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Parish gathering focuses on legislative advocacy

The 2019 Virginia General Assembly session included extreme abortion bills, numerous threats against religious liberty and an attempt to legalize assisted suicide. Though defeated, these measures and other bills impacting vulnerable communities will very likely resurface during the 2020 session, jeopardizing lives and the freedom to follow one’s faith in service to others.

Constituents have an important say in these decisions, however, and that is why St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Lake Ridge hosted “Virginia in Jeopardy: What’s at stake for the Commonwealth and you” Sept. 28. The event, attended by more than 50 people, was co-sponsored by the Virginia Catholic Conference and diocesan Office of Marriage, Family and Respect Life.

Father Brian Bashista, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, opened the program with a prayer and highlighted an excerpt from the U.S. bishops’ “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” statement that notes “responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation … rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do.”

After VCC Executive Director Jeff Caruso gave a brief overview of the VCC and its role in representing Virginia’s bishops and dioceses in legislative matters at the state capitol, Associate Directors Felicia Pricenor and Tom Intorcio provided presentations on abortion, health plan mandates, assisted suicide and other challenges to life and conscience that were prominent during the 2019 Virginia General Assembly session. Noting the primary role of parents in the education of their children, they also addressed measures designed to increase parental involvement in their children’s family life education and measures that provide educational opportunities for lower income families.

In particular, Pricenor explained that Virginia is vulnerable to dangerous legislation targeting the unborn. Many were aware of the shocking efforts by Del. Kathy Tran (D-Springfield) and Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) to remove most restrictions on third-trimester abortions, allowing an abortion of a healthy unborn child up until birth. However, Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax) filed even more extreme legislation that would have enshrined abortion as a highly protected “fundamental right” in Virginia law.

Intorcio noted that Del. Kaye Kory (D-Falls Church) introduced a bill to legalize assisted suicide. “Government should prevent, not promote suicide,” he said. “When assisted suicide is injected into our bottom-line-driven healthcare system, it creates a deadly mix.” As an example, he pointed to Oregon, where insurance companies have denied coverage of costly, life-saving treatment, but have offered to pay for cheaper assisted suicide drugs. “No one — especially the poor, disabled and mentally ill — should be denied care to cut costs,” he added. 

Caruso urged participants to engage in these critical debates through the VCC email network and, if possible, by coming to Richmond to advocate at key moments. Reminding them that Nov. 5 Virginia voters will elect members to all 140 General Assembly seats, he also presented an overview of voter education resources provided by the VCC — the Virginia bishops’ pre-election letter and a “Faithful Citizenship in Virginia” issues resource. “Faithful Citizenship in Virginia” addresses a wide range of issues impacting the lives and dignity of the poorest and most vulnerable and contains the following quote from the bishops’ letter: “Many issues are important. … Not all issues have equal moral weight. … Protecting life is paramount. … Please vote on Nov. 5 with a well-formed conscience as a faithful Catholic and as a citizen of our Commonwealth.”

Find out more

To view these voter resources and to join the VCC email network, go to vacatholic.org.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019