Formation

Those meddling Catholics at the Capitol

“A good Catholic meddles in politics,” said Pope Francis during a daily Mass homily in 2013.

This statement of the Holy Father, on its face, may seem contrary to our natural instincts these days when it comes to politics. After all, to meddle in politics would be to dirty ourselves because politics itself is dirty. Politics is a game played by the elite of our society, by those seeking power, profit and prestige, so many believe.

But politics is quite the opposite. “Politics,” as Pope Francis said during that same Mass, “is one the highest form of charity, as it serves the common good.” Politics is not something “I can … wash my hands” of, the pope continues. Politics ultimately belongs to Jesus Christ. It is directed toward his Kingdom – that same Kingdom for which we pray every time we recite the Our Father.

Through politics – though not exclusively so – we care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned, as Matthew 25 instructs and commands. This is part of that “just ordering of society and the State” which is, as Pope Benedict XVI stated, “a central responsibility of politics” – and the church “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.”

This just ordering of society is at the heart of our annual legislative advocacy day: Catholics at the Capitol, which will take place this year on Wednesday, March 4.

Catholics at the Capitol offers Catholics the opportunity to join their fellow Catholics from across the state for a day of advocacy at the State Capitol. The day begins at St. Mary’s Church in Lincoln with Mass at 8 a.m. The program starts at 9 a.m. with speakers, lunch and concludes with senator meetings that will end by 1:30 p.m.

This year’s keynote speaker will be former Gov. Kay Orr, who will highlight the importance of being involved in the political process as Christians. Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC) staff will provide an overview of various legislative priorities important to the church. The lunch will feature several state senators who will further underscore major legislative proposals and the importance of their faith in the public policy process.

For more information and to register, visit www.necatholic.org or call 402-477-7517. The only cost ($10) is for those who want lunch.

SUPPORT TRAFFICKING VICTIMS

The Judiciary Committee recently held a public hearing on LB745, introduced by Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue. This legislation would provide a uniform and consistent policy that helps law enforcement officials in their investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking and other violent crimes.

Federal immigration law allows an immigrant victim of human trafficking or other violent crime the ability to pursue a T or U visa. These visas provide the victim with a means for a legal status and stability after suffering sexual and violent abuse.

To qualify for these visas, the immigrant must demonstrate that they have been helpful with the investigation and prosecution of the criminal activity of which they were a victim. This is done by having law enforcement certify their helpfulness and compliance in an investigation or prosecution.

However, for a variety of reasons, law enforcement agencies do not always respond to certification requests in a timely manner. This leaves the immigrant victim without the ability to pursue their visa and obtain a legal status that can assist in their restoration.

LB745 would require law enforcement agencies to respond to such requests within a 90-day period. This requirement does not mandate that the agency must certify the request. It simply specifies a response timeframe, so that victims of trafficking and violent crimes can get the help they need.

The NCC supports this legislation both because it combats human trafficking and the assistance it provides immigrants as they seek to establish a legal presence in our country.

LB745 was advanced by the Judiciary Committee and was amended into LB518, introduced by Sen. Lou Ann Linehan, which is another important legislative bill that will aid victims and survivors of human trafficking.

PRAYER AND ACTION NEEDED

By the time you read this column, our two major legislative efforts – scholarship tax credits (LB1202) and dismemberment abortion ban (LB814) – will have just been heard by their respective committees. Please pray and fast for their advancement. And, be a great Catholic, meddle in politics and reach out to your senator to ask for their support of these bills!