By Jeanette Arnquist
By our baptism, Catholics are committed to following Jesus Christ and to be “salt for the earth, light for the nations.” As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “It is necessary that all participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good. This is inherent in the dignity of the human person ... As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life”
On May 4, Sr. Carmel Crimmins, Maria Guadalupe Ortiz, Cohinda Gomez and I met with Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod as part of the Diocese of San Bernardino’s local effort to support Catholic Advocacy Day.
Catholic Advocacy Day is sponsored by the California Catholic Conference (CCC) as part of its effort to involve ordinary Catholics in impacting legislation that has a moral dimension. For the last 14 years, the CCC has organized an advocacy event in Sacramento. The Diocese of San Bernardino, as most of the dioceses of California, has participated in these days by forming parishioners in the issues and advocacy skills and organizing the effort to get to Sacramento and visit the legislators.
The CCC begins the process by carefully selecting about four bills addressing issues where the Church’s teaching is clear and where Catholic voices can make a difference. It seems that the budget is always up for discussion. The U.S. Bishops’ letter Economic Justice for All has taught us that the moral measure of a budget is how it treats the poor and vulnerable among us.
This year the Diocese of San Bernardino chose to make local visits instead of traveling to Sacramento. Between April 24 and May 4, five visits were held in offices of assembly members and state senators representing different areas of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Of course, our legislators did not agree with us on all of the issues, but there was some common ground with each of them. Following the visits, reports were completed and filed with the CCC. They will be available on their web site soon.
We spoke about the CCC’s position of five bills and the state budget. The CCC opposes SB 1388, which would allow nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to perform abortions. Fortunately, this bill died in committee. The CCC supports SB 2353 which would allow persons owning a reliable vehicle to receive CalWorks, a temporary financial assistance program for families with children; SB 1462 which would allow the medical release of terminal ill inmates from jails; SB 1088 which would permit students leaving juvenile hall to return to regular classrooms, subject to the recommendation of their probation officer; and SB1064 which would put the infrastructure in place so that undocumented parents who are deported would be able to make arrangements for their citizen children. We talked about the difficulties with the state budget and appealed for schools to be spared from the proposed cuts.
Last year our voices were successful and three of the Catholic Advocacy Day bills were passed: AB 130 and 131, the California Dream Act and AB 6 which would lessen the paperwork required to obtain food stamps, now known as the CalFresh program. Part of this success is attributed to participation in the Catholic Legislative Network by over 15,000 local Catholics, who are called upon to support the efforts with emails. People who have not yet joined can do so from the convenience of their computer by visiting the CCC web site at www.cacatholic.org.
We look forward to continuing to raise our voices for life, for justice and for the common good!
Jeanette Arnquist is the Director of the Ministry of Life, Dignity and Justice for the Diocese San Bernardino.