Forum’s message to Catholics: Mobilize for life and faith
By Valerie Schmalz
A proposed constitutional amendment enshrining abortion into California’s constitution in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned and legislative threats to parental rights were the focus of a forum sponsored by a new Catholic grassroots organization and the Office of Human Life & Dignity in San Francisco.
Catholic Families 4 Freedom was formed by parents during the pandemic and the shutdown of schools and churches by the government. Today the grassroots organization operates in all 12 Catholic dioceses in California, including the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
On May 20, the local chapter cosponsored “Empowering Catholic Citizens,” an evening forum to discuss pending legislation in Sacramento that would further erode parental rights and create even more extreme abortion laws.
“Our mission is to empower California Catholic families to advocate for their medical and religious freedom. We’re just about parent choice,” Catholic Families 4 Freedom SF representative Lindsay Walsh told the group gathered on a Friday evening at Star of the Sea Parish gym for an evening forum to discuss pending legislation in Sacramento that would further erode parental rights and create even more extreme abortion laws.
“We’re here to stay,” said Walsh.
How do regular citizens influence what appears to be a monolithic organization in Sacramento?
Speak up, speak out – mobilize and build relationships. That was the advice from the two featured speakers, one from the bishops’ public policy arm, the California Catholic Conference, and the other from California Policy Center, a non-sectarian public policy educational non-profit.
While California’s legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom are rolling ahead with legislation to fund travel from out of state for abortion-minded women, to pay for scholarships for medical students who train in doing abortions and much more – there is something even more threatening on the horizon, according to California Catholic Conference respect life associate director Molly Sheahan.
The legislature and governor plan to place on the November ballot a proposed state constitutional amendment that would enshrine abortion as a California constitutional right.
A constitutional amendment hamstrings any future actions against abortion, Sheahan said. “Even if you have 10, 20, 50 years down the road a completely different makeup of our legislature that decides ‘We really don’t want a right to abortion’, it becomes almost impossible to pass any laws to regulate abortion. That is why we really need to fight it.”
Sheahan asked Catholics and like-minded people to do four things: pray, sign up for action alerts at cacatholic.org, respond to action alerts, and share the news with others.
“Are we ready to step up? Each us was baptized, called to be priest prophet and king. I have a responsibility to care for my neighbor. That is what we do. We have been doing it for 2,000 years,” Sheahan said.
“We need to mobilize,” said Sheahan, and pointed to the California bishops’ statement in support of women, children and families issued this year on the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.
“Now is our moment. This is the moment when we need everyone. We need all 12 million Catholics,” said Sheahan.
Learn who represents you, take action, run for office, vote
Lance Christensen, vice president for education policy and government affairs for the California Policy Center and a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, noted the first step is to learn who represents you at the local school board, city council or board of supervisors, state Assembly and Senate, and U.S. Congress. Success is something to build with a long game as well as immediate, but thoughtful actions, he said.
“Wise action is not only knowledge of policy, process and politics, but rightfully understanding and contextualizing that material to produce successful engagement,” Christensen. “A lot of people want to do something but are often ineffective because they struggle with distinctions, nuances and their audience.”
In addition to lobbying in Sacramento and educating voters, California Policy Center and the associated Parent Union trains and helps people of faith become candidates for school boards and other elected government bodies.
There is no more vital time for people of faith to become involved, he said.
Christensen pointed to two bills that abrogate parents’ rights as examples of the challenges. SB 866, sponsored by Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, would allow children 12 and older to decide whether to be vaccinated for anything, not just COVID. At the same time, the legislature has for five years defeated various versions of a bill sponsored by Sen. Brian Dahle, R-Placerville-Redding, that would remove bureaucratic barriers that stop parents from learning what sex education is being taught to their children in public schools.
“You should not have to cross a lot of barriers to learn what your children are learning in sex ed,” said Christensen. The bill keeps getting voted down. “Why? Because the powers that be that control education in the State of California and in the legislature don’t want you to know what’s in it.”
“Take SB 866, sponsored by Sen. Scott Weiner, removing parental consent for vaccinations,” said Christensen. “If you listened to this debate a few weeks ago you would have found that the legislature has absolute contempt for parents. I watched a man who has no children tell me how I should raise my kids. It’s not about the vaccines. It’s about control, who owns your kids. Is it you or the state?”
“These bills are symbolic of what is happening in the legislature,” Christensen said. “It is the complete dissolution of the family.”
Learning how the process works, and working effectively are an art, Christensen said.
“A successful lay Catholic will know why they advocate for a position, but understand how to express it without simply pointing to scripture or apostolic or pontifical writings. They’ll have credibility and empathy, but also make a logical argument that withstands even the most stinging secular response,” Christensen said.