Evangelization at the Capitol

Matthew Brower, Director, Montana Catholic Conference

Matthew Brower
Executive Director
Montana Catholic Conference

Montana’s 66th regular legislative session is quickly drawing to a close with adjournment “sine die” likely to come before the beginning of May. Much more will be determined during the last few days of the session and the period immediately following as the remaining bills that have passed are transmitted to the governor’s desk.

Throughout the session, the Montana Catholic Conference (MCC) has been striving to bring a Catholic voice to the legislative process. At times we have been successful helping to advance good legislation or stop bad legislation. At other times we have been on the other side witnessing good bills die or those we oppose move forward. However, regardless of whether we’ve “won” or “lost” we have always tried to remain consistent in our approach and the principles that guide our public policy positions.

Quite often, the testimony we provide will start with something like the following:

“The Roman Catholic Church consistently affirms the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of every human life. Every person has an inherent dignity and value. This dignity is not something earned by our good behavior but rather something we all enjoy by virtue of the fact we are children of God. It is imperative that society recognize, promote and defend this dignity for all, with no exceptions.”

Beginning our testimony this way provides a context for our policy position by articulating the first permanent principle of the Church’s social doctrine—the dignity of the human person.

Whether it’s advocating for a bill to increase protections for infants born alive following an abortion (Senate Bill 354), legislation to prohibit life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders (House Bill 429), or a bill to abolish the death penalty in Montana (HB 350), our advocacy positions begin with the belief that all human life is sacred and the dignity of all persons must be recognized and protected.

While it can be tempting to measure our “success” at the Capitol using easily quantifiable criteria like number of bills won versus number of bills lost, it’s important to remember that the work of the conference really is the work of evangelization. So often the more important questions are, “Have we been consistent and accurate in stating our positions in accord with Church teaching? Have we helped engage the lay faithful in the civic and legislative process in a manner consistent with their baptismal call? Have we, by our witness, brought people closer to Jesus Christ?”

In politics, it can be easy to lose sight of the most important questions. I pray the work of MCC this session has helped keep matters in proper perspective and am grateful to all those in the parishes and pews who have been partners in this effort.