This year, the California Legislature has presented us with a rare opportunity—two bills we can support based on the whole of Catholic social teaching. They are SB 899 and AB 1579. But first, some background.
As Catholics, our Church teaches us to respect the sanctity of human life, to uphold the imperative of family, to honor the dignity of work, to understand God’s special love for the poor and to seek justice in our dealings with each other. Those “ideas” are found inCatholic social teaching—the distillation of divine revelation, age-old human wisdom and common sense—and if understood and followed, a framework for human thriving.
However, too often, we Catholics tend to focus on one aspect of the teaching over and against another aspect. Catholic social teaching is of a piece and can only be a reliable guide if taken as seamless. Respecting human life ought to occur throughout the trajectory of that life—from conception to natural death. Families must be seedbeds tended to nourish and guide the new generation. We need to remember the dignity of work and that those who are poor must be loved and brought along if able or carried if not. And overlaying it all, our human interactions must reflect justice—which can bring about peace.
The current public policy which seeks to alleviate poverty in our state is CalWORKs, an assistance program that gives cash aid and services to eligible needy California families. Among those services are CalFresh (food assistance), Medi-Cal (medical insurance), Welfare-to Work (job training) and Child Care. However, due to the CalWORKs “maximum family grant” cap (MFG), the amount of cash assistance will not go up to include a child born into the family if any member of the family received cash aid for the 10 months in a row before the child’s birth.
The two bills mentioned above would amend CalWORKs in the following way:
- SB 899, authored by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) would remove the MFG on the CalWORKs cash assistance received by eligible families, thereby relieving the untenable position of pregnant women in those families: the choice to further impoverish her children or abort her unborn baby.
- AB 1579, authored by Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), would provide CalWORKs cash assistance to a woman whose income is below the poverty level upon confirmation of her pregnancy—an acknowledgment of her needs and the humanity of her unborn child.
Upon examination, it is clear that these proposed bills actually incorporate all the major pillars of Catholic social teaching: reverence for life, the dignity of work, the imperative of family, the preferential option for the poor and justice in our dealings with others. In today’s partisan Legislature, it is extremely rare to find a bill that can be supported by both those who are passionately pro-life and pro-family as well as by those who advocate fervently for social justice.
As engaged and thoughtful Catholics, we ought to take the opportunity to publicly support these proposed laws.