During the season of Advent, there are many opportunities to serve those in need, especially the poor. Pope Francis posed a challenge for Catholics in his November World Day of the Poor message, urging all not to be satisfied with the state of poverty in their midst. This month’s The Word from Lansing column explains that the Holy Father asks for interaction with these individuals and families instead, encouraging us to look beyond stereotypes and create friendships.
The Word from Lansing is a regular column written by Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) staff for Catholic news outlets. Through these columns, MCC outlines current advocacy issues of importance to the Conference and discusses the Catholic position and role in the political process. This publication complements the more regular updates provided by Michigan Catholic Conference’s Catholic Advocacy Network.
While society seems to link one’s value to his or her abilities or independence, the Catholic Church recognizes that each person has dignity and welcomes all with warmth, compassion, and assistance. The Word from Lansing column for November highlights a few areas of ministry within the Church that reinforce this idea, including assistance for women with unexpected pregnancies, post-abortive counseling, and life-affirming care for the terminally ill.
The freedom of religion has long been upheld in America as a right for every person, regardless of their religious beliefs. This month’s The Word from Lansing column focuses on the importance of defending religious freedom for all people, as well as the importance of coming together in interfaith collaboration to address pressing issues in society.
Recognizing the dignity of every person, regardless of differences in race, ethnicity, or background, is a core element of the Catholic faith. Last month, after divisive speech and racially-motivated violence that left three dead in Charlottesville, Virginia, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) called for the creation of an Ad-Hoc Committee Against Racism. The new chairman of this committee, Most Reverend George Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, has challenged Catholics across the country to stand against racism and intolerance, accompanying statements of solidarity with concrete action.
In recent years, the Michigan Legislature has taken several steps to ensure the health and safety of all Michigan students, including the approval of $2.5 million to reimburse nonpublic schools for complying with state health and safety mandates. Unfortunately, legal pressure has challenged this funding, and opponents of the appropriation have articulated misleading information about nonpublic schools. The Word from Lansing column for August addresses these erroneous claims and highlights why Michigan should care for and protect students at all schools as a matter of fairness. A similar version of this column first ran in The Detroit News on July 26, 2017.
The Catholic Church and people of faith are called to meet and to serve those on the periphery of society. Throughout the 2017–2018 legislative session, the Michigan Catholic Conference has brought to the State Capitol a concern for those in need, seeking to protect human dignity and to uplift those who are struggling. The Word from Lansing column for July reflects on a number of MCC-supported policies that have been approved by lawmakers during the first half of this year.
All children have dignity, and the promotion of that dignity should be a critical priority in society. During the month of June, several days have been designated to raise awareness about threats to children, including the International Day of Innocent Child Victims of Aggression and the World Day Against Child Labor. In the last fifteen years, the Catholic Church has taken a leading role in efforts to protect young people and is continuing to take steps to improve safety in its institutions. In The Word from Lansing for June, Michigan Catholic Conference details more about this role and other legislative efforts to improve the situations of children and families.
Early in May, a presidential Executive Order was signed to address religious liberty. One aspect of the Order directed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to issue amended regulations regarding conscience-based objections to the HHS contraceptive mandate. Michigan Catholic Conference welcomed the shift in policy and encouraged discussions to continue to alleviate unnecessary restrictions on people and organizations of faith. The Word from Lansing for May discusses the freedom of these same individuals and organizations to serve others, motivated by their religious beliefs. The column also touches on the need for further action at all levels of government to protect conscience rights.
In 2016, Pope Francis described the deep wound drugs have inflicted on our society, calling addiction a “new form of slavery.” Far too many individuals, families, and communities across Michigan are struggling with the painful reality of opioid and prescription drug abuse. The Word from Lansing column for April outlines the impact of the opioid crisis on Michigan and speaks to the need for greater collaboration in combatting abuse and the problems underlying addiction.
The Catholic Church offers education, health care, and social services to those in need, working to uplift the dignity of all who come through its doors. MCC recently produced three short films as part of a statewide television and digital project called Freedom to Serve. The effort addresses the right for Catholic organizations to provide services to the general public in accordance with their faith mission, without unnecessary or burdensome intervention from the government. Visit www.CatholicsServe.com to view the films and the two commercials on television this month.