January 21, 2018

As the 2018 Washington State Legislative Session enters its third week, we are reminded that, as Catholics, we are called to allow our faith to shape our politics, and not the other way around. There are important policy debates happening in Olympia and in Washington, D.C., that are of particular interest to us as people of faith.

The Washington State Catholic Conference (WSCC) is the public policy voice of the Bishops of our state. It is through the work of the Conference that our bishops communicate our priorities as a Church, and advocate for and against legislation that reflect these priorities. The WSCC website (thewscc.org) is an excellent source of up-to-date information about what is happening in the state legislature and nationally on issues of interest to Catholics.

Two of the major issues that the Church is focused on right now, one local and one national, make clear that our priorities cut across the traditional distinctions of Republican/Democrat, Progressive/Conservative.

Here in Washington State the Abortion Insurance Mandate (SB 6219 & HB 2409), would mandate insurance coverage for abortion in our state. The Catholic Bishops of Washington strongly oppose this bill because it would enhance existing contraception coverage requirements and promote abortions while violating the constitutionally-protected conscience rights of individuals, churches, businesses and others.

In their statement, issued last week, the Bishops wrote, “It is a most fundamental principle of our faith - the inherent dignity of all human life from the moment of conception until natural death - that leads us to reject policies that promote abortion. This same principle also drives our care for the most vulnerable in our communities as well as our opposition to the death penalty.”

Opposition to abortion, and opposition to the death penalty are often not positions embraced by the same political party. Often (and this is a generalization to which there are many individual exceptions) people who see themselves as more conservative oppose legalized abortion, but support the death penalty; and those who see themselves as more progressive oppose the death penalty but support legalized abortion. For us Catholics these two issues go together. For us, the fundamental dignity of human life makes us oppose abortion as well as the death penalty.

The Bishops, in their statement, also point out that “The Catholic Church stands together with those who would protect women’s access to basic health care. We have a longstanding commitment to care for women confronting the challenge of an unplanned pregnancy. Through our parish ministries and extensive Catholic Charities services, we serve women, especially those living in poverty, with material assistance, emotional support and counseling. This commitment can be seen in our PREPARES program, a state- wide initiative that walks with mothers, fathers, and their children from conception to age five.”

On Monday of this week, people of faith, and people of good will who share our desire to protect the life and dignity of the unborn, will gather in Olympia for the Mass and March for Life. This annual gathering provides an opportunity for us to pray together and then to raise our voices to speak on behalf of those who have no voice.

On a national level, the U.S. Bishops are urging the President and the Congress to find a solution to protecting those who were brought to this country without papers as children and now face the threat of being deported from the only country they have ever known. The Bishops have asked for our prayers and our advocacy on behalf of these “Dreamers.” You can find more information on the Bishops’ statements to our national leaders at USCCB.org.

May our efforts this year lead to greater protection of all human life, from conception to natural death - and to the support of the most vulnerable among us during their lifetimes.

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni