Senate bill a shameful injustice;
urge Assembly to
stand for fairness
Everyone's heard the old adage: If you want to keep a conversation pleasant avoid talking about religion and politics. But Christ, the Light of the World, tells us that we cannot keep our light hidden from view. Instead we must spread it for all to see (Matthew 5:16). The Church shone the light of the Gospel on an international scale in 1891 with the papal encyclical "Rerum Novarum" ("Of New Things"), issued by Pope Leo XIII.
At that time the world was experiencing the industrial revolution. Employees worked long hours under poor conditions with very low wages while employers made previously unseen profits. "Rerum Novarum" addressed injustices and set the stage for rising standards of living among first world countries by pointing out the rights and responsibilities of both employers and employees.
Since "Rerum Novarum," the Church has continued to address social and political issues from a Catholic perspective.
What are the issues being addressed today? Helping immigrants attain citizenship, universal health care that preserves religious liberty, teaching God's meaning for the family and protecting human life from conception until natural death are some. The common thread throughout the Church's social teaching is Sacred Scripture and a Christian understanding of the innate dignity of the human person. The Bible is God's Word — a Word that doesn't change with political and social trends. Our understanding of the dignity of the human person takes into account the whole of the human experience; our purpose and our potential to rise even to sainthood.
With "Rerum Novarum" the Church was able to call attention to systematic injustice and enable a vision for human rights and the dignity of workers. In the last decade the Church has found itself on the receiving end of corrective measures, addressing its own injustices due to the sexual abuse of minors. The public perception of the Church as a leader for social justice and human dignity has taken a hit as we have turned inward to correct our own problems. Still, we cannot forgo addressing injustices and especially as they are dealt upon us. A case in point is California Senate Bill 131.
SB 131 opens the statute of limitations for allegations of sexual abuse of minors that occurred in California before 2009, but has a double standard. Public entities such as California schools are exempt from prosecution while private institutions as the Catholic Church are not. The sexual abuse of minors isn't a Catholic-only problem. According to a recent report to the U.S Congress 180,500 children were sexually abused in the year 2005-2006 alone. SB 131 shields California public schools from being prosecuted for its share of these crimes against children.
SB 131 institutionalizes a culture of secrecy and protection for public schools and institutions — the very culture that has rightfully been called shameful by those outraged at the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. This bill cannot be allowed to pass.
For the good of our public institutions and for fairness sake, get involved in defeating SB 131. SB 131 has passed the California Senate and now moves to the Assembly. Please bring this injustice to your California State Assembly representative by signing up with the Catholic Legislative Network at www.oakdiocese.org or write or call your local state Assemblymember. You can find who that is by going to http://assembly.ca.gov.
(Rev. Lawrence D'Anjou is parochial administrator at St. Raymond Parish in Dublin.)
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