Commentary

Furthering pro-life gains and faithful citizenship

I have two separate topics I want to address in this column. The first is an update on a pro-life position for which we are hiring at the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC). The second is a few brief words about the upcoming general election.

‘SHOT IN THE ARM’

Thirty years ago this coming December, the NCC hired an energetic, intelligent and handsome young man to run the Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities. Without saying more, most of you can already guess who I’m talking about. That young man was Greg Schleppenbach.

When Jim Cunningham, the NCC executive director at the time, hired Greg, Jim told the three Nebraska bishops that Greg and his newly formed position of statewide director of the Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities would be a “shot in the arm throughout the state” for the pro-life movement.

As Nebraska’s bishops did three decades ago, so they have done again today. They have looked with the eyes of Christ at our circumstances, prophetically reading the signs of the times, and have recognized the importance of furthering the pro-life work coordinated by the NCC.

Over the last five to 10 years, the statewide director for pro-life activities has been increasingly engaged in public policy matters, both pro-life and marriage-and-family related. This policy focus has resulted in major legislative victories, such as the recent signing into law of the dismemberment abortion ban. At the same time, it has overshadowed the three other pillars of the pastoral plan.

Because of the need to act on each pillar, it is with gratitude to the bishops and their vision that I implore your assistance as we look for the next statewide pro-life activities coordinator. This position will focus on public education, pastoral care, and prayer and worship efforts in the pastoral plan, and assist Marion Miner on public policy matters. This investment into an additional paid, full-time person will begin to do justice to the pro-life activities that demand attention throughout the year.

For more information, visit www.necatholic.org. I will accept cover letters and resumes until Sept. 25.

ELECTION DAY APPROACHES

With the Catholic Voice’s new publication schedule, it is impossible for me to offer all the relevant information a person should consider as we approach election day, Nov. 3. This caveat is critical because it means this column and the October column are far from an exhaustive treatment of what it means for us, as Catholics, to take our faith to the ballot box. With that said, I want to note a few things now.

As with the primary election this spring, many people will end up not going to the actual ballot box this fall due to the coronavirus. Instead, they will take advantage of mail-in or early voting. For more information, you can visit the Nebraska secretary of state’s website.

As you prepare for election day, remember to assess candidates not just at the “top of the ticket” but also “down the ticket.” In other words, while major races (for example, the presidency and Congress) are obviously important, we must not forget the local races like the proverbial dog catcher. As the adage goes, all politics is local. Who is elected to local political office also has a critical effect on the common good, which we are called to advance.

Finally, we must vote with a well-formed conscience. This means a conscience that is educated by reason and faith. We cannot act prudently and vote properly without a well-formed conscience. Since word counts prevent me from digging into this, your homework assignment (if I might be so bold) is to read the U.S. Bishops’ document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”

The Archdiocese of Omaha also has issued an excellent multi-week study guide that can help the faithful better understand how the Church calls us to morally act as politically responsible members of society.

Deacon Tim McNeil, chancellor of the Archdiocese, and I will also be doing a weekly radio segment on Spirit Catholic Radio every Thursday at 7:10 a.m. Tune in or go to their website for previously recorded episodes. You certainly won’t want to miss out on our ramblings about faithful citizenship!

Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, with headquarters in Lincoln. Contact him at tvenzor@necatholic.org.