Catholics witnessing faith sends message to lawmakers, cardinal says

By Rose Ybarra

Catholic News Service

April 11, 2013

Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth among participatants in Texas Catholic Conference advocacy day.  (Photo by Pat Svacina)

Members of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth were among those gathered in Austin on April 9 to participate in the Catholic Faith in Action Advocacy Day. The event was organized by the Texas Catholic Conference. (Photo by Pat Svacina, Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth Communications Director)

AUSTIN, Texas (CNS) -- More than 1,500 Catholics and their bishops from across the state gathered in Austin April 9 to advocate on issues such as payday lending, health and human services, school choice tax credit scholarships, justice for immigrants, health care and protecting human life.

Catholic Faith in Action Advocacy Day was organized by the Texas Catholic Conference, which advocated on behalf of the public policy arm of the 15 Catholic dioceses of the state of Texas.

"I am grateful to be standing before you on the steps of our beautiful state Capitol, to look out at the faithful who are gathered here from so many regions of this great state," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.

"We should all be reminded that this act of religious expression is perhaps is the most cherished and precious of American freedoms. This is more than a freedom to practice our faith like it was some kind of hobby," he said at the rally that opened the day.

"This is an opportunity to live and express our faith in our daily lives and in our actions. I point this out today because, unfortunately, our most cherished freedom -- that of religious liberty and freedom -- has come under increasing threat both in Washington and even here in Texas," the cardinal added.

Participants had the opportunity after the rally to visit the House and Senate chambers, followed by legislative visits with specified representatives and senators.

In addition to the cardinal, the other Texas bishops who participated in the day were: Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio; Bishops Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Curtis J. Guillory of Beaumont, W. Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi, Michael D. Pfeifer of San Angelo, Placido Rodriguez of Lubbock, and Patrick J. Zurek of Amarillo; and Auxiliary Bishops Mark J. Seitz of Dallas and George A. Sheltz of Galveston-Houston.

Cardinal DiNardo also spoke to the Catholic crowd about threats to religious freedom he said are "rooted in a particular form of secularism in our culture," one that "threatens to actually delegitimize the church's participation in publicly living out our faith."

He said that the church's "strongest and best hope" to fight it is "our faithful, such as you, who have demonstrated your willingness and courage to counter this kind of secularism."

The state legislators were impressed by their presence, he said. "For some of them it evokes such pride, perhaps in a couple, even some fear, let it be, but we want your presence."

"God bless you for being here and strongly exercising your rights to protect and defend our precious Constitutional right to religious freedom," Cardinal DiNardo added. "We need to make that clear to our lawmakers and you are doing that."

Bishop Flores also addressed the crowd, telling them that society today wants believers to keep their "religious private" and "keep our thoughts about God and about what he asks of us to ourselves and perhaps limit them to our families."

But, he continued, "there is no issue which is more significant to us as Catholics and as contributing members of our society than the importance of protecting the life of the unborn."

"Not only here in the state of Texas but throughout the nation and in many parts of the world and we see violence -- violence against the elderly, sometimes violence by youths against youths," the bishop said. "We see an increasingly violent world. ... One can get the sense that many, many people in the society we live in are losing confidence in the goodness of life, as a gift, as something to be cherished, as something to be encouraged as something to be supported."

He said the Catholic Church and Christ's followers "must witness to the goodness of life, to believe in the Resurrection ... and exactly to believe that God affirms that life is a great gift and in the end, life always wins."

"We are called to witness to the goodness of life from the moment of conception to natural death," Bishop Flores said. "We look at our society today, With these many difficulties that we face in society, we know in our hearts, if society permits violence in the womb, then we cannot be surprised if there is an outbreak of unstoppable violence everywhere else in society."

Bishop Flores urged Catholics to support a bill in the state Senate and the House that would require clinics where abortions are performed to undergo "mandatory standards of medical inspections and regulation so that they be held up to the same standards as any medical institution for the sake of the woman who makes a tragic decision and for the sake of the protection of life."

He also urged support for a House measure to strengthen parental consent laws and judicial bypass statutes when a minor child is contemplating terminating a pregnancy.

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Ybarra is on the staff of The Valley Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Brownsville. Contributing to this story was editor Brenda Nettles Riojas. 

Copyright (c) 2013 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

AUSTIN, Texas (CNS) -- More than 1,500 Catholics and their bishops from across the state gathered in Austin April 9 to advocate on issues such as payday lending, health and human services, school choice tax credit scholarships, justice for immigrants, health care and protecting human life.

Published (until 5/8/2013)