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Insights: CCC Vets 2,700 Proposed Bills; Bill Threatens Seal of Confession

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March 1, 2019

CA Catholic Conference Closely Vetting Proposed Legislation

With the deadline to introduce new bills in the California Legislature expiring last week, the California Catholic Conference (CCC) is now vetting more than 2,700 bills – likely to be a record for lawmakers – that were introduced. More than 700 bills were introduced on the last day alone!

These new legislative proposals could have major impacts on education, immigration, restorative justice and social issues in the state.

The CCC will continue to fight SB 24 by Senator Connie Leyva (D – Chino), the duplicate of last session’s SB 320, the mandate that would require public universities in the state to provide abortion pills. SB 320 was vetoed by Governor Brown last session.

AB 1059 by Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D – Inglewood), the bill aimed at reducing childhood poverty, continues to be of high importance. The Daughters of Charity, are major sponsors of the bill, which was introduced in early December. The CCC will continue to advocate on behalf of this bill. 

The CCC is also supporting AB 809 by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D – Los Angeles), which would require that Title IX protections for students who wish to continue with their pregnancies be posted on the internet and provided in student health centers.

As for education, there are several bills the CCC is monitoring.

AB 15 by Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D – Van Nuys) would establish a universal, at-birth, opt-out Children’s Savings Account (CSA) for every child born in California to jumpstart college savings.  These CSAs would be fund with an initial contribution by the State with opportunities for families and community groups to contribute more.

SB 673 by Senator Mike Morell (R – Rancho Cucamonga) would require that sexual health education in Kindergarten through 6th Grade is age-appropriate.  This bill also strengthens parental rights and responsibilities to “supervise” such instruction of their children by providing the active consent of parents for their children to participate.

Two bills are aimed at expanding access and investment in early childhood education. The CCC believes that any legislation expanding early childhood education should, first and foremost, support the right of parents to determine their own child’s school readiness and to be able to choose the type of program best for their children among a viable mixed delivery system of public and private providers (including those that are faith-based).

AB 123 by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D – Sacramento) would offer Targeted Universal Pre-K for 4-year-olds that reside in school attendance areas where 70% of children enroll in free and reduced-priced lunch programs. SB 217 by Senator Portantino (D - D-La Canada Flintridge) Would provide school districts a supplemental $4,000 grant for each 3- and 4-year-old child with special needs who is served in an inclusive early educational setting, including public or private preschool. The bill also will allow four-year-olds to enroll in transitional kindergarten if they have special needs.

Senator Anthony Portantino (D – La Canada Flintridge) has proposed a budget measure that would address California’s shortage of qualified teachers, allowing those educators with preliminary credentials to claim a $2,500 above-the-line tax deduction to complete their professional training. This proposal is co-sponsored by the CCC and the California Federation of Teachers. By supporting these beginning teachers who are now actively educating California’s students – as well as those who may not be teaching right now, but will join or return to the classroom in the future – such tax relief would meaningfully increase California’s supply of qualified and fully prepared educators.

AB 2 by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D – Los Angeles) would extend the California College Promise to provide a second year of free tuition for all first time, full-time students attending a California Community College (CCC).

AB 1307 by Assemblymember Blanca Rubio (D – Baldwin Park) would establish a Cal Grant award formula for new students seeking to attend private, non-profit California Colleges and universities that will provide greater access and equity for their post-secondary learning.

Visit the CCC’s legislation page for updates on these bills and all others as they make their way through the legislature.


California Senate Bill Would Target ‘Seal of Confession’

Last week a California State Senator introduced SB 360, a bill proposing to eliminate the penitential communication exemption when it comes to child sexual abuse. 

The “seal of confession” is one of the most sacrosanct of Catholic beliefs and penitents rely on this unbreakable guarantee to freely confess and seek reconciliation with God. A priest who breaks the seal is automatically excommunicated (Canon 1388). Historically, at least four priests have been martyred for protecting the seal.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

1467 Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons, the Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. He can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents' lives.

Clergy are already mandatory reporters, as are many other professionals who learn of potential abuse during the regular course of their administrative duties.  That should not be changed.

Spiritual counselors, such as – “priests, ministers, rabbis, religious practitioners, or similar functionaries of a church, temple, or recognized denomination or organization” – have a special relationship with the person they are counseling which has been respected in U.S. law for more than two centuries and similarly recognized in other nations around the world.

However, SB 360 amounts to a direct assault on the religious practice and the civic right to the free exercise of religion enshrined in the First Amendment.

On a very practical level, SB 360 would do nothing to protect children.  The entire premise of the penitential communication is that what is shared with one’s confessor will never be revealed. A person bares his or her soul in these communications in hopes of getting right with God. Society benefits as people become closer to God.  If the promise of confidentiality no longer exists, people will be reluctant to share their failings with their chosen confessor.

Attempts have been made in California to eliminate the exemption but have never passed the California legislature. The hope is that once we share the teaching and the benefits of keeping all penitential communications confidential our legislature will once again see the light.

SB 360 was introduced last week but it has not yet been assigned to a policy committee.  As soon as it is, look for an Action Alert to express your disapproval of the legislation.


USCCB President Issues Statement on Recent Vatican Meeting to Protect Minors

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued the following statement on the final day of a four-day meeting attended by Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences from across the globe.  

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

"The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth." Psalm 145:18

"These have been challenging, fruitful days. The witness of survivors revealed for us, again, the deep wound in the Body of Christ. Listening to their testimonies transforms your heart. I saw that in the faces of my brother bishops. We owe survivors an unyielding vigilance that we may never fail them again.

How then to bind the wounds? Intensify the Dallas Charter. Pope Francis, whom I want to thank for this assembly, called us to ‘concrete and effective measures.’ 

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Resources to Enrich this Lenten Season

The 2019 Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday, March 6, and ends with Easter Sunday on April 21.

The iconic CRS Rice Bowl is a staple on the table of Catholic families across the country during Lent. This simple cardboard box is a tool for collecting Lenten alms—and comes with a Lenten calendar that guides families through the 40 days of Lent with activities, reflections and stories.

All CRS Rice Bowl materials are free and available online. Lenten alms donated through CRS Rice Bowl support the work of CRS in roughly 45 different countries each year. A quarter of all donations to CRS Rice Bowl stay in the local diocese, supporting hunger and poverty alleviation efforts. Since its inception in 1975, the program has raised nearly $300 million.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has published a calendar of daily reflections and other resources to enrich the Lenten experience this year. You will find a variety of suggestions and resources to help you "raise up," "sacrifice," and "offer" during this Lent to embrace your baptismal commitment.


Follow Up on Federal Abortion Survivors Bill

On Monday, the U.S. Senate failed to pass the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (S. 311) on a vote of 53 to 44, with three senators not voting. In the Senate, 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster and pass a bill.

S. 311 in no way restricted any woman's access to abortion, as abortion advocates claim. The bill was proposed to ensure basic medical and humanitarian care to any child who survives an abortion, a protection not sufficiently provided in federal law.

In spite of the shocking result, we must not become discouraged. Please take a minute to write to your senators to express appreciation for their support of Born Alive, or disappointment and disapproval if they voted against it.


March 1, 2019
Vol. 12, No. 6

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