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In this year’s Respect Life Month Statement, Archbishop Joseph Naumann—who also happened to be this year’s pro-life banquet keynote speaker—says: “While attacks against human life seem to grow ever more numerous and callous, we know that Christ has conquered sin and death.” The archbishop continues, “Jesus asks us to be as leaven in the world, to bring His light to the darkness.”

It’s moments like the anniversary of 9/11 and the heroic witness of ordinary people like Todd Beamer that help us renew our patriotism. It’s these moments that cut through all the division and rancor that daily poison our politics and broader community life and redirect us to a healthy and reasonable love of country.

As people of faith, we know there’s no debate. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear: Parents and guardians are the primary educators of their children (no. 2223), and we demand the government honor this.

“Civilize It” seeks to charitably meet people where they are at, create a culture of human encounter between persons, and from that position strive toward understanding the Truth and how we can best strive for the common good.

This is why, as Catholics, we must pay attention to the law. It is constantly influencing the direction of life. The question is whether it is influencing it in the direction of the common or toward some otherwise adverse end.

It’s that time of year for you, your family, your friends, your parishioners, your neighbors, your enemies, and anybody else you can think of to register for this year’s Bishops’ Pro-Life Banquet and Conference, which you can do at www.necatholic.org.

The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) released their highly anticipated second draft of Health Standards July 29. Of particular interest is the Human Growth and Development portion of these standards. It is in this area that the NDE embedded troubling, ideological, and harmful concepts in the first draft.

In just under two months (Sept. 17 and 18), the Nebraska Catholic Conference will be hosting our annual Bishops’ Pro-Life Banquet & Conference. After hosting last year’s event virtually via Zoom, we are thrilled to host an in-person gathering this year.

In the time of constant division, a 9-0 victory for religious liberty at the Supreme Court is not unnoticed and is an important building block for furthering protections of the 1st Amendment. It is something worth celebrating during this week when we reflect on the meaning of our country and its future.

We live in an age that misapprehends basic facts about the human person. Unborn babies are treated as non-persons and waste to be discarded. One’s biological sex is considered malleable and changeable at the drop of a hat. Marriage has been eviscerated of its meaning. Countless in poverty live without their most basic needs being met. Technology is a controlling feature of everyday life, alienating us from our very land, families, and communities. The list goes on.

The late Henry Hyde was a staunch pro-life U.S. Representative from Illinois from 1975 to 2007. An eloquent defender of unborn babies’ right to life, he was also a consistent champion of legislation that protected their lives and dignity, including the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.

For the Nebraska Catholic Conference, LB108 and LB306 were both small, but important, steps toward ensuring some basic material needs of the poor are met. Both Catholic Social Services and Catholic Charities, the charitable arms of the Diocese of Lincoln and the Archdiocese of Omaha, respectively, had record-setting years in 2020 for poverty assistance.

Save the Date: Pro-Life Conference. The Nebraska Catholic Conference is happy to announce this year’s pro-life banquet and conference dates and theme. The theme is “A People of Life, and For Life: The Next 25 Years of Evangelium Vitae.” The year 2020 marked the 25th anniversary of St. Pope John Paul II’s famous encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). In light of that, this year’s banquet and conference will reflect on that incredible document and how it can be lived into the next 25 years, especially in light of the new threats and challenges the culture of death poses.

LB597 is worthy of support. It is a way to help families financially during a time of trial, suffering, and healing, which is also a time of increased financial cost for them. Our state and federal governments recognize through tax incentives the financial costs families bear to raise their children. LB597 is a recognition of the costs borne by families who have lost a child as well.

LB298 simply recognizes that there are immigrants among us—who work alongside us in our small businesses, schools, and factories—and we are called to make sure their basic needs are met in the same way ours are being met. If we were to become unemployed, we could qualify for the state’s unemployment insurance benefits program and get the stability of temporary public assistance while we pursue new employment. This basic safety net should also be extended to legally work-authorized immigrants in our midst.

LB364, the Opportunity Scholarships Act, was debated by the Nebraska Legislature last Wednesday. Several State Senators tried to kill this bill, which would help provide private school scholarships to low-income families, with a filibuster. After an eight-hour debate, it fell four votes short of the 33 votes needed to break a filibuster. The vote was 29-18 (two were “present-not voting”).

Our schools thrive on community relationships, built upon a bedrock of local control and family engagement. Knowing the friends and community members who help our schools and communities thrive is critical to human flourishing. Pope Francis has often spoken on the theme of “alienation.” Whether the alienation is from our own family and friends who surround us or the land that we work around us, this alienation is contrary to our human spirit which seeks community with others and seeks to know God through the work of our hands.

Every parent deserves the ability to choose an education that is best for their child. No parent should be denied this fundamental right. LB364 helps families lacking financial means to exercise school choice by increasing the number of scholarships available to those families.

Parents know that every child learns differently and finding a good educational fit can make a world of difference. Families with financial means can move to a better school district or afford a private education, but not all families are so fortunate. They deserve to have educational choices too, no matter their income or zip code.

LB364, then, provides a clear opportunity for children from early childhood all the way through high school to find an educational setting that is best for them. This legislation provides clear opportunities for Nebraskans—like you and me—to make contributions to our education system, so that our state can continue to thrive not only for today but for generations to come.

As we near Easter, the words “Light of Christ” take on a particular force for each of us. They remind us that Christ is the Light of world through Whom nothing in this world will be left hidden in the dark and through Whom all things will be revealed.

As Lt. Gov. Foley said last week, sometimes we think that big issues about life, marriage and family, and education are questions for the White House or the Supreme Court. While those institutions and the decisions that come from them matter a great deal, we can do so much to effect change at the local level in our communities and state. Most important of all is what we do to show the truth and love of Christ in our own hearts and homes.

As legislative debate is underway, I want to point out some priority bills the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC) is supporting.

The Nebraska Department of Education (“NDE”) recently released a first draft of Health Standards. These standards are meant to guide curriculum for all Nebraska schools, including public and non-public schools. The Health Standards contain flawed, ideologically driven content. They contain the very philosophical errors JPII addressed in The Theology of the Body.

As the Nebraska Legislature’s website states, a priority bill is a “bill that has priority status and is generally considered ahead of other bills in debate.” Another way to understand it is the following: the Legislature only has limited time to consider legislation and, since it can’t debate every bill that has been introduced, a priority bill is one a Senator or Committee thinks is so important that it should be considered before all other non-prioritized legislation.

Catholics at the Capitol is the Nebraska Catholic Conference’s annual legislative advocacy day. Our goal is to educate, equip, and engage Catholics to protect human dignity and advance the common good in Nebraska.

The State Legislature has been in all-day committee hearings for a month now, quickly moving through the 700-plus legislative bills and constitutional amendment resolutions introduced during the first 10 days of the session.

To provide another snapshot the NCC’s daily activities, I’d like to highlight last week’s legislation we lobbied during the committee hearing process. The issues ran the spectrum of Catholic social teaching.

For the past few years, the Nebraska Catholic Conference has been blessed to work with state senators to enact several laws protecting life and affirming the dignity of the human person.

What readers of the Southern Nebraska Register may not be aware of is the barrage of bad legislation—attacks on life, family, and the dignity of the human person—that we have so far successfully defended against at the same time. Those attacks have not slowed down in 2021, as the following bills reveal.

This column will provide a sampling of bills we engaged the last week. My hope is to provide a broader understanding of our work. To learn about all our legislation, visit our Bill Tracker at www.necatholic.org.

This is what LB364, the Opportunity Scholarships Act, is all about – giving kids and families the opportunity to change their story, to break a cycle of poverty, to thrive and be grateful for a better education. The legislation serves families that qualify for free and reduced lunch, and nothing in LB364 reduces funding for Nebraska’s public schools.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a basic injustice with Nebraska’s unemployment insurance benefits program. Currently, certain immigrants who have legally obtained “employment authorization” from the federal government cannot receive the state unemployment insurance benefits they have earned.

For over a decade, the NCC has supported legislation to help bring educational opportunities to low-income families. As Catholics, we believe that parents have the right to choose a school for their children which corresponds to their convictions and that they should have true liberty in their choice of schools.

The staff at the NCC reviews every single piece of legislation which is introduced. We look at all these bills and determine whether they pertain to our major subject matter areas of concern: life and human dignity; marriage and family; education; social and human development; and the church as an institution.

The NCC desires to bear the Light of Jesus Christ. We work so that His light may overcome the darkness of the world, a darkness that hides the injustices and inequalities which abound in this life. And we do not to hide it under a bushel basket, but we bring the Light directly into the public square for all the world, especially our lawmakers, to see.

Christ, Hope for Humanity. While Christ invites us to suffer with Him and enter into His redemptive work, the burdens and evils of this world were not meant for us to shoulder. From the outset of salvation history, God the Father has promised the Messiah to atone for our sinfulness (see Genesis 3:15).

As Catholics prepare for the beginning of the legislative session, it’s a good opportunity to take some personal inventory: Does the convening of the legislature make much a difference to me? Do I care much for their work? Will I give it much thought? Will I pay attention to how my own elected official treats the issues that are most important to me as a Catholic?

As we prepare for this year’s legislative session, school choice—in the form of scholarship tax credit legislation—will once again be a hot topic for the state legislature. It will be incumbent upon you and me to ensure that school choice will be an inescapable issue that will require our state senators’ deliberation and decision-making.

In a given term, the Supreme Court is asked to review more than 7,000 cases. Of these, they accept around 100-150. They are often asked to decide cases where there are conflicts between lower courts or where there are legal controversies between states.

Coming off another election cycle, it seems a fitting time to propose the vocation to public office. By this I mean the “call within a call” of a lay person to consider whether God may be calling them to serve as an elected representative.

The world is all too easily mired in rancor, hatred, and division. One need only spend about 30 seconds on a political social media post to verify the truth of this claim. But these movements are not of the Spirit of God. A Christian rises above these elements of our circumstances and intervenes with goodness, truth, and beauty.

Given the results of this election how will I continue to look to Christ’s Kingship? How will the desires of His Most Sacred Heart guide my politics in the days, months, and years ahead? Will I serve Him above all things and rightly order everything else in politics to the Heart of Christ?

The Church offers universal principles on faith and morals that are to be applied across the board in various circumstances. Whether you are voting in the 2020 presidential election or sitting around at a local school board meeting, the Church’s teaching is meant to be universal enough for you to apply it in the particular situation you find yourself.

Catholics have a serious obligation to form their consciences according to the Truth. Ultimately, Truth is most fully revealed to us through faith and reason. We access the truths of faith through Jesus Christ and the Church He has given us, which provides us with the Sacred Deposit of Faith—Scripture and Tradition. We access the truths of reasons by exercising our intellect in the various sciences, openly and honestly seeking to know how God has revealed Himself through the natural world.

Catholic social teaching recognizes that gambling can be a moral activity if certain conditions are met. When those conditions are not met, the act of gambling becomes immoral and harmful.

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