Legislative day program March 21 helps get Catholics off the sidelines

Any given week, numerous issues could become the topic of this column. Some weeks, the topic is easy to determine. Other weeks, it is difficult. This is one of those "other weeks." Because of that, I want to highlight a few key issues/events.

Mark your calendar: Catholics at the Capitol (March 21). Catholics at the Capitol is an event that grew out of a yearly gathering of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women at the state capitol to learn about legislative issues. Two years ago, the event opened to the public and became a sponsored activity of the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC).

Catholics at the Capitol is a "legislative day" for Catholics to gather together, learn about important legislative issues, listen to a keynote speaker, and visit with state senators. We also have been privileged to always have one or more of our bishops in attendance.

Catholics at the Capitol will take place March 21 in the basement of St. Mary Church (14th and K streets in Lincoln – north of the Capitol). The event begins with registration and coffee and donuts at 8:30 a.m. The program begins at 9 a.m. and concludes with 12:10 p.m. Mass.

Reiterating the words of Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis states in "The Joy of the Gospel" that "If indeed ‘the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics,’ the Church ‘cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.’"

Let Catholics at the Capitol be another opportunity to be engaged in the political process. For now, save the date and invite your parish, family and friends.

Reintroduction of doctor-prescribed suicide (LB450). The first 10 days of the legislative sessions are reserved for introducing new legislation. Sen. Ernie Chambers introduced legislation on the 10th day to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide.

Doctor-prescribed suicide legislation would create immunity for doctors who prescribe concoctions of lethal drugs to assist their patients in ending their lives. Under the legislation, a patient must be terminal (less than six months to live) to be eligible.

The problems with this legislation are beyond measure. The bill is both inherently flawed and lacks adequately proper safeguards. It undermines the gift and dignity of human life by engaging in a "murderous act" as the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" states. It violates the healing nature of medicine. It fails to provide adequate medical and government oversight, prevention against coercion (by doctors, insurance companies, government, family, friends, etc.), and protections for the most vulnerable (the sick, poor and minorities), to name but a few practical problems.

Last year, doctor-prescribed suicide made little progress in our legislative process. This year, however, could be different. In light of major, nationwide efforts by Compassion & Choices, the main doctor-prescribed suicide advocacy group, there is a need to be particularly vigilant about this legislation.

"Choose Life" license plates (LB46). A minor – but, important – piece of legislation still awaits first round of legislative debate, though it might have been debated by the time this is published. LB46 – introduced by Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse – would allow for "Choose Life" license plates. The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee advanced the legislation (8-0) to first-round debate.

During the committee hearing, LB46 received significant opposition from Planned Parenthood advocates. Already, a couple dozen "unfriendly" amendments have been filed, each one intended to demean and ridicule the underlying pro-life message of the legislation.

The level of opposition to this bill is both surprising and unsurprising. On the one hand, it is surprising because the legislation is fairly minor as it only concerns a license plate.

On the other hand, Nebraska has not passed pro-life legislation in six years.

To that extent, passing "Choose Life" license plates becomes a symbolic victory for the pro-life movement in Nebraska, which means pro-abortion advocates are working tirelessly.

To continue following the work of the NCC, join our Catholic Advocacy Network of Nebraska (CANN) at As always, stay tuned and ready to promote the common good.



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

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