January 3, 2014
As one year ends and another begins, local and national news media typically look back at the just-completed year to assess the major events and issues of the previous 12 months and to speculate on what may happen in the new year. Often, the “top 10” news stories of the year involve issues which have been debated in the public square and the halls of legislatures for a long time: economics and taxes; crime and punishment; education policies; threats to basic liberties.
It is a cherished American freedom and practice to publicly discuss and debate these issues - sometimes in complete civility and sometimes with more heat than necessary - wherever people gather. Many organizations and groups with a stake in public issues, whether they are overtly political, business- or labor-related, or interested in one particular topic, take public positions and make other efforts to influence government policy and legislation.
The Catholic Church believes this truly is the American way and that churches and religiously-affiliated groups also have a voice in the public square. The Catholic Church and other Christian denominations take positions which seek to preserve the basic tenets enshrined in our nation’s founding documents, tenets whose origin stretches much further back than the founding of our country.
So when we propose policies and legislation, we, too, are promoting life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the common good in our society. To that end, the bishops of the Catholic Church in the U.S. have issued statements and actively advocated for certain policies in the laws and programs of our country and our state. Their stances are a matter of public record, accessible at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Web site, www.usccb.org. Their non-partisan positions on public policy rest on the important principle of the common good. As Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., reminds us in his 2012 book, “Seek First the Kingdom,” …
As the Kentucky legislature prepares to open a new session in Frankfort to address the commonwealth’s pressing issues, Kentucky’s four Catholic bishops and their representative organization on public policy, the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, seek to draw attention to issues of concern to Catholics. But we believe many people outside the Catholic Church also share our concerns about these issues and their effects on the common good. These issues include tax reforms and policies, predatory lending practices, the death penalty, informed consent prior to abortions, human trafficking (yes, it happens in Kentucky!), the freedom to practice one’s religious faith, and just treatment of immigrants.
The Catholic Conference has scheduled gatherings at a number of Catholic parishes across Kentucky, inviting state legislators as well as Catholics themselves to hear about our Church’s views on important issues in a civil forum. We want our legislators to not only hear about Catholic viewpoints but also to understand that our bishops and their viewpoints do not seek to serve Catholic interests alone, but the interests and the well-being of all Kentuckians. The next in these “Catholics @ the Capitol” gatherings will be held at Good Shepherd Parish on Shepherd Way, just off Leestown Road, starting at noon on Saturday, Jan. 5. Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Catholic Diocese of Lexington will lead the meeting, and we welcome area legislators to join in the discussions.
Mike Lynch is a deacon in Frankfort’s Good Shepherd Catholic Church.
— The State Journal, Frankfort