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Insights: Catholic Voting Duties, Consequences of Legalizing Marijuana

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October 7, 2016

Being Catholic and Voting in 2016

The U.S. is in the midst of a contentious presidential election. The major candidates for the presidency have deeply divided opinions on numerous issues and neither come close to fully supporting important principles in Catholic social teaching. Additionally, Californians are facing significant ethical questions on the November ballot in issues like repealing or altering the death penalty, marijuana legalization, and gun control. This quagmire has led many Catholics to the unfortunate temptation to remain passive and not vote at all.

In his latest article, Being Catholic and Voting in 2016, Fr. Gerald Coleman, adjunct professor of ethics in the Graduate Program of Pastoral Studies at Santa Clara, assesses the responsibility and duty of the faithful to vote and not standby idly, as well as the moral obligations of Catholic voters.  

Fr. Coleman points out that while this election cycle is especially fickle, “The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults teaches that ‘Catholics have the duty to vote, to participate in the political arena, and to help shape society in light of Catholic teaching.’”

Politics in our country “unfortunately … often can be a contest of powerful interests, partisan attacks, sound bites, and media hype.” The Church “calls for a different kind of political engagement: one shaped by moral convictions of well-informed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good, and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable.”

Read the article in its entirety here.


Year of Mercy: Grassroots Catholics Work to End the Use of the Death Penalty

Stanley “Tookie” Williams was one of the early leaders in the West Side Crips, a South Central Los Angeles street gang. An openly volatile and violent person, Williams was a drug addict, and had little regard for human life. In 1979, Williams was convicted of four murders, two with special circumstances for their heinous nature. He received the death penalty as punishment.

But by the time Tookie Williams was executed in 2005, after a 24-year stay on death row, he was a well-known peace and anti-gang crusader. While incarcerated, Williams co-authored nine anti-gang books for children, was a vocal anti-violence advocate, and was nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Kent Peters, board member of California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty (CPF), recalls Tookie’s execution.

“Here was a man who had ultimately saved hundreds of lives because of his anti-gang work inside of death row,” recalls Peters. “I had this unclean feeling knowing that the State was killing in my name. It was executing a peace activist.”

In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, we as Catholics are called to exercise those mercies that have been so abundantly bestowed on us by our gracious God, including that of forgiveness. While capital punishment may seem to be the obvious answer for heinous crimes against humanity, especially those that devastate us personally, it leaves no room for God’s faithfulness or redemption.

Continue Reading

Watch a video examining the lives of Catholics whose lives have been impacted by crime and the death penalty: Catholics and the Death Penalty , Los católicos y la pena de muerte.


2015-16 Legislative Session Ends With Signature on SB 1146

The legislative session officially ended at midnight last Friday, ending the opportunity for Governor Brown to sign or veto any remaining bills passed during the recent legislative session.

Of the 1,059 bills sent to him this year, Governor Brown vetoed only 159, or approximately 15 percent.  Hundreds of new bills became law, including AB 2590, the restorative justice bill the California Catholic Conference and other faith-based groups worked tirelessly to pass.  It adds rehabilitation to the mission statement of California’s prison system. 

Notable to report in the final hours before the signing deadline was Governor Brown’s signature on SB 1146. The bill initially featured over-reaching regulations that endangered religious liberty at private universities and opened them up to civil litigation for requiring compliance with faith and values-based practices. Ultimately, the new law now only requires that private schools disclose whether they have applied for an exemption of federal discrimination laws that conflict with religious doctrines.  Even though the two-year legislative cycle has ended, the CCC expects this issue will return and will be tracking it in the next session.

It should also be noted that the Governor vetoed SB 1157, which would have preserved in-person visitation in California prisons. While the CCC was steadfast in its commitment to get the bill passed, we are encouraged that Governor Brown has conceded that having an video-only visitation system in prison is complicates rehabilitative efforts and has directed a state agency to take up the matter.

Thank you to Catholic Legislative Network members and all who took the time to write and email your legislators about important legislation. We look forward to your continued engagement when the next session opens.  


Sobering Focus of Marijuana Ballot Initiative

Proposition 64, or the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” isn’t getting as much television and radio air play as some of the other measures on the ballot, but it’s passage could be a much further reaching public health threat than is being portrayed.

Opponents of the measure have created accurate web-ads that focus on the dangers of impaired driving and exposing youth to advertising in favor of the drug, which a recent article in the Sacramento Bee found to be accurate. 

Since the recreational use of marijuana was legalized in Colorado, the Parkview Hospital emergency room in that state has seen a more than 50 percent increase in the number of children 18 and under that test positive for marijuana. Even more disturbing, nearly half of all newborns born in that hospital also tested positive. This is a small snapshot of what could transpire in California on a much grander scale, given the Golden State is the most populous state in the nation, and home to seven times the number of people that live in Colorado.

Proposition 64 does not pertain to the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but would allow people age 21 and older to grow six pot plants at home and possess up to one ounce for non-medical purposes. The passage of this proposition would also change the sentences for those prosecuted for marijuana-selling crimes from a maximum of four years to six months in jail. It would also eliminate the longtime television ban on smoking advertisements.

Fr. Gerald Coleman recently released his in-depth examination of the impact of marijuana legalization in his piece The Changing Attitudes About the Use of Marijuana, and the Conference has published a propositional analysis on the measure.

For more information visit the No on 64 campaign website at


USCCB Urging AMA to Oppose Doctor-Prescribed Suicide

The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) is asking physicians to send letters and contact the American Medical Association (AMA), which is considering changing its position against to physician-assisted suicide to one of “neutrality” at its upcoming delegation meeting next year.

The AMA’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs is studying the proposed change and will provide a recommendation to the House of Delegates at its June 2017 meeting. Opposition to doctor-prescribed suicide by national and state medical associations has been critical to preserving laws against the practice. Thus it is imperative that that AMA maintains its opposition to physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Click here for a PDF that can be shared with more information on contacting the AMA and petitioning that they remain opposed.

October 7, 2016

Vol. 9, No. 33