East Bay Catholics take message to Sacramento
SACRAMENTO — More than a dozen parishioners — including four seminarians — from throughout the Diocese of Oakland, met with legislators and their staff members April 28 on Catholic Advocacy Day, to let them know how Catholic voters view some of the bills this session — among them, the hot button issue of physician-assisted suicide.
The annual advocacy day event, sponsored by the California Catholic Conference, began with a prayer service in the basement hall of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, at which Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto told participants that although what they would do "may seem mundane and ordinary," but it was anything but.
"It's important for us to understand the connection between what we do here with what is happening in other parts of the country," he said, referring to protests against police use of force in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.
"In part, people find themselves disenfranchised from the political process, marginalized," he said. "The political process and those in authority can operate as if they are unaccountable.
"We know these are not right," he said
To prepare for the advocacy day, the seminarians met with Gwen Watson, a longtime activist for social justice from Christ the King Parish in Pleasant Hill.
In reading the information on the legislation, seminarian John Carillo saw the needs of the parishioners at St. Anthony in Oakley, where he is serving his pastoral year, "After reading the bills, I realized how grave their impact on our individual parishioners," he said. The parishioners — many of them immigrants, and working people supporting their families — would benefit from pending legislation on increasing the minimum wage and tax credits for families. "It's good I am here," he said. "I will definitely be using this in my ministry."
Seminarian John Erick Villa, who is in his pastoral year at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Brentwood, said he was encouraged by the presence of some of the California bishops, who met briefly with the seminarians. Their "witness to their passion" on social justice issues was memorable.
At the Capitol, the groups met for about 20 minutes in legislators' offices.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, was the only legislator to meet with a group from the Diocese of Oakland. He responded cordially to the group, asking questions, assuring them of his general support for the legislation that would benefit the working poor.
Oscar Rojas, a seminarian who is serving his pastoral year at Holy Spirit Parish in Fremont, shared concerns of parents he has met in advocating for a bill that would provide a tax credit for parents who buy school supplies.
But Bonta was unsupportive of Church life issues. "I am pro-choice," he said. "I've made multiple decisions as a public official consistent with that," he said.
Most legislative staff members voiced similar views for their Senators or Assemblymembers: positive on social justice issues, and contrary to Catholic teaching on life issues.
At a meeting later in the day in the office of state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, legislative director Marla Cowan was cordial and direct on the issue of physician-assisted suicide, a bill that Hancock co-authored.
She listened attentively as Anne Marie Fourré of St. Joseph Basilica Parish in Alameda said, "I would hope dignity and compassion don't require suicide.
"True dignity and compassion would be in support of palliative care," she said.
John Claassen of Corpus Christi Parish in Piedmont said, in supporting physician-assisted suicide, "We're denying people the opportunity to bond with their family members as they go into the next world."
A visit with Opio Dupree, chief of staff for Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Berkeley, yielded support for the education and social justice issues discussed.
Theresa Bachicha, a member of the JustFaith group at St. Joseph Basilica in Alameda, was participating in her first Catholic Advocacy Day. "I typically don't get involved in the political engine," she said.
Bishop Barber on assisted suicide
The Church values human life as a gift of God. We are called not only to preserve life, but care for those who are sick and suffering. Accompanying a dying person with compassion and love are essentials of Christianity.
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