The Catholic Conference of Kentucky (CCK) has worked doggedly in Frankfort since 1984 on behalf of the Catholic Church and Kentucky’s four bishops, oftentimes with few tangible results.
Considering the political games we see too often in the commonwealth’s capitol, the conference’s fortitude and accomplishments are worthy of recognition.
The CCK’s three-person staff saw a victory 10 years-in-the making on Feb. 2, as Gov. Matt Bevin signed his first bill into law. The law — which amends the state’s law related to how women are educated about abortion prior to the procedure — has been on the conference’s priority list for at least a decade.
Year after year the measure languished in the House. Until this year, when a last-minute amendment brought about a compromise.
The law will ensure that women in crisis pregnancies are informed and able to ask questions about the abortion procedure at least 24 hours beforehand, during a face-to-face meeting or via real-time video conference.
As Ed Harpring, pro-life coordinator for the Archdiocese of Louisville, pointed out in a statement to The Record last week, “many women enter into the abortion center as a panic reaction to an unplanned pregnancy, without even considering options. … Many women (and statistics show this), realize that they can get through this unplanned pregnancy, and by simply giving themselves more time to calm down, the panic factor goes away and they choose life.”
The sanctity of human life lies at the heart of all of the CCK’s work.
In 2004, the CCK successfully lobbied in Frankfort for a fetal homicide law. And the conference is currently advocating for legislation that would end the death penalty here in Kentucky. The conference is also advocating for other measures that deal with the dignity of the human person, such as bills related to helping former felons.
The CCK has been working on the latter two issues for some time. That’s where the staff’s fortitude — and its primary mission — play a role.
Jason Hall, the conference’s executive director, explained during an interview Feb. 8 that the conference’s first responsibility is to be a witness. It’s mission, first and foremost, is to educate lawmakers. If the conference’s witness is persuasive and manages to influence public policy, then all the better. But their success doesn’t rely on these victories, Hall said.
“We’re a witness and we’re a prophetic voice,” he said. “It’s about witnessing to the value of human life — not political power or winning. We can take joy and purpose in witnessing to our values.
“I’m not saying political savvy doesn’t have a role,” he said. “But our goal is not to wield political power; it is to lift up the human person and advance the common good.”
Hall pointed out that the Catholic Church is a unique witness in the public square that cuts across political lines and ideology.
“The Catholic Church’s traditions and Catholic social teaching bring a unique perspective,” Hall said. “A lot of people want to do things for the unborn. A lot of people want to do things for people who are sick, who need health care. And they want to end the death penalty.
But the Catholic Church, as far as I know, is the only active voice for all of those things. It takes the view of the dignity of the human person. That perspective is extremely valuable and cuts through the ideology.”
Hall also had advice for Catholics who may feel frustrated when they work on an issue and see no results.
“Don’t be discouraged by a particular piece (of legislation) failing or having bad prospects,” he said. “The important thing to keep in mind is that the church’s role is to be a witness.”
And each Catholic is called to that witness. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz reminds the people of this archdiocese year after year of their responsibility to be faithful citizens — bringing their faith into the public square and voting booths.
To learn more about the conference’s work and become a more active faithful citizen, you can follow the CCK on Twitter, like its page on Facebook and sign up to get email alerts from the CCK about active issues. Sign up for the email alerts on the conference website: ccky.org.