Posted by: Virginia Catholic Conference | 06/30/2016

Freedom to Serve

Posted by: Virginia Catholic Conference | 06/22/2016

Laudato Si’ at 1: How the Church Responds to Climate Change

Posted by: Virginia Catholic Conference | 06/08/2016

The Church in the Public Square: “Gender Identity” and Catholic Teaching

inclusive-symbol-wheelchair-accessible-bathroom-ada-signs-8-x-8-10By Rev. Paul D. Scalia

North Carolina’s bathroom laws have received no small amount of attention.  But before such controversies arrived in North Carolina, they were already known here in Virginia.  Stafford, Fairfax, and Gloucester counties have all had debates on this matter.  Now the controversy has escalated since the Obama administration has sued the State of North Carolina and has at the same time interpreted the Title IX ban on “sex” discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of “gender identity.” Clearly, Catholics in the public square will have to address this matter in some manner –  and to do so properly they must be clear on what the Church teaches.  In this post, I would like to reflect first on the role of the Church’s teachings in the public square.  In the next post I will consider the content of the Church’s teaching on this particular issue.

To begin, we should clarify what the issue really is.  Although it comes to us by way of legal and political debates, the fundamental question raised by “gender identity” is about the human person – about man and woman, male and female, the human body, human sexuality, etc. Debates about homosexuality already engaged these questions; the transgendered controversy does so even more. The issue, then, is first philosophical, and only later legal and political.

In a sense, this kind of debate plays to the Church’s strength, because the Church has clear doctrine on the human person, the meaning of the body, sexuality, etc.  Her teaching begins with creation — “Male and female He created them” — and extends to the fullness of revelation in Jesus Christ.  As Vatican II taught, and Pope Saint John Paul II tirelessly proclaimed, “Christ fully reveals man to himself.” Central to the Church’s gospel message is the full truth of the human person.  For this reason Blessed Pope Paul VI called the Church “an expert in humanity.”  The Church, then, has a great deal to contribute to a discussion about the human person and human sexuality.  It is central to her mission.

The situation before us now is also an occasion to recall the Church’s proper role in the public square.  Pope Benedict taught that faith serves as a “purifying force for reason” and that the Church’s social doctrine has as its aim “simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just.”  In the context of “gender identity,” faith purifies reason from its errors and enables us to see the truth of human sexuality.

This role of faith and the Church’s social doctrine must be kept in mind, since Catholics may be accused of imposing their beliefs on others.  In fact, what the Church proposes in the public square is not something out of reason’s reach.  It is not a uniquely Catholic doctrine but in fact the common understanding of the human person that faith enables the Church to preserve.  One need not be Catholic, Christian, or a believer of any stripe to grasp the Church’s teaching on these matters.  The Catholic faith simply serves, at this juncture in history, as the keeper of and witness to this patrimony of human reason: the truth about human sexuality.

Arlington Diocese speaker portraits.Photos by Gerald Martineau.

Rev. Paul D. Scalia is the Episcopal Vicar for Clergy in the Diocese of Arlington and Chairman of the Board of Directors for Courage, International

Posted by: Virginia Catholic Conference | 03/11/2016

This Week at the Virginia General Assembly-Week 9

Posted by: Virginia Catholic Conference | 03/04/2016

This Week at the Virginia General Assembly-Week 8

As the 2016 Virginia General Assembly session enters its final week, House and Senate negotiators are busy working out their differences so that both chambers can vote on a final budget next week to guide state spending for the next two fiscal years.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate continued to take action on bills that have passed the other chamber.  Here’s a look at how Conference priorities fared this week:

Defunding Abortion Providers:  In an 8-7 vote (YEA represents the Conference’s position), the Senate Education and Health Committee passed Conference-supported legislation, HB 1090 (Delegate Cline), which would prohibit the state from contracting with, or providing a grant to, any abortion provider that performs abortions outside of the three Hyde Amendment exceptions (life of the mother, rape and incest).  The legislation would also divert public health funds away from the abortion industry toward vital community health centers.  The full Senate will vote on the measure early next week.

Electric Chair Expansion Bill:  In a 9-5 vote (NAY reflects the Conference’s position), the Senate Courts of Justice Committee passed Conference-opposed legislation, HB 815 (Delegate Miller), which would require the state to electrocute death row prisoners when the Department of Corrections (DOC) certifies that lethal injection drugs are not available “for any reason”. The legislation would effectively make the electric chair Virginia’s permanent execution method.  Noting the teaching of Pope Francis and his predecessors, as well as our bishops, the Conference opposes use of the death penalty. Electrocution is also especially inhumane, and DOC should not be given virtually unlimited discretion to mandate the use of the electric chair. The full Senate will vote on the measure early next week.

Act now to urge your senator to support life on both of these bills by clicking here.

Protecting Religious Liberty:  In a 14-7 vote (YEA represents the Conference’s position), the House General Laws Committee approved Conference-supported legislation, SB 41 (Senator Carrico), to protect religious ministries against governmental discrimination based on their belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.  When the bill passed the Senate earlier this session, it had been more narrowly drawn to protect clergy members who decline to participate in marriage ceremonies that conflict with their beliefs.  With the help of Senator Carrico, the House committee added safeguards to ensure that religious charities and schools also could practice their beliefs without penalty.  The Conference thanks Senator Carrico and Delegate Gilbert for their collaboration in expanding the bill’s protections during the House committee debate.  The full House will vote on the measure next week.

Scholarship Tax Credit Program:  In a 21-19 vote (YEA reflects the Conference’s position), the Senate passed Conference-supported legislation, HB 1017 (Delegate Massie), which increases the number of days scholarship foundations participating in the Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits program may use to process donations of marketable securities.  The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.

Posted by: Virginia Catholic Conference | 02/26/2016

This Week at the Virginia General Assembly-Week 7

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