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Wisconsin Catholic Conference "Day at the Capital"

Wisconsin Catholic Conference "Day at the Capital"

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Published by Matt J Korger

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Published by: Matt J Korger on Oct 29, 2013
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Wisconsin Catholic Conference’s “Catholics at the Capitol” 2013:
A Pro-
lifer’s Perspective
By Will Goodman, SOLG, MTS
“The Church… cannot and should not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and
must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part throughrational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which
always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper.”
(Pope Benedict XVI,
 Deus Caritas Est 
, #26, 2006)The above citation from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI set the theme for the 8
Biennial Legislative
Conference, “Catholics at the Capitol: Reclaiming the Common Good in the Year of Faith,” sponsored by the
Wisconsin Catholic Conference at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison on April 10, 2013. Inattendance were most of the Shepherds of the State of Wisconsin: Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Bishop Peter F.Christensen of Superior, Bishop Donald J. Hying (Auxiliary of Milwaukee), and Bishop Robert F. Morneau(Auxiliary of Green Bay). Bishop William Callahan of La Crosse was unable to be present due to illness, butwas there in spirit and prayer. The event was well-organized and smoothly-run by members of the WisconsinCatholic Conference staff under the direction of Mr. John Huebscher, Executive Director; Associate DirectorsBarbara Sella and Kim Wadas; and Administrative Assistant Cathy Coyle-Kaufmann.Overall, I believe the conference was quite good in many respects, and God-willing, fruitful. The particular focus of this article is limited to provide a pro-
lifer’s perspective on the day’s events and offer some
suggestions for Catholics who are intereste
d in defending the Church’s teaching on human dignity in the public
square at our state capitol in respectful and faithful union with our Bishops.
The Schedule
The basic schedule of the day included an Opening Prayer Service led by Bishop Morlino, a keynoteaddress by Bishop Christensen, a morning and an afternoon breakout session (7 presentations each session), a brief lunch Invocation by Bishop Ricken along with a short address by Governor Scott Walker, a plenary paneldiscussion, closing remarks and prayer by Archbishop Listecki, and an opportunity for visits with lawmakers atthe capitol. (See full schedule: http://www.wisconsincatholic.org/catholics_at_capitol_2011_schedule.cfm ) During the Opening Prayer Service, Bishop Morlino, suffering from a terrible head cold, offered asuccinct and inspiring homily calling upon the lay faithful to be awake to the serious and unprecedented threatsagainst religious liberty, and not to shrink away from this national battle
in which we are all called by Christ
to defend life, liberty and the natural moral law. “Now is
the time to back off of the threats to religious
liberty,” His Excellency stated, noting that “the Holy Spirit will guide us in this work and what we are to say.”
Stressing the crucial importance of this historic threat, particularly in challenging the unjust HHS mandate, he
called upon all Catholics in Wisconsin to “be
!” God bless Bishop Morlino
for his call to make thisessential defense and by leading through his own courageous example!The excellent keynote address by the Most Reverend Peter F. Christensen, Bishop of Superior, was
entitled “Reclaiming the Common Good in the Year of Faith.” U
sing the thematic quotation from
 Deus Caritas Est 
(#26), Bishop Christensen outlined the responsibility of Catholics to be educated on the current topics of 
legislative debate, reminded us of our duty to order civic society according to the truth, and highlighted the privilege of celebrating our faith in the public square
sharing the truth through our love of others. His
Excellency included great quotes from the beautifully moving second century “Letter of Diognetus,” found in
the Office of Readings, recou
nting that “the Christian is to society, what the soul is to the body… [as]
champions of no merely-
human doctrine.” In articulating the Church’s social teachings and Her work for 
 justice, Bishop Christensen pointed out the first fundamental theme: the life and dignity of every human person. He stressed that all attacks on human life must be vigorously addressed, starting with abortion and
euthanasia, and extending to immoral scientific research, human trafficking and the death penalty. “[This]
vision is
the moral foundation of society,” he stated, noting that “the measure of every society is how it treatsthe dignity of each person.”
 The keynote also emphasized using the gifts of human reason along with the truths of our faith, stressingthe need for ci
vility and “much charity.” Christensen said, “If we understand that we are loved, that God lovesus, this orders everything from the very truth of our identity.” Thus, as “we understand that we are loved by
God, we can love others and share the truth wit
h society in civility, charity and gratitude.” In the context of our 
call to be witnesses to the Gospel of Christ in the public arena today, the Bishop also shared a powerful quote
from the Prophet Daniel, “Fear not, you are safe, take courage and be strong and do not fear… you are My beloved. Be strong.” (Daniel 10:19) He also commented on a paragraph from the
Catechism of the CatholicChurch
on marriage stating that one must “do nothing to hinder your spouse from spending eternity with God”;
and through the virtue of charity, this injunction extends to all people at all times, even politicians! BishopChristensen concluded by urging us Catholics to celebrate our faith, demonstrate gratitude to God
especiallythrough the gift of prayer 
and to intercede for our elected officials with heart-felt supplication. Ending his
address with the Lord’s Prayer for all public and civil servants, the good Bishop practiced the very truths which
he so eloquently preached. God bless Bishop Christensen! (Note: There was hope of posting this speech onthe WCC website; do check it out
 —it’s worth the read.)
 As the day shifted into the morning and afternoon breakout sessions, I can only comment firsthand on
the two that I attended. The first, “Peace and Non
-Violence in
the Holy Land” led by Fr. Scott Steinkerchner,
O.P., was an eye-
opening treatment of the UN Human Rights Committee’s report on Israel’s gross violation of 
the Geneva Convention as well as many UN treaties / instruments, all against the Palestinians
many of whom
are fellow Catholics. While not a “pro
life” talk 
 per se
, as with other topics at the event there was certainly in
this session a strong connection to the Church’s vigilance in the protection of human persons. One cannot deny
that as with other unjust wars and crimes against humanity, the current actions of Israel in the occupied
territories are an affront to human dignity and unjust attack on innocent human life. We must “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
 The moderator for this presentation, Mr. Patrick Delaney, Director of the Office of Evangelization and
Catechesis from the Diocese of Madison, stated that “the WCC conference provided
the elevation of an issuewe need to pay closer attention to as Catholics: the desire for peace and nonviolence in the Holy Land and the
Church’s position on the Israeli / Palestinian conflict.” He continued,
“Fr. Scott Steinkerchner from
Edgewood College presented documentation of 
Israel’s human rights abuses against the Palestinians, and his
handout highlighted the support of the Middle East Bishops and the Holy See for the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council in relation to
Israel’s occupation of the Arab territories.
Furthermore, the Holy See’s
support for international law in this matter mirrors the diplomatic position of the Palestinian Authority, a verywell kept secret in the
United States.”
The second break out session I attended was entitled “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty” and was
 presented by His Excellency, Bishop Robert Morlino. As t
he bishop was “under the weather,” the presentation
turned into more of an informal, though intimate and rich discussion about the grave threats offered to religiousliberty by the current administration; and the theological and philosophical errors contributing to this serious
crisis. Morlino pointed to faulty notions of “freedom” which in our culture end up amounting to little more than
an excuse for habitual sin. He quoted extensively from Francis Cardinal George’s recent insightful article, “
 Not S 
 piritual, I’m Religious
,” noting that in our country being “spiritual” is really just an individualistic,subjective, relative, and private means of becoming isolated. Whereas “religion” is rightfully understood as“objective, public, and real”— 
an experie
nce that starts “outside of me” as “Jesus calls and invites me to joinHim and follow Him.” The current administration in DC has proffered a “serious reduction,” by equatingreligion to merely “private spirituality” that rejects objective truth, especiall
y in the moral order. BishopMorlino stressed the importance for Catholics to know what true freedom is and what authentic religion is, in
countering these dangerous errors of our time. “Freedom is the ability to what is right without coercion,” St.
Thomas Aquinas tells us; and religion is an objective matter of justly rendering unto God what is His due.The Bishop also spoke of the crucial mission of the laity today and the key role of the natural moral lawin discussing controversies in the public arena. An interesting question & answer session followed in which HisExcellency covered many points. Of interest to pro-lifers, the Bishop taught that there is an essential difference between issues such as abortion/euthanasia and war/capital punishment. The former are never justifiable andalways evil; the latter are rarely justifiable. Thus, there is a higher priority in eliminating those evils that arenever justifiable
and a special priority with assessing candidates and their positions on opposingabortion/euthanasia
and a lower priority on the other issues. He stressed that these different issues are not all
on the same level of importance, and this is a problem particularly for those with “subjective spirituality,”
 for those who are religious. He also said on numerous occasions that in our work to defend life, marriage and
religious liberty, that “there are strong reasons for optimism”: as the Popes have taught us, it goes back to “a personal meeting with Jesus risen from the dead”— 
the starting point for the New Evangelization. He said that
the media and others may try to ignore us and give us a negative or losing perspective, but “Jesus is raised!…this is no defeatist perspective!” Again, God bless Bishop Morlino!
While I did not atten
d Dr. Constance Nielsen’s presentation on “The Dignity of Life” as it conflictedwith Bishop Morlino’s talk, I am confident that it was an excellent exposition of the Church’s teaching. Connie
is a faithful Catholic and strong pro-lifer committed to defending life intelligently and prayerfully. Others whoattended were impressed by this session, and the unique approach to the topic, showing how the defense of 
human life and human dignity is a matter of “social justice” and part of the Social Magisterium o
f the CatholicChurch. This presentation also touched upon advocating for a renewed culture of life. (Contact Dr. Nielsen atSt. Ambrose Academy in Madison if you would like more information on her breakout session:http://www.ambroseacademy.org/joomla/index.php.)I also could not be present for the end-of-
life session with the topic, “The Church’s Teaching on Life
Sustaining Treatment,” offered by Fr. Patrick Norris, O.P. Peggy Hamil of Pr 
o-Life Wisconsin attended thistalk and offered the following commentary:I regularly give workshops on Pro-
Life Wisconsin’s ‘Protective Power of Attorney for Health Care’ so I
was drawn to attend the breakout session on medical decision-making by Fr. Norris. I found this presentation to be extremely informative, it was filled with detailed and practical rationale for having a protective pro-
life power of attorney for health care. Working at St. Mary’s Hospital, Fr. Norris could
give case after case of circumstances that would warrant a person having such a document. He warned
of POLST (Physicians’ Order for Life Sustaining Treatment) forms and gave the Bishops’ strong
warning against the use of any such document.(Note
some of the breakout sessions were recorded and may be available on the WCC website:http://www.wisconsincatholic.org/.)Prior to lunch, Bishop Ricken of Green Bay offered a few inspiring words of encouragement and a powerful invocation for those in attendance and prayed for their important mission in the Church. Afterwards,Governor Scott Walker appeared as a special guest to greet and thank all of those present at the conference.

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