Chesterton quote that would fit as a critique of our current culture: “Tolerance is the virtue of a man with no convictions”. That said, there is still a deep longing in people for the beautiful, the true and the good. The world is not completely closed off to God, but many people just have a lot of layers of busyness of life that need to be peeled away and pruned in order for Him to take root in their hearts.

For the same reasons as noted above, a secular and individualist account of happiness creates new challenges for the proclamation of the Gospel. As our Holy Father Benedict noted in Spes Salvi, a response to the Gospel, whose proclamation provokes a question of faith, is not only informative but performative. First, then, the Church must be reawakened in the United States and Catholics need to learn — for only then will they love — their faith. And then, like the Christians of every age, our proclamation of saving truths will become performative: the world will know that we are Christians by our love.

I believe, then, that the New Evangelization needs to propose the credible witness of contemporary saints who offer an alternative to the cynicism, the broken promises and the isolation of this present society. Individual believers must take it upon themselves to fight heroically, within their own lives, against the tendencies of the day, including the rampant problem of materialism. Such models of sanctity need to speak eloquently and resolutely to the connection between faith and reason. This call must be extended to academics, artists and preachers. The New Evangelization will only be truly effective if the chasm between faith and reason can be repaired.

Unemployment and job insecurity is a major issue at the moment and a contributing factor in family crises. What is the diocese doing to help?

Fortunately, unemployment rates in the United States are not as high as in many countries of Europe. Still, a sluggish economy is hesitant about job creation and, in the contraction of 2009 and 2010, many employees lost their jobs. In the Archdiocese, we have responded not only by a vast network of food shelves and free medical care to assist the unemployed, but many parishes have employment information efforts to match those looking for work and those who are looking for workers.

Catholic Charities also makes a decisive contribution with its four Program Divisions: Housing and Emergency Services; Children’s Services, Family Services; and Advocacy. The Housing and Emergency Services division has 12 locations in the Archdiocese and 20 programs. Children’s Services has two locations and three programs. Family Services has a main location in St Paul with various sites throughout the State and has seven programs. Its annual budget is $39,063,000. All told, nearly 35,000 people were helped last year, regardless of what faith they profess.

In addition, through the Minnesota Catholic Conference, whose Board of Governors consists of all the Catholic Bishops of Minnesota, we continue to monitor efforts and, where appropriate, offer witness at the State Capitol as deliberations continue at the state level to balance seemingly diverse interests in public policy.

Minnesota: Marriages Have Duty to Society

By Jason Adkins (March 3, 2012)

Too often, it seems, the good of marriage, if it is discussed at all, is confined to its private purposes: the fulfillment of individual needs and the social recognition of the mutual love between two people — as though marriage is about nothing more than personal happiness.

But is that really all marriage is? Or does marriage in fact serve a public purpose that goes beyond the happiness of the couple involved to include what is best for any children they might have, and for society as a whole?

Those promoting the marriage amendment believe marriage is not just about recognizing the love and commitment of the adults involved in the relationship. Love and commitment are surely necessary, but marriage is more.

A special place

So how does marriage serve the good of everyone? Marriage occupies a special place in society because it provides a universal good that not only includes love but — in the vast majority of cases — children, too, which are, of course, essential for the very continuation of society. Just ask the Russians or the Danes, who are paying citizens exorbitant sums of money to have children because their national birthrates are so low.

Marriage is the most important social institution we have that is child-focused and that encourages men and women to marry before having children so that any kids they produce will be known and cared for by their own parents.

Certainly, there are different kinds of families — single parents, adoptive parents, etc. Many parents in these circumstances work overtime to provide the best for their children, and they deserve our thanks and appreciation. Still, while death and divorce too often prevent the ideal, the “gold standard” for children is to be raised by their married mother and father.

In this way, marriage serves a vital and universal societal purpose by channeling biological drive and male-female sexual activity into enduring families that have the best opportunity to ensure the care and education of children.

Children raised by their married mother and father receive numerous benefits: an increased likelihood of fostering healthy relationships, decreased likelihood of divorce, reduced incidence of becoming an unwed parent, reduced poverty, higher educational attainment and much more.

The report, “Sustainable Demographic Dividend: What Do Marriage and Fertility Have to Do With the Economy?” emphasizes that children raised in married, mother-father families have an advantage when it comes to acquiring the skills and social capital they need to become well-adjusted, productive workers. The overwhelming body of social science evidence establishes that children do best when raised by their married mother and father.

Whether we’re talking about poverty rates, physical health, mental health, education attainment, or general happiness, science shows that children are better off when raised in an intact home by their own married parents.

Mom AND dad

Speaking of parents, media commentators and others sometimes go out of their way to talk about things like “parenthood” rather than acknowledging the importance of “fatherhood” and “motherhood.” But mothers and fathers are not interchangeable. Children need both a mom and a dad — as in the love of a mother as a female and the love of a father as a male.

Whatever one’s view of same-sex “marriage,” it is undeniable that every child living in a same-sex household is intentionally denied the unique and essential nurturing that comes with being raised in an intact home by her mom and dad.

No one has a right to a child, but every child has a right to a mom and a dad. And, in fact, every child has a biological mother and father. Same-sex couples may choose to adopt or be inseminated because they wish to experience parenthood, but it certainly isn’t what we as a society should be promoting.

The public purpose of marriage is to serve the interests of children and society, and thus the common good. Shouldn’t the needs of children and society be put ahead of individual adult desires?

This is the opinion of Jason Adkins, vice chairman of Minnesota for Marriage, the official campaign supporting the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment.

Minnesota: Catholic Institutions Call for Affordable Health Care that Serves all Minnesotans

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (March 6, 2012)—The Catholic Health Association of Minnesota (CHA-MN), an association of Catholic healthcare providers, and the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, today urged State lawmakers to create a state-level health insurance exchange that fulfills the aspirations of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to give Minnesotans greater access to quality, affordable healthcare. Under the PPACA, states must show by January 1, 2013 that they are actively implementing an exchange that will be operating by January 1, 2014, or the federal government will impose one.

“The Catholic Church and Catholic healthcare providers have long advocated for healthcare reform that promotes access, quality, and affordability,” said Toby Pearson, CHA-MN executive director. “Minnesota should continue to be a leader in healthcare and implement an exchange that is able to address the many emerging challenges and opportunities in healthcare today, while at the same time respects the principle that true healthcare and medical ethics uphold the sanctity of life from conception through natural death.”

The PPACA allows states the flexibility to make determinations about the components of the health insurance exchange so that it best fits the state’s needs as well as complies with federal law. Under U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidance, states can choose the benefit set from among the largest existing insurance plans in the state. By selecting one of the state-specific plans, Minnesota is afforded the opportunity to set the benchmark of essential health benefits for our state.

According to the PPACA, maternity and newborn care must be included in any package of essential health benefits. Minnesota can join other states and exclude from coverage morally objectionable practices that do not constitute healthcare, such as abortion. An abortion exclusion would not prevent employers or subscribers from purchasing an additional rider to cover the procedure.

“Minnesota lawmakers should take the opportunity to build an exchange that accounts for Minnesota needs and values,” said MCC Executive Director Jason Adkins. “We cannot just do nothing and pretend the PPACA will go away.”

Adkins continued: “An exchange imposed by the federal government is unlikely to serve Minnesotans as well as something local leaders create. There is also a strong likelihood that a federally imposed exchange will reflect the Obama Administration’s policy of forcing people to pay for coverage of practices that are morally objectionable and do not constitute healthcare.”

He concluded: “It’s time for the Governor and legislative leaders to work together and continue Minnesota’s long traditions of health care excellence and respect for human life.”

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Minnesota: Nonpublic Schools Day

St. Paul, Minn—Nonpublic school educators, students, and parent advocates will descend onto the Minnesota Capitol February 29 for the third annual MN Nonpublic Schools’ Day at the Capitol. The day will provide attendees an opportunity to learn about current legislation affecting nonpublic education, rally for more school choice options for Minnesota students, and lobby their representatives and senators. It is hosted by the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) in partnership with the Minnesota Council for American Private Education (CAPE) and the Minnesota Independent School Forum.

This is the first MN Nonpublic Schools’ Day at the Capitol that parents are encouraged to attend along with nonpublic school students and educators. “After coming close last session, we think this is the year to get school choice legislation passed and to do this we need to educate and empower parents to make their voices heard,” said Pete Noll, education director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference. “We hope that by encouraging parents to advocate for their children at the state level, more kids will ultimately be able to access the educational environments, whether nonpublic or otherwise, that best serve their needs.”

An afternoon rally by nonpublic school students and proponents of current school choice legislative proposals will highlight the day. “The legislative day provides an opportunity for us to share with legislators some real-life situations that we face in meeting the educational needs of our children,” said Cynthia Zook, superintendent of Duluth Area Catholic Schools. “It’s a great way to learn how public policy can be used as a tool for serving and supporting our students better.”

Before the rally event, participants will learn about key education-related legislative proposals. The focus will be on the Equity and Opportunity in Education tax credit program, which would allow corporate and individual taxpayers to give money to a scholarship-granting organization for students attending nonpublic schools.

Other proposals discussed will include the scholarship, or voucher, program that would give students in under-performing schools the opportunity to attend the school of their choice, and a state income tax deduction and credit expansion that would help low-income families cover education-related expenses.

More than 75,000 children in Minnesota currently attend nonpublic schools, and many other Minnesota families want educational options that better meet their needs. “State education funding should, foremost, support the education needs of our kids, not persistently low-performing schools. Providing more school choice is fair, child-centered education reform,” said Noll.

MCC will continue efforts to build its new Parent Advocacy Network after the event. For a MN Nonpublic Schools’ Day at the Capitol schedule, event registration details, or to join the new Parent Advocacy Network, visit the MCC website Education page (mncc.org/issues/education).

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Minnesota: Joint Religious Legislative Coalition’s (JRLC) Day on the Hill

And What Does God Require? – Day on the Hill 2012

Tuesday March 20, 2012 — Register Now!

The Joint Religious Legislative Coalition’s (JRLC) Day on the Hill is our annual policy briefing and lobby day. Participants are briefed on portions of the JRLC agenda that are being debated and voted on at our State Capitol. Clergy and lay people from across the state attend Day on the Hill to show our interfaith commitment to social justice and to participate in the lawmaking process. Registration is required. Participants gather in the morning at RiverCentre in downtown St. Paul for inspiration and issue briefings. Buses then transport us to the Capitol for a short rally. Meetings are held with legislators in the afternoon. Buses shuttle between RiverCentre and the Capitol until 4:00 p.m.

Rev. Alika Galloway, Kwanzaa Community Church, will be our keynote speaker. This year’s theme, And What Does God Require?, comes from Deuteronomy 10: 12-13, 17-18:

So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being… For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing.

Tentative Schedule

RiverCentre, 7th St. and Kellogg Ave, downtown St. Paul

8:30 a.m.   Gathering, Registration, Breakfast

8:55 a.m.   Welcome – Opening Prayer, About the Day

9:30 a.m.   Keynote Speaker – Rev. Alika P. Galloway, Kwanzaa Community Church, Minneapolis

10:00 a.m.   Issue Briefings – Brian Rusche, JRLC and Marie Reigstad, Catholic Charities Office for Social Justice

10:30 a.m.   District Table Discussion – Alison Killeen, JRLC, and District Leaders

11:15 a.m.   Bus to the Capitol

Rotunda and State Capital Complex

11:45 a.m.   2011 Interfaith Social Justice Awards

• iCAN Key Advocate of 2012 Award

• 2012 Interfaith Social Justice Community Award

• 2012 Lawrence D. Gibson Interfaith Social Justice Award

12:15 p.m.   A Prayer for Justice

Afternoon Meetings with your legislators in Capitol or State Office Building

2:00 p.m.   iCAN Key Advocate Caucus

3:15 p.m.   Closing Action and Prayer

Drop off debriefing sheets and evaluation form and recycle name tags at front door of Capitol

4:00 p.m.   Last shuttle back to RiverCentre

Shuttle Service: 17 school buses will begin departing RiverCentre at 11:15 a.m. to get all of us to the Capitol by 11:45 a.m. Look for the JRLC sign in the bus window. Two school buses will regularly shuttle between the front entrance of the Capitol and RiverCentre starting at 1:00 p.m. and the last shuttle departs from the Capitol at 4:00 p.m.

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For more information and to register for the Day on the Hill, please visit JRLC’s website.

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Minnesota: Human Trafficking a Catholic Concern

By Jessica Zittlow (January 31, 2012)

“Aren’t these girls from other countries?” asked a guest at a recent Minnesota human trafficking awareness party being covered by local news. It’s a common question with an often unexpected answer: No, most aren’t. They are runaways from American Indian reservations. Victims of “boyfriends” who turn out to be pimps. Girls desperately trying to get out of the poverty trap.

According to various reports, Minnesota is consistently in the top 10 most-active states for human trafficking. One organization that monitors juvenile sex trafficking indicated that there was a 50 percent increase in trafficking numbers in Minnesota in 2010. These are children who pass us on the street, children we come across daily.

Their age is usually between 12 to 14 years old.

Minnesota has a human trafficking problem and it’s time for Catholics to take action.

Shining a spotlight

In the 2011 special session, the Minnesota Catholic Conference lobbied for and helped push through a public safety bill that takes steps to protect commercially exploited children through a new “safe harbor” law. This law, among other things, increases penalties against offender “johns” and directs our public safety to create a victim-centered response to sexually exploited youth.

Now, Minnesota must create the infrastructure to support the effort. This isn’t a small task. It was recently reported that there were only two beds dedicated to traumatized victims in the state of Minnesota. This legislative session, MCC will be supporting efforts to educate legislators on the need for funds for housing and other services. But the education needed on this issue runs deep and wide, and goes well beyond the walls of government.

Changing the paradigm

The vast majority of girls who end up in the sex industry come from homes where there has been sexual abuse, physical abuse, trauma, and domestic violence. Vulnerable women, who are offered help or “services” to get them out of difficult living situations or poverty, often do not even vaguely suspect what awaits them. So there is a critical need to educate and warn potential victim populations.

But if there wasn’t demand, there wouldn’t be a need for supply. Sex trafficking isn’t just about “poor little girls and bad guys,” it is woven together by a complicated web of social concern that spans migration, racism, classism, poverty, gender-based violence, bioethics, and fundamental family and life issues. At its core is the need to better recognize the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.

This is where understanding and educating others on Catholic teaching regarding the dignity of the human person can, ultimately, help us combat the problem.

In an address to the 2002 international conference on slavery and human rights, Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote: “The disturbing tendency to treat prostitution as a business or industry not only contributes to the trade in human beings, but is itself evidence of a growing tendency to detach freedom from the moral law and to reduce the rich mystery of human sexuality to a mere commodity.”

In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI echoed another condemnation of sexual slavery by Pope John Paul II in his Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women : the “hedonistic and commercial culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality and corrupts even very young girls into letting their bodies be used for profit.”

Men who seek acts of prostitution create the demand for sexual slavery. A culture that broadly promotes the commodification and objectification of persons — whether through pornography, unregulated egg and sperm donation, or stifling and minimizing the life-giving reality of sex — perpetuates a demand for sexual slavery.

As long as we, as Catholics, support the false cultural dichotomy between “bedroom” issues and social justice, we will not be effectively taking on the fundamental social causes of sex trafficking.

Human trafficking is a priority for MCC, as it touches on fundamental issues of human dignity and the common good. In the coming months, we anticipate sharing best practices about what Catholic organizations in Minnesota, like Catholic Charities and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, are doing to help respond to this crisis.

In the short term we encourage parishes, families and individuals to visit the “Program” section of Catholic Charities USA for toolkits and resources on how to help identify, prevent, and educate others on human trafficking in your community.

Jessica Zittlow is communications associate with the Minnesota Catholic Conference, which coordinates the Catholic Church’s public policy activities on behalf of the bishops of Minnesota.

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Minnesota:Living the Gospel of Life Builds a Culture of Life

By Jason Adkins (January 18, 2012)

As we enter the 40th year of legalized abortion in this country, those who have labored in the vineyard for many years to end the tragic loss of life should be encouraged. The tide in the abortion debate is turning, and strongly, in the most important place: the culture.

The pro-life movement is winning hearts and minds because it has been living the Gospel of Life in word and deed.

But 40 years ago, the world looked different.

In 1973, Roe v. Wade was celebrated by a diverse spectrum of society: Protestants and other secularists who hailed the defeat of Catholic influence in public life; sexual liberationists; old-wave feminists; the medical and legal professions; academics and “family” scholars who hailed the end of “unwanted” children; and the various classes of bluebloods and eugenicists who funded Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood and believed abortion would improve public health by cleansing society of the poor and minorities.

The pro-life movement, by contrast, largely began as a movement of Catholics against this broad cultural consensus that celebrated the advent of abortion on demand.

Ours was not a welcome voice.

But since then, the world has changed. Dramatically.

Tide has turned

According to National Right to Life, a strong majority of Americans (61 percent) think abortion should never be legal or legal only in rare circumstances. Most surprisingly, 60 percent of self-described independents and 44 percent of Democrats embrace the pro-life position.

Even “Jane Roe” (Norma McCorvey) and noted abortionist and NARAL founder Bernard Nathanson switched sides and became Catholic activists against abortion.

As the popular poster says, “Roe was indeed saved. She is now pro-life.”

Perhaps most important, praising abortion no longer constitutes respectable opinion in most social circles. It’s mean to kill babies. Everyone these days knows, whether they admit it or not — because of ultrasounds, science, common sense and devastating arguments — that the fetus is a human being.

Similarly, the millions of abortions that have taken place since 1973 have touched almost everyone, particularly the millions of women who have had them, and the devastating effects of that life-changing decision have been made clear. Women deserve better.

Thus, there are few people left who see abortion as an unmitigated blessing. Even most of the messages about abortion coming out of Hollywood are either ambivalent or cast it in a negative light, such as in the recent movies “Juno” and “Knocked Up.”

What has led to this cultural shift in views about abortion?

Literally millions of people each applying their gifts, time and treasure have helped turned the tide: teenage sidewalk counselors helping their peers; prayer warriors with their rosaries outside the abortion mills; a bevy of brilliant thinkers developing and honing arguments based on reason and the best science; supportive nurses at life-care centers; generous benefactors who shelter women in need; lawyers who have facilitated adoptions; legislators who have staked their careers on defending life; the many educational and advocacy organizations that have raised public awareness. The list could go on.

Pro-lifers today know that defending life is not about just overturning Roe v. Wade and limiting abortion in the legislative arena. It is truly about saving lives—both the babies and mothers in vulnerable, and often tragic, situations.

And that public witness is changing the culture. The number of abortions in Minnesota has been steadily declining.

Limits of legislation

Those of us who work to pass pro-life legislation or spend significant time and resources to elect pro-life candidates need the continuing reminder that successful legislative efforts will typically follow only from changes in the culture. That is where pro-lifers should continue to build their efforts because, ultimately, we want to create a world where abortion is unthinkable and where women in need have the resources to turn to in vulnerable situations.

When we build a true culture of life, the legislative victories will follow. And indeed, the last few years have seen just that. A series of groundbreaking pieces of legislation have been passed by legislatures around the country.

Many of these legislative efforts, such as the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that would ban abortions after 20 weeks because of the unborn child’s demonstrated ability to feel pain (passed in Kansas and Nebraska; passed but vetoed in Minnesota), remain unchallenged in federal court because Planned Parenthood and other abortion defenders fear they will be upheld.

Here in Minnesota, the governor’s veto pen makes significant gains in the legislative arena unlikely over the next few years. But that should not dissuade all of us from continuing to build a culture of life—starting with prayer.

And who knows. If Jane Roe and the country’s most famous abortionist can become pro-life, even our most stubborn pro-abortion politicians may come to see the light.

Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

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Minnesota: Nonpublic Schools Day at Capitol

Upcoming MN Nonpublic Schools’ Day at the Capitol – February 29, 2012.

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Minnesota: Rally for School Choice

Get ready for Catholic Schools Week Jan.29-Feb.5, Rally for School Choice Jan. 26 at the Capitol. Find out more!

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Minnesota: Defending Marriage

By Jason Adkins (January 4, 2012)

Some people, Catholics included, are complaining that the Church’s very public defense of marriage through the promotion of the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment is too “political.”

It certainly is political, but the complainants are mistaken about what that means and the Church’s legitimate sphere of activity.

This objection typically comes from three types of people: 1) well-meaning folks who genuinely think speaking out on controversial topics will get the Church in trouble, most likely with the IRS; 2) people who wish to intimidate Catholics into silence; and 3) people who disagree with the Church’s defense of marriage and wish we were politically engaged on other issues, namely, the ones they care about.

In all three cases, the argument for silence is based on pseudo-knowledge about what “everyone” supposedly “knows,” which is that the Church should not be participating in the political arena because churches have no right to impose their religious views on others or be politically active. Churches will surely get in trouble, the naysayers claim, if they wade into the political thicket, so better to keep quiet.

The argument preys on people’s ignorance and fear. But it is harder to be intimidated when one is well-informed. So, let’s unpack what the Church is actually doing to defend marriage in the political arena.

Educational efforts

The bishops of Minnesota are working to educate Catholics about the meaning of marriage, its importance as a cornerstone social institution that promotes human dignity and the common good, and the consequences for society if marriage is redefined.

In doing so, they are helping the faithful exercise their responsibilities as citizens, as well as put their faith into action by equipping Catholics to educate and advocate for just policies in their community.

And protecting marriage is decidedly a matter of justice — especially to children and society.

This “political” activity is the same thing that the Church has been doing on any number of issues for years.

Along those lines, the same crowd of naysayers expresses shock and outrage that the bishops have asked parishes to form committees to work on the marriage issue. Again, the complaint is that this is so “political.”

But the development of these committees should surprise no one. Parishes have had respect life committees and Sowers of Justice/social concerns committees for years. Advocacy within the parishes and dioceses for legislation that protects life at all stages and defends the poor and vulnerable has been a key task of those groups.

Now that marriage is under attack, it is only prudent to ensure that our parishes are actively working to promote and defend marriage, which is not just a personal relationship between two people, but one with a very public component that affects us all.

In living this responsibility, the Church does not desire to “rule” over society or take the reins of power. Rather, the Church’s political activity is instructional.

According to Pope Benedict XVI, “This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: It has no intention of giving the Church power over the State. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just” (“Deus Caritas Est,” No. 28).

In other words, the Church cannot impose her views on society. She has no bayonets, nor does she want to coerce others. Rather, she desires to appeal to the consciences of all persons and to witness to those truths written on the human heart by the Creator.

People are free to accept or reject the Church’s instruction, but she cannot remain silent because, in the words of Pope John XXIII, she has a responsibility given to her by Our Lord to act as “mother and teacher of the nations so that all who would come to her fold might attain a fuller life on this earth and eternal salvation.”

As the “pillar and ground of truth,” the Church “has the twofold task of bringing forth, educating, and governing spiritual sons and of caring for the life of individuals and nations, the profound dignity of which she has always deeply respected and alertly protected” (“Mater et Magistra,” No. 1).

And as Pope John XXIII reminded Catholics 50 years ago, and as the U.S. bishops exhort us again today in the document “Faithful Citizenship,” this responsibility is not limited to the clergy. All Catholics have the duty to “take an active part in public life, and to work together for the benefit of . . . their own political communities.
“It is vitally necessary for them to endeavor, in the light of Christian faith, and with love as their guide, to ensure that every institution, whether economic, social, cultural or political, be such as not to obstruct but rather to facilitate man’s self betterment, both in the natural and in the supernatural order” (“Pacem in Terris,” No. 146).

Such is the task of Catholics today in defense of marriage.

The Church’s business

Now, because we live in an adolescent culture, many will reject a “mother and teacher” who lovingly seeks to guide them and will try to silence the Church with the drum beat of “separation of church and state.”

But as noted in a previous column, Thomas Jefferson’s metaphor was not meant to deny churches the right to free speech and assembly. Instead, it meant that our Constitution forbade the government from interfering in the Church’s business, the core of which is giving public witness to the truth in both word and deed.

The marriage debate has exposed some latent threats to the Church’s identity and public witness, which all Americans who respect religious liberty should care about. Catholics especially should equip themselves to adequately respond because these threats have implications far beyond the meaning of marriage.

Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference

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Minnesota: Combating Poverty in the Public Arena

By Jason Adkins
(December 21, 2011)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is marking this January as “poverty awareness month.” It is re-launching its Poverty USA campaign to chronicle the stories of those living in poverty, as well as identify innovative solutions and ideas communities can use to help their neighbors in need.

The campaign could not be timelier.

One in six Americans is currently living in poverty, and one in five children. That is more than 46 million people. Living in poverty means the household income for a family of four is less than $22,314.

Those astounding poverty figures do not include the many working families struggling to make ends meet with stagnant wages and rising costs for food, fuel, health care and housing.

The causes of poverty are complex and are rooted in both individual sin and injustices perpetrated by the “structures of sin”: unemployment, lack of access to education or job training, disability, health problems, insufficient wages, lack of affordable housing, precarious lifestyles, substance abuse and family breakdown. The list goes on.

Oftentimes, some of these problems in a person’s or family’s life are multiplied and deepened by other problems, resulting in a cycle of poverty that is often difficult to break.

Instrument of justice

So how should Catholics respond in the public arena to growing poverty?

Some argue that it is not the government’s job to take care of the poor. Rather, it is the responsibility of churches and charities. And besides, they claim, government assistance is not in the Constitution.

Such an argument, however, fundamentally misconstrues the role of politics and government.

The state’s role is not to show the magnanimity of charity, which is beyond its competence (it can’t love people). The state is, however, an instrument of justice, and the aim of politics is the just ordering of society.

When there is injustice, especially in the economic realm, the state has a responsibility to prudently step in and correct it to the extent that it is competent to do so.

Pope Benedict’s words in the encyclical “Deus Caritas Est” provide an important clarification about the responsibilities and limitations of the state in alleviating poverty, especially in a time like now when there is increasing pressure in some circles to completely privatize assistance to those in need.

According to Pope Benedict, “There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable.”

The Holy Father continues: “The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person — every person — needs: namely, loving personal concern.

“We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need” (28b).

Not all poverty is the result of injustice, and so there are limits to what the state can do. A government crusade to “eradicate poverty” might create the inhuman state Pope Benedict warns us about.

Fortunately, the state of Minnesota recognizes that charitable organizations such as Catholic Charities can often do a better job delivering certain human services and combating poverty than a comparable state entity could, and thus subsidizes Catholic Charities’ efforts.

Practicing subsidiarity

This type of collaboration is an excellent embodiment of the principle of subsidiarity that Pope Benedict XVI outlined in “Deus Caritas Est.”

To the extent that anti-poverty programs — whether provided directly by the state or through some contractor like Catholic Charities — secure basic needs, create a safety net, break the cycle of poverty or provide a ladder out of it, they should continue to receive adequate funding and even increases as needs arise.

These public efforts will go a long way toward alleviating material poverty and building a more just society.

Working for justice, however, is only part of the equation.

It is up to all of us to manifest true charity — perform the works of mercy; give generously and directly assist those in need; cooperate with the church’s charitable endeavors — and fill the world with the love and concern that cures the spiritual poverty present in so many hearts.

Merry Christmas!

Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota. To learn more about how you can assist MCC’s advocacy work through the Minnesota Catholic Advocacy Network (MNCAN), visit its website at http://www.mncc.org.

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Minnesota: Parental Involvement Key to Expanding School Choice

By Peter Noll
(December 6, 2011)

As we reflect on the past year, 2011 will be viewed as an unprecedented year for school choice in our nation. Since January, eight new school choice programs have sprung up around the nation and 11 existing programs have been expanded.

“School choice” is a term that often gets bantered about, but at its essence it is simply a common sense idea that gives every parent the power and freedom to choose their children’s education.

Today, the unfortunate fact is that the quality of schooling is based on the value and location of a family’s residence. School choice gives parents the freedom to choose a school based on its quality and their child’s needs, not their home address.

Most people can’t afford to pay twice for education, once in taxes and once in private school tuition. School choice gives parents financial power by letting them use public funds set aside for education to send their children to a traditional public, charter, private or home school. School choice forces all schools — public and private — to offer the best education possible in order to recruit and retain students.

Taking action

Reflecting on successful school choice programs of 2011, there is a common element that contributed to the final outcome — a network of active, mobilized school parents that helped successfully expand school choice. Together, they informed lawmakers how expanding school choice would help their children achieve their maximum potential. Through rallies, letters, emails, telephone calls and public forums; their collective voices were heard.

After studying the successful parent choice campaigns in other states and in light of recent gains in parental choice legislation in our Legislature, the Minnesota Catholic Conference is forming a statewide parent advocacy network.

In recent weeks, MCC has been meeting with Catholic school administrators across the state to inform them of the benefits of mobilizing a parent network to advocate for Catholic schools at the state Legislature and U.S. Congress.

In “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated, “In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good.”

The purpose of this program is to inform, train and mobilize Catholic school parents to be proactive regarding public policy that impacts Catholic school students, families and educators.

Each Catholic school will be invited to establish a parent advocacy position within the school community. Many schools are considering incorporating the parent advocacy position onto the educational advisory committee or home and school association.

Through this program, Catholic school parents will be trained in strategies and techniques to influence public officials regarding school choice legislation. For example, parent advocates will have access to training sessions and resources to assist them in speaking and writing to lawmakers, testifying before legislative committees, setting up candidate forums and district meetings with local senators and representatives, and sharing information about issues of concern for Catholic schools.

Trained parent advocates will disseminate information and action alerts from MCC to members of their school community with the objective of persuading lawmakers to pass school choice legislation that accords all families access to their school of choice.

By building a trusting relationship with their local representative and senator, parent advocates provide a human dimension to the lawmaking process. A timely, compelling telephone call or email message from as few as 10 constituents can influence the vote of a lawmaker.

Hopefully, Minnesota will soon add its name to the list of states to add education tax credits and scholarships for low-income students to attend the school of their choice as a result of a concerted effort by lawmakers, advocates, educators and activated parents who demand a full array of quality school choice options for their children.

Peter Noll is education director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota. Inquiries about the parent advocacy network should be directed to Noll at pnoll@mncc.org.

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Minnesota: Immigration Sunday: Remembering Our American Inheritance

By Jessica Zittlow
(November 30, 2011)

On Jan. 8, 2012, the church will celebrate the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. In years past, the Catholic Church in Minnesota has also commemorated this great feast as Immigration Sunday by dedicating it to reflecting upon the plight of those who have fled their native lands and come to us looking for sanctuary, economic opportunity, religious liberty or many of the other blessings of American life.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference continues to provide parishes that choose to observe Immigration Sunday 2012 with numerous resources dedicated to helping Catholics put their faith into action.

MCC’s website, http://immigrationsundaymn.org, includes bishops’ statements, 2012 liturgy guides and ideas for parish-based activities related to the issue of immigration.

As you and your parish prepare for Immigration Sunday, MCC would like to share with you snippets from a recent address by Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez to the Knights of Columbus. Archbishop Gomez, an immigrant himself, is the chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration.

The archbishop spoke as an American citizen and also as a pastor whose flock is about 70 percent Hispanic. He reminds us that, from a Catholic standpoint, America’s founders got it exactly right. Here are some highlights from his address:

Our basic human need:

“Human rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are universal and inalienable. They come from God, not governments. And these rights are not contingent on where you are born or what racial or ethnic group you are born into. The human right to life, the foundation of every other right, implies the natural right to emigrate. Because, in order for you and your family to live a life worthy of your God-given dignity, certain things are required. At minimum: food, shelter, clothing and the means to make a decent living.

“In Catholic thinking, the right to immigration is a ‘natural right.’ That means it is universal and inalienable. But it is not absolute. Immigrants are obliged to respect and abide by the laws and traditions of the countries they come to reside in.
“Catholic teaching also recognizes the sovereignty of nations to secure their borders and make decisions about who and how many foreigners they allow into their countries.

“However, we must always make sure that we are not exaggerating these concerns in ways that deny the basic humanitarian needs of good people seeking refuge in our country.”

Our American inheritance:

“Catholics — especially — bear the truth about all Americans, namely, that we are all children of immigrants.

“Our inheritance comes to us now as a gift and as a duty. At the least, it means we should have some empathy for this new generation of immigrants. For Christians, empathy means seeing Jesus Christ in every person and especially in the poor and the vulnerable.

“And we need to remember, my friends: Jesus was uncompromising on this point.

“In the evening of our lives, he told us, our love for God will be judged by our love for him in the person of the least among us. This includes, he said, the immigrant or the stranger.

“Very few people ‘choose’ to leave their homelands. Emigration is almost always forced upon people by the dire conditions they face in their lives.”

Our family:

“Many of you are fathers or mothers. So the question you have to ask yourselves is this: What wouldn’t you do to provide for your loved ones? To feed hungry mouths? To give your children a better future?

“Those are questions we all need to ask ourselves. I only want to offer one suggestion. Our perspective on this issue will change if you begin to see these ‘illegals’ for who they really are — mothers and fathers, sons and daughters — not much different from yourselves.

“They are people who are not afraid of hard work or sacrifice. They are people who have courage and the other virtues — and who value God, family and community.”

Immigration Sunday gives Minnesota Catholics an opportunity to push political debates aside and do exactly as Archbishop Gomez suggests: take time to not only welcome the stranger, but to acknowledge his or her value — as mother, father, son or daughter, as family and community member.

As we take the Advent and Christmas seasons to open our hearts and minds to the coming of the Lord, we should likewise do the same for those who are in need. We also will be working more effectively for just solutions to our broken immigration system.

Jessica Zittlow is the MCC’s communications associate.

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Minnesota: Love, Marriage and the ‘Tools’ of Engagement

By Jessica Zittlow
(November 22, 2011)

Recently, USA Today reported that a group of politicians who want to redefine marriage are calling on their advocates to shift the focus from an argument about equal rights to an argument about “love and commitment.”

It apparently tests better than the “equality” and “benefits” sound bites. Surprising? No. If someone asks you, “Do you really want to deny someone love and commitment?” the knee-jerk reaction, especially for a Christian of good will is, “Of course not!” But, is denying a person “love and commitment” the issue when we talk about preserving marriage as one man, one woman in the state constitution? Of course not.

“Love is love” is a nice sentiment, but we know from human experience that love has never been just love. As Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe stated: “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.”

Father Arrupe is referring to falling in love with God, or experiencing a love that orders oneself toward and, ultimately, with the Divine. Pop culture “love” slogans refer to a relationship between two people.

We intuitively know love and commitment is not sufficient for marriage. It is needed for marriage, yes. But, the government ultimately has no interest in regulating the “love and commitment” between two people. The government does have an interest in promoting institutions that help ensure a child is raised by his or her biological mom and dad.

Tough conversations

When asked the “love and commitment” question during a marriage amendment discussion, we usually don’t have the luxury of writing a three-paragraph response. We get it. It’s tough.

We are all afraid to have the conversation because we don’t want to be called “bigots” or “haters.” More important, we don’t want to be seen as uncompassionate, unloving or unwelcoming to our fellow Catholics with same-sex attraction.

But we must explain our Catholic beliefs and remember what Blessed Pope John Paul II would often tell us: “Be not afraid.” Authentic compassion and conviction are rooted in the truth of God. They live in the same space.

If we avoid engaging in the conversation about what marriage is and why the marriage amendment is important, we are also avoiding conversations about: the beauty and freedom found in Catholic teaching on sexuality, the dignity and natural rights of every person and the need to find real, meaningful ways to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters with same-sex attraction, some of whom should be seen as models for the chaste, holy lives that we are all called to live.

Tools of engagement

In the coming months, the Minnesota Catholic Conference will provide the tools to help you enter in to these tough discussions. Going into 2012 we encourage you to:

• Educate yourself.
Know what the church says and doesn’t say about marriage and sexuality, and the rights and roles of Catholics in the “public square.” MCC recently launched a blog: “Unique for a Reason, Why Marriage Matters” (http://marriagematters.mncc.org) that offers a variety of perspectives from your fellow “Catholics in the pew” on why marriage matters to the church and to them personally. Links to our new YouTube channel and the MCC marriage resource page can also be found on the blog. In the coming months, we will be continuing to add to and improve the usability of our marriage resource page (http://mncc.org/issues/marriage).

• Take heart in your bishops.
Be assured that your Minnesota bishops, in communion with the bishops throughout the U.S., are fully engaged in the issue. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently re-launched the “Marriage: Unique for a Reason” (http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org/about-us) website that offers catechetical aids on marriage and sexuality, including Spanish resources (http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org/la-familia-video).

• Engage in the issue.
As human beings, we are social beings, and therefore are inherently political. We are called to be active citizens. Everyone has their own special gifts. Consider using them to promote the common good and help pass the 2012 Marriage Protection Amendment. Sign up on the Minnesota for Marriage (http://www.minnesotaformarriage.com) website to get involved.

• Pray, pray, pray.
“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). The promotion and protection of marriage begins with prayer. This is about a broader cultural issue. It is not only about passing the amendment, it is about renewing the understanding of and respect for life, marriage, sexuality and chastity within ourselves, our Catholic community and American culture. We invite you to pray with us (http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org/prayer).

Jessica Zittlow is the communications associate of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

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Minnesota: Immigration Sunday Resources

JANUARY 8, 2012 is IMMIGRATION SUNDAY MINNESOTA…Learn more and get planning resources

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Minnesota: Why a Marriage Protection Amendment? Why Now?

By Jason Adkins
(October 26, 2011)

In November 2012, Minnesotans will have the chance to preserve in law the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman from activist judges and rogue legislators who seek to undermine this bedrock social institution.

A constitutional amendment on the general election ballot next year asks Minnesota voters: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”

The answer is emphatically “yes.”

Threat to marriage

Some people are confused as to why a marriage protection amendment is needed. After all, the marriage between one man and one woman is current state law.

Unfortunately, there is an organized, nationwide campaign to redefine marriage or to eliminate it from law altogether, and Minnesota is not immune.

Courts in places such as Iowa and Massachusetts have struck down traditional marriage laws as irrational relics of a society that allegedly used to be governed by religious dogma.

Here in Minnesota, multiple same-sex couples have sued for a marriage license because, they argue, excluding them is state-sponsored religious discrimination that is both irrational and violates their own deeply held beliefs.

Their arguments were heard by the Minnesota Court of Appeals this week.

Legislatures, too, are the scene of attempts to remake marriage.

Just recently in New York, the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo transformed New York marriage law from an institution focused on the well-being of children into a system of love licenses for adults, severing the inherent connection in marriage between children and their biological parents.

“We’re about to redefine what the American family is, and that’s a good thing,” one New York state senator told the Wall Street Journal as the bill was being considered.

Such comments are not unique or uncommon and are consistent with a broader cultural movement that is seeking to not only redefine the family, but to transform all of society.

For example, activist Michelangelo Signorile, a man who self-identifies as gay, stated in Out! magazine that people like him should “fight for same-sex marriage and its benefits, and then, once granted, redefine the institution of marriage entirely. The most subversive action lesbians and gay men can undertake is to transform the notion of ‘family’ entirely.”

In Minnesota, numerous pieces of legislation have been introduced over the last few years to redefine marriage along the lines of what happened in New York (see H.F. 1710), or eliminate it altogether (H.F. 1746) in favor of a system of “civil unions,” which might be more accurately called marriage “leases” — a legal union without the expectation of permanence or fidelity.

Such a system would reinforce the emerging cultural norm that marriage is fundamentally about the happiness of adults, and that when the happiness or “love” ends, so does the marriage. One sees this trend in the ever-present slogan, “love + commitment = marriage.”

But kids are the ones who lose when marriage is just like any other contract.

A public concern

Love and commitment are necessary for marriage, but not sufficient. Society has an interest in supporting and sustaining a legal institution that is fundamentally about begetting children, attaches those children to their parents, and carries with it social norms of permanence and fidelity — which research clearly indicates are indispensable to a child’s well-being.

In fact, a recent study from the Social Trends Institute confirms what we know from Catholic social teaching: the long-term success and economic prosperity of societies depends upon the health of intact families.

So, the next time you are asked how redefining marriage hurts you, you can say that marriage is not just about the private relationship of two people, but a public institution that affects all of us, our children and the future of our community.

The Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment ensures that judges and politicians do not have the final say about marriage in Minnesota.

Faithful citizenship

With just over one year until the November 2012 election, we must begin the hard work of sharing with Minnesotans what marriage is, why it is important, and the consequences that will undoubtedly occur if it is redefined.

In many cases, this will be a challenging conversation. Unfortunately, there are many, especially in the media, who seek to perpetrate stereotypes that the church’s defense of marriage is a bigoted effort to harm people and deny them basic human rights. It is not.

All of God’s children are created in his image and likeness, and we should love them all.

But loving someone has never meant affirming all of their choices or desires. Jesus clearly demonstrates this in the Gospels time and again. Loving someone means we perform a work of mercy and share the truth with them, no matter how uncomfortable or difficult that may be.

This is not a conversation we have chosen to have, but we cannot sit on the sidelines.

Article I, section 1 of the Minnesota Constitution states: “Government is instituted for the security, benefit and protection of the people, in whom all political power is inherent, together with the right to alter, modify or reform government whenever required by the public good.”

Like the church’s other work in the public arena defending human life and promoting social justice, the “public good” now requires we stand up for marriage and preserve it in our constitution — the very thing this important document was designed to do.

With your help and prayers, we will pass the marriage protection amendment as part of our work as faithful citizens to reclaim a culture of marriage in Minnesota.

_____________________________________________________________

Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Minnesota: 2011 FALL CONFERENCE CATHOLICS IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE

The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt and the Archdiocese of Saint Paul & Minneapolis’s Office of Marriage, Family, and Life invite you attend the 2011 Fall Conference: Catholics in the Public Square.

Join the Minnesota Catholic Conference’s Jason Adkins, along with Anthony Picarello, Jr. from the USCCB and Angela Pfister from the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, to discuss the role of Catholics in the public square.
Speakers will explore critical topics such as:
“What are our responsibilities as Catholics when it comes to political life?”
“What about the separation of Church and State?”
“How do I vote my conscience when no candidate expresses my Catholic views?”
Date: Saturday, November 5, 2011
Time: 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Keynote speakers:
Schedule:
  • 8:00 a.m. – Mass
  • 8:30 a.m. – Continental Breakfast / Registration
  • 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. – Conference
Admission is free, however, seating is limited so reservations are required. Please contact the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life at 651.291.4488 to register. Reservation deadline is Monday, October 31, 2011, so make your reservation before it’s too late. Sponsored by the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life.
Regards,
Mary Jane O’Brien (on behalf of MCC)
 

Minnesota: The Church Will Not Be Silenced

By Jason Adkins (October 4, 2011)

It is not surprising to see the Star Tribune continue to beat the drum in opposition to the marriage protection amendment that will appear on the November 2012 ballot (”On gay marriage, state is out of step,” Oct. 1).

What is troubling is the paper’s attack on the Catholic Church’s participation in the public debate — an attack that should concern all Minnesotans as out of step with this country’s most cherished traditions of free speech and religious liberty.

The Star Tribune sees in the church the specter of a looming theocracy, but this could not be further from reality. The church only proposes; she imposes nothing.

Legislators and the public are free to accept or reject her witness, and Catholics who participate in the public square are fully conscious that they must make arguments that are persuasive to people of faith and those outside religious communities.

So why are some eager to silence the church’s voice?

The church’s public witness in helping to shape a public order that is just, protects authentic rights, serves the common good and promotes human flourishing is not in any way different from what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did when he, a Baptist minister and theologian, fought for just laws.

His civil rights advocacy was grounded in biblical conviction, the natural law, and the Declaration of Independence, much like Catholic advocacy today. In his words, “a just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.”

Would the Star Tribune criticize Dr. King for imposing his religious views on others?

To be clear: There is such a thing as a healthy secularism that guides the respective roles of church and state.

But what animates the Star Tribune and other purveyors of a false secularism is a politically correct rewriting of the First Amendment, in which the newfangled concept of “freedom of worship” is substituted in place of “religious freedom” — a move that seeks to “protect the public” by enclosing religious people and their evangelical witness within their own walls.

Our state and our nation cannot afford this naked public square. Do we really want a society where Catholic schools, Catholic hospitals, and Catholic charities serve only Catholics?

Do we really want to marginalize the church’s voice of conscience, a voice that has historically served as the most powerful voice for human rights in our community and around the world?

Do we understand that the secularist attack on the church will have consequences for all religious communities, not just Catholics?

The diktat of the ruling mindset will always seek to silence those such as Dr. King who offer a public moral witness in defense of truth.

The church, however, will not and cannot remain silent in the public square, and especially not now as the bedrock social institution of marriage is under attack in law and in the culture.

Over the next 13 months — and indeed, well into the future — the church and her friends, religious and secular, will seek to share with Catholics and all Minnesotans why marriage between a man and woman plays an indispensable role in the well-being of children and society.

We will discuss what marriage is, why it is important, and what the significant consequences will be, especially for religious freedom, if it is redefined.

We will also work diligently to correct the empty slogans, mistruths, and distortions purveyed by those who claim that preserving marriage denies people rights or constitutes discrimination.

Fallacies are still fallacies, even when they become fads.

This is not a debate the church has chosen, nor is it an intramural conversation about church doctrine. The church is not telling anyone who they can and cannot love. After all, we are commanded to love everybody.

But love must be ordered to truth, and thus we are compelled to lend our voice in defense of the truth that marriage between a man and a woman is a basic good and an ideal that should be upheld in law.

Again, people can agree or disagree with the church’s message, and they may do so vigorously.

But the public should be aware that those who seek to both redefine marriage and silence those who object are the ones imposing a truly intolerant new orthodoxy: an illiberal dictatorship of relativism that is contrary to our Constitution and venerated traditions of civil discourse.

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Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Minnesota

Minnesota: The Catholic Church Doesn’t Believe in Human Rights – Huh?

By Jessica Zittlow

I found the reckless accusation, “The Catholic Church simply doesn’t believe in human rights” wedged between several other statements of supposed “facts” about the Catholic Church in the comment section of a recent online op-ed posting.

Unfortunately, the sad fact is that there are many non-Catholics and Catholics alike who believe this is true to varying degrees.

To accurately address where this confusion lies, we need to approach the issue by asking the right questions. It is not “Does the Catholic Church believe in ‘human rights’?” Rather, the questions are “What is the Catholic Church’s conception of ‘human rights’?” And, perhaps in some cases, “Why do I think that it is at odds with mine?”

In her essay, “The Moral Structure of Freedom,” former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon analyzes Pope John Paul II’s 1995 address to the U.N. General Assembly.

She notes that multiple competing notions of “freedom” exist and that discourse concerning rights has become difficult because the presence of these competing visions of freedom escape notice. More specifically, the competing ideas about “freedom” differ as to how they view its relation to truth, responsibility and, most important, an understanding of the person and what constitutes authentic human flourishing.

Differing dialects

Glendon situates the conflicting ideas within two central forms of political discourse. The “libertarian” dialect, which emphasizes rights as “immunities”— that is, freedom from restraint — and the “dignitarian” dialect, which emphasizes that with political and civil rights come certain obligations on the part of the state toward its citizens and on the part of its citizens toward one another.

One basic way of looking at the tension is how we define freedom. Is freedom the ability to do what we want or the ability to do what we ought?

No political system or culture takes a purely “libertarian” or “dignitarian” approach. While they vary in degree throughout the world, these “dialects” of freedom manifest themselves throughout law, economics and culture. As Glendon states:

“Rights discourse of the type commonly found in countries influenced by English common law confers its highest priority upon individual freedom from government constraints. Rights tend to be formulated without mention of their limits, their relation to responsibilities, or to other rights. . . . Rather than aiming at the common good, it tends to be an end in itself.

“The dignitarian rights language that one finds . . . in the social doctrine of the Catholic Church is characterized by a more nuanced dialect of freedom and responsibility. . . . [R]ights are envisioned not only as protected by fair procedures, but as grounded and situated in a normative framework based on human dignity.”

In America today, we tilt strongly toward the “libertarian” dialect. And, as a result, discussions about how policies affect “the common good” seem unintelligible and fall on deaf ears. But recovering a “dignitarian” approach is necessary if we hope to construct a just social order, especially one that safeguards the role of the family as the first social “cell” of society.

Understanding freedom

The “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and many “dignitarian” constitutions provide that the family is under special protection for the society and the state.

It is worth noting that the Catholic Church analyzes marriage law in civil society with this “dignitarian” approach. A man and a woman have the right to have their marriage recognized by the state because they publicly embrace the responsibility to nurture the children that result from their union.

The law helps to promote stable, two-parent households that provide a mom and a dad for a child. The right to marriage is not grounded in the legal recognition of individual romantic preferences. Rights are rooted in responsibilities — the ability to do what we ought, not what we want.

As Catholics, we are called to view every question of “human rights” and public policy in these terms.

We should weigh the validity of “freedoms” by the extent to which they support or undermine the common good.

We must find ways to promote the “unique worth of each individual” while we honestly scrutinize how our individual actions diminish or promote broader human flourishing, and then support laws that do the latter.

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Jessica Zittlow is communications associate with the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Minnesota: Flier for Catholics in the Public Square Conference

UPCOMING EVENT

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Minnesota: Bishop Explains Church’s Teaching About Sexual Behavior

By Bishop John M. LeVoir

Q: Why is the Catholic Church so opposed to same sex activity? Shouldn’t the Church be more compassionate toward those with same sex attractions?

A: To answer these questions, one should first understand the identity of the human person. Going to Sacred Scripture and the Catechism, we see that: “‘Christ . . . in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation’ (Lk 15:11-32). It is in Christ, ‘the image of the invisible God,’ (GS 22) that man has been created ‘in the image and likeness’ (Col 1:15; cf. 2 Cor 4:4) of the Creator” (CCC, 1701).

In other words, each of us is created in the image of God. Each of us reflects God. Since God is personal (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), this means that each human being is a person, endowed with an intellect (the power to think) and a free will (the power to choose freely or to love). The intellect and the will are powers of the soul. The human soul is real, but it is immaterial and invisible. The soul gives life to the body. Each of us has a body which expresses the person, i.e., the body expresses in outward human acts a person’s thoughts and choices.

How should we think, choose, and act? As the above quote from the Catechism states: “Christ . . . in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself…” So, it is Christ who reveals us to ourselves and in so doing, He reveals to us how we should think, choose, and act. For example, Christ reveals that we should follow the Ten Commandments, live the Beatitudes, and do the works of mercy.

But, we know that it is difficult to think, choose, and act like Christ. Why? Again, we go to the Catechism. “‘Man, enticed by the Evil One, abused his freedom at the very beginning of history’ (GS 13 § 1). He succumbed to temptation and did what was evil. He still desires the good, but his nature bears the wound of original sin. He is now inclined to evil and subject to error: ‘Man is divided in himself. As a result, the whole life of men, both individual and social, shows itself to be a struggle, and a dramatic one, between good and evil, between light and darkness’” (GS 13 § 2 and CCC, no. 1707).

Since we are all wounded by original sin, our lives are a struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness. This struggle takes place within us and within those who experience same sex attractions. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, the Catechism teaches that homosexual or same sex acts are acts of grave depravity (CCC, no. 2357 and Cf. Gen 19:1-29; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10). Thus, they are contrary to the revelation of Jesus Christ about how an image of God should act. That is the reason for the Church’s teaching against sexual activity between those of the same sex.

The compassion of the Church for those who have same sex attractions is expressed in the Catechism as well. The Catechism states: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (CCC, no. 2358).

So, each of us has an infinite dignity because each of us is created in the image of God. It is Jesus, the perfect image of God, who reveals to us how an image of God should think, choose or love, and act. However, since each of us is wounded by original sin, we struggle to think, love, and act like Christ. Each of us has his or her own struggles.

Through the Bible, Jesus reveals to us that we are to live chaste lives, i.e., we are to exercise our sexuality only within the marital union of the marriage of one man and one woman (cf. CCC, no. 2337). This means that we are to refrain from sexual activity outside of the context of marriage.

Those with same sex attractions struggle to live chaste lives in accordance with the teaching of Christ. However, like all of us, they can discover in prayer, the celebration of the sacraments, and chaste friendships, the grace that they need to follow Jesus, despite the struggles that they undergo. With God’s grace, each of us can say with St. Paul: “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (Phil 4:13).

Courage is a program founded by those with same sex attractions for those with same sex attractions to help those with this particular wound of original sin to live chaste lives (see www.couragerc.net for more information).

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The Most Reverend John M. LeVoir is Bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota.

Minnesota: MN Bishops to HHS

New Rule could force religious organizations to choose between conscience and communities they serve

ST. PAUL, MINN. (September 27, 2012) –The Catholic bishops of Minnesota urged HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a recent letter to rescind the recent “preventative services mandate” rule imposed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The Rule would force private insurance plans to cover contraception and sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs, like the recently FDA-approved drug “Ella.” They requested HHS instead broaden the protection of conscience in the implementation of the PPACA.

Although the bishops noted their support for providing access to services that truly prevent disease or disability for women, such as pap smears and mammograms, they are concerned that the Rule will treat fertility and pregnancy as abnormal states that are in need of prevention and force unprecedented restrictions on employers to act in violation of their informed conscience.

“Even if there are disagreements about abortion and birth control as public policy, the long-standing legislative tradition in the US has protected the freedom of conscience and religious beliefs,” said Jason Adkins, Executive Director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), which represents the bishops of Minnesota on matters of public policy. “Requiring Catholic individuals and institutions to pay for and provide abortion drugs and contraceptives contrary to Catholic teaching in the name is ‘reproductive autonomy’ is an unprecedented attack on the cherished liberties of religious and associational freedom.”

The bishops noted that the new Rule is a reversal of the long tradition in the United States of conscience protections for faith-based providers. Additionally, they are disheartened by the “potential impact of the Rule on the vulnerable populations who have been served well and generously by Catholic providers for many decades in our country.”

“Not only Catholics, but millions of people of different faiths and outside the religious community are served through Catholic-affiliated social service programs and schools throughout the United States. The Rule will effectively insulate churches and religious organizations from the communities they serve,” Adkins said. “It will seriously affect the educational and social service network of the Catholic Church by preventing us from helping all of our brothers and sisters of other faiths and beliefs, while staying true to ours.”

The bishops also sent letters to the Minnesota congressional delegation asking them to sponsor the bipartisan Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (HR 1179), which would insure the PPACA would not be used to trample on religious and association freedom by forcing private health plans to provide services that are morally unacceptable. Additionally, they asked Catholics in Minnesota to voice their concern about the Rule by sending a letter about the mandate to HHS and the Minnesota congressional delegation no later than Friday, September 30, 2011.

LINKS
* MCC Letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: http://bit.ly/otALCN
* MCC Life & Bio-ethics page with MN congressional delegation letters: http://bit.ly/mRWnFA
* USCCB Preventive Services Backgrounder: http://bit.ly/pfSd6W
* NCHLA Online Action Alert template: http://bit.ly/q41O2i

Minnesota: Stand up for marriage, the center of social life

In November 2012, Minnesota voters will have a chance to defend marriage as the union of one man and one woman from rogue courts and legislators who believe it is their right to redefine and undermine this vital social institution.

The ballot question states, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.” If adopted, the Minnesota Constitution would be amended accordingly. As Catholics and faithful citizens, we should consider this as an opportunity to share with other Minnesotans why marriage matters for our communities. Our answer is fundamental to all Catholic social teaching.

Jesus was born and lived in a concrete family and was nurtured by a mother and father joined together in marriage. He conferred the highest dignity on the institution of marriage, making it a sacrament of the new covenant (cf. Matthew 19:3-9). Enlightened by this message, Catholic teaching considers the family the first natural society and places it as the center of social life — where we learn to love others and live the virtues necessary to be good and productive members of our communities.

A family founded on the mutual self-giving of one man and one woman is the bedrock of civil society. As Blessed John Paul II reminds us, authentic, strong marriage is where children “develop their potentialities, become aware of their dignity and prepare to face their unique and individual destiny.” If families suffer, children suffer and all of society suffers.

Given the inherent connection between families, the well-being of children and the good of society, it is natural that the state supports and endorses traditional marriage in its laws.

Civil marriage exists in law because societies across history and around the world realized that marriage between one man and one woman provides the most stable environment in which to raise children and keeps biological parents connected to their children. While death and divorce too often prevent it, we know children do best when raised in an intact home by their mother and father. In other words, traditional marriage fosters strong community.

Minnesota’s Catholic bishops have publicly promoted a state marriage amendment because of ongoing attempts by judges and politicians to redefine marriage in our laws. The 2012 amendment will prevent what happened in Iowa and New York, among other places, where a small group of legislators or a smaller group of judges redefined marriage for the whole state.

Help strengthen marriage

The Minnesota Catholic Conference is actively supporting “Minnesota for Marriage,” the ballot campaign promoting the amendment, and will work with a broad coalition of groups to promote the amendment in a positive, pro-marriage and pro-community way. It is helping to organize a grassroots network of volunteers across the state.

The success of the campaign depends upon the initiative of all Catholics to take an active role in helping with the many activities needed to be done between now and November 2012. Not everyone has the same gifts or interests, but there will be lots of opportunities to use your talents and time.

Will the campaign be easy? No. We will be vastly outspent and there will be many cultural forces working against us. They will try to make us think that we are swimming against the tide of history. They will call us names for defending the important institution of marriage. But, we must stand together.

Volunteers are needed at the parish and community level. We will be conducting a massive voter education effort, speaking with all Minnesotans about the amendment and why it is necessary to preserve traditional marriage in our state.

We need parishes to provide prayer teams and support; parish leaders or captains who can assist the pastor in various educational efforts in support of marriage and the amendment; help recruiting other volunteers and organizing activity in the parish and local community; help with voter registration drives, phone calls, door knocking and get-out-the-vote efforts later in 2012. Training and resources will be provided.

Your support is vital to help other Minnesotans see the timeless institution of marriage as the bedrock of civil society and the strongest environment for raising children.

To become informed and involved, and for regular marriage amendment campaign updates, please sign up at: http://minnesotaformarriage.com. You can also contact MCC outreach coordinator Cathy Deeds at (651) 256-7583 or email her at cdeeds@mncc.org.

Visit MCC’s “Marriage Amendment Resource” section website for helpful documents on church teaching on marriage, frequently asked questions in the marriage debate, videos and news updates at http://mncc.org/issues/marriage.

God is the author of marriage. But we are his hands and feet. Through prayer, fasting and hard work, Catholics will work to preserve his design for marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the benefit of families, children and society. Please join us and stand up for marriage today.

View the full article on the Catholic Spirit Website

Minnesota: Stop use of State funds for human cloning research

In the heated budget debates going on at the Capitol, a ban on the use of State funds for human cloning research is at risk. Pro-life lawmakers added a ban on the taxpayer funding of human cloning to the original Higher Education omnibus bill, but it was vetoed by Governor Dayton. It is now uncertain whether the funding ban will remain in place in the compromise budget bill being drafted right now.

The funding ban prevents Minnesotans’ tax dollars from funding research in human cloning, a practice that is unethical, immoral and wrong.  The Legislature passed a similar ban in 2009, but it must be reauthorized every two years. This human cloning funding ban would permanently prevent state taxpayer funds from being used to clone human beings.  If not renewed, it would be the first time in Minnesota history that a pro-life law has been reversed by the Legislature and Governor.

We at the Minnesota Catholic Conference are asking you to contact your legislators and tell them not to put the taxpayer’s money into the funding of human cloning! In today’s tough times, it is an easy choice to tell your legislator that our tax dollars should be helping, not hindering, humanity in our state. Click the link below to take action now!

Take Action! Click Here.