Advocates focus on families, health, immigration, poverty, and criminal justice
By Kevin J. Jones
Photo: Children sing in the open rotunda at the Texas Capitol for Texas Advocacy Day in Austin April 10. (James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald / CNS)
More than 4,000 Catholics visited Texas’ capitol in Austin, including bishops from the state's 15 dioceses, to meet with legislators and discuss legislation under consideration.
“It's important that we present a united voice,” Helen Osman, communications consultant for the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, told CNA April 10.
“It took many hours of coordination, but the Texas legislators knew that the Church was present in the Capitol on April 4 – and we were there not in self-interest, but for the good of all citizens in the state of Texas,” she added.
“Our motivation – to speak on behalf of the vulnerable and the poor, for human life and dignity – gives our voice a gravitas that many special interest groups lack.”
For Catholic Advocacy Day, each of Texas' 181 legislators received a visit from a team of “Catholic advocates” who live in his or her district.
They focused on issues grouped under the topics of protecting human life; children and families; health and human services; justice for immigrants; protecting the poor and vulnerable; and criminal justice.
“The team had a list of bills that were prioritized by the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops since they were relevant to the bishops’ agenda, had been reviewed by the Catholic conference, and were active in the legislative process,” Osman said.
“We also held a rally outside the Capitol, where the bishops addressed all participants,” she added.
Osman said the group was among the more favorably received groups of capitol visitors.
“We bring a spirit of joy and generosity to our conversations, and the legislators appreciate that!” she said.
“These events can persuade a legislator to consider changing his or her position on important legislation. Catholics can effectively exercise their call to be faithful citizens by working with their bishops through their state Catholic conferences."
Pro-life bills under consideration address partial-birth abortion, “wrongful birth” lawsuits, mandatory reporting for abortion complications, and efforts to increase penalties for abortions coerced by human traffickers.
There is a bill concerning parental choice in education and several bills concerning foster care.
The Texas bishops conference backs a bill that would provide better access to mental heath and substance-abuse treatment, as well as a bill to establish a state grant to match donations to organizations that provide mental health programs.