At Baptism, every Catholic is anointed with oil to share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly mission of Jesus. As priestly people we are called to offer back to God the gift of our lives in love and service; as prophets we are called to give witness to the faith—at home—on the job—and in the world and as stewards(kingly) we are called to be about the work of building the kingdom of God. These charisms were in full gear on Monday night as more than 400 Catholics from around the state of Maryland and seven bishops from the Archdiocese of Washington and the Archdiocese of Baltimore gathered in Annapolis to lobby for bills coming before the Maryland House and Senate that we think are critical for our communities and our church.
I am not talking about 400 professional lobbyists, which would not be an unusual gathering in the Washington metro region! I am talking about Catholics who by day, are business people, at-home moms, lawyers, active duty military, educators and retirees who come together, on a Federal holiday to gather by district, study the issues, prepare talking points and meet with legislators and their staffs for discussion and dialogue.
400 constituents gets the attention of any group of politicians but even more than the number is that for 27 years Catholics have come to Annapolis to speak to issues that not only affect us directly, (BOAST Tax credits that gives businesses a tax credit for their support of K-12 education or the Textbook program that makes books and computer hardware and software available to nonpublic schools ) but as noted by legislators, often we are speaking up in support of those who have no voice and bills that don’t affect the “Catholic lobbyists” directly. This gets people’s respect and attention and so our state senators’ and state house members’ doors are open to us on this night.
I could not have been more proud to be a Catholic as I watched my fellow Catholics give concise, articulate and passionate position statements. In some cases the senator or delegate or staffer would state strongly their opposition to our position and our lobbyists came back with tough questions and more detail. In one meeting a Catholic from Carroll County shared the seven principles of Catholic Social teaching to explain why we wanted to address such a wide cross-section of bills. In another case, two of the bills were new to house members. They had not seen anything about them yet, so we had a chance to frame the bill for them.
If you follow Maryland politics, you know that there is a bill to redefine marriage and we raised strong opposition to that. This is not a surprise. Many however were surprised that we are supporting a bill that calls for the licensing and inspecting of abortion clinics. Maryland clinics are not licensed or inspected by the state and women have died or have been injured as a result. While in no way supporting abortion, we do always and everywhere want to promote and protect the life and dignity of women. Abortion clinics do neither. We are also opposing a bill that wants to cut program that serve those most in need.
It is not too late for you to participate. If you are a resident of Maryland, take some time this week to read over the bills on which we are taking a stand and contact your delegates to voice your support or opposition.