January 15, 2013 // Local

Catholics called to political action beyond voting booth

INDIANAPOLIS — “A new year, a new governor, and a Republican supermajority in the Indiana General Assembly bring another opportunity for Catholics to engage in the political process,” said Indiana Catholic Conference Executive Director Glenn Tebbe, who serves as the official spokesman and public policy watchdog on state and federal issues for the Catholic Church in Indiana.

As the 150 member part-time Hoosier legislature, known as the Indiana General Assembly, which reconvened Jan. 7 for a four-month lawmaking session, returns to work, the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) gears-up for another year to bring Catholic principles to the public square by sharing a consistent life ethic that every human being, created in the image and likeness of God, deserves dignity.

What will this new governor and newly elected state lawmakers contribute to the common good and the consistent life ethic? “Time will tell,” says Tebbe, but the Indiana General Assembly does have one requirement — to produce a two-year state-operating budget by the April 29, adjournment deadline.

During Tebbe’s two-decades of experience following state legislation, he notes one characteristic that is unique to this House of Representatives is that nearly half of the House members have two years or less experience in the job. That combined with a walkout proof Republican supermajority, and the diminished Democrat minority influence, will make for a unique situation in the lawmaking process.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate have stressed that their focus this year will be on passing a budget, and moving legislation that creates jobs. Governor-elect Mike Pence promised in his campaign to fight poverty by creating jobs and strengthening marriage and families. In early December, Pence also expressed an interest in using some of the state’s surplus to give a 10 percent tax cut to Hoosiers. “Governor Pence will reiterate these promises and unveil his agenda during the upcoming State of the State address to be televised Tuesday night, Jan. 22,” Tebbe says.

While budget and economic issues will be the major focus, there will be many other topics that will require scrutiny as well. Tebbe expects the ICC to track other important moral issues this year such as: medical coverage for low income families; education programs; criminal sentencing reforms; chemical abortion and end of life regulations; mass transit; and early childhood education initiatives.

Even though the election is over, Catholics in the pew also have a role and responsibility in the public square as citizens, Tebbe says. These responsibilities are outlined in a November 2011 statement called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States.” It says, “This obligation to participate in political life is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do.” The statement is available at www.faithfulcitizenship.org.

“Our role at the ICC is not only to inform and educate our elected officials, but to serve as a conduit to facilitate or make political engagement easier for the Catholic in the pew,” says Tebbe. “I invite interested Catholics to stay connected to what’s going on through the ICC’s electronic Legislative Action Center available on the ICC’s Web page.

“When the Indiana General Assembly is in session, getting input from constituents in a timely manner on legislation is vital to the process,” says Tebbe. “When Catholics contact their representatives in unison with the work of the Catholic Conference, it allows the Church to be more effective in shaping morally sound public policy. The use of this software by Catholics has the potential to significantly impact the Church’s role in the public policy arena. It is my hope that our faith community will seize the opportunity to take advantage of this online tool.”

Tebbe says, “Catholics that have a particular interest in pro-life, social justice, education, immigration reform, healthcare or family life issues will be able to stay connected and be counted when important legislative decisions are made on priority issues the Church is following.”

The Indiana General Assembly, is made up of 50 state senators and 100 state representatives, and is expected to consider over 2,000 bills this year.

Since 1967, the ICC has worked to bring to light moral dimensions of Hoosier public policy making. While the role of the Indiana Catholic Conference is to serve as the official voice of the Catholic Church in the public policy arena primarily in Indiana, those visiting the ICC Web page will also be notified about important federal legislation that the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops is concerned about, and offers the means to contact members of Congress.

About the ICC

Since 1967, the ICC has worked to bring a consistent life ethic to Hoosier public policy making.

Visitors to the ICC Web page (www.indianacc.org), can join the Indiana Catholic Action Network and through an electronic Legislative Action Center can engage in a variety of grassroots political activities by a few simple keystrokes. One of the key features of the software allows visitors to quickly identify and contact their elected officials.

Other resources on the ICC Web page include background information on the ICC, its mission and purpose; public policy statements, which outline the Church’s teaching and support for particular moral issues the Church is concerned about; legislative updates; and links to other Catholic entities of importance.

Web Resources

Indiana Catholic Conference www.indianacc.org

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States.  www.faithfulcitizenship.org

To explore the ICC’s electronic public policy tool and join the ICC legislative network go to the ICC Web page at www.indianacc.org and click “Legislative Action Center.”

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