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2016 - Catholic Advocacy Day Builds Relationships, Accountability

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

“We left with a sense of support and being heard,” said Armando Cervantes, a delegate to Catholic Advocacy Day from the Diocese of Orange.

That sense of empowerment and type of encounter is not uncommon for people who take part in the annual event in Sacramento organized by the California Catholic Conference.  This year, nearly 50 lawmakers and their staff in Sacramento received delegations from arch/dioceses across the state.

They spoke on a number of issues and overwhelmingly reported that the visits were respectful and worth the effort (85 percent agreed or strongly agreed).

Often they encountered staff and lawmakers who don’t understand the Church’s continued opposition to bills such as those aimed at expanding access to physician-assisted suicide because, after all, “it’s now law.”

It is education, on such topics as moral principles versus enacted laws, that makes this interaction between advocates, lawmakers and their staff in the Capitol so critical. 

Another group of Catholic visitors included the lawmaker’s own pastor and created an important relationship-building opportunity for both priest and legislator that could benefit the community where they both live.

The legislators and staffers were eager to point out areas of agreement.   Naturally, they were less open about areas of disagreement, sometimes even aggressive, but many delegates reported that after continued discussions they felt a respectful and constructive dialogue emerged.  Initial uncertainty often turned in civil discourse.

Other delegates who were shunted off to junior staff members were not so satisfied but many of those delegates have vowed to continue pursuing discussions with their representatives.

Of the bills discussed, delegates found the highest support for AB 1276 which would allow minor victims of human trafficking to testify via video.  There is opposition to paying for assisted-suicide for Medi-Cal patients and to the hotline to explain the procedure (SB 1002) but it is not as strong.  (See Summary Charts.)

You can view the position of individual legislator’s on every Catholic Advocacy Day issue and sort by diocese, legislative district or the lawmaker’s last name on our results page.  

In addition, a section detailing the experiences of delegates is included.  For instance, distractions are always an issue (18% of delegates indicated they were a problem) but the delegations felt they were successful in communicating the positions of the California Catholic Conference on the selected bills and budget issues (80% agreed or strongly agreed).

Finally, never underestimate the importance of building one-on-one relationships.  Shortly after the “official” visit, one legislative staffer emailed a delegate asking how to get involved in a restorative justice ministry in their common diocese.