The Washington State Legislature concluded their work on April 23, and Governor Jay Inslee was given until mid-May to sign bills passed by the Legislature into law, veto or partially veto them, or allow the bills to be passed into law without his action. A list of bills the WSCC worked on that were passed into law may be found here. The larger list of bills the WSCC took a position on may be viewed here, and detailed descriptions of the bills are also available. Thank you for being a Catholic voice and advocating alongside the WSCC this session. Please join us again in advocating for or against bills of importance to Catholics during the 2024 state legislative session, which will begin on January 8.
As the state legislative session has concluded for the year, the WSCC invites you to continue to be a Catholic voice via year-round advocacy efforts. When the state legislature is not in session, it is an ideal time to learn more about Catholic Social Teaching and policy issues of importance to our faith, reach out to your local legislators, and talk with fellow parishioners about our call to be advocates for the common good. Learn more from our year-round advocacy resources and advocacy tool kit. Numerous advocacy topics and resources may also be found throughout our website. Additionally, the WSCC is available to give presentations to your deanery, parish, or ministry on topics such as faithful citizenship, advocacy, legislative priorities, and Catholic Social Teaching.
As the WSCC looks to support the faithful in year-round advocacy efforts, we have retired the Cornerstone Catholic Conference. The goal of the Cornerstone Conference was to bring Catholics together to be advocates for life and justice, all in accordance with Catholic Social Teaching. The WSCC will continue to pursue this goal through year-round advocacy. Many thanks to those who supported or attended past Cornerstone Conferences. Be sure to explore our YouTube channelto view select presentations from previous conferences.
As parishes engage in year-round advocacy, please refer to the WSCC’s Guidelines for Parishes and Agencies on Political Activity document for information on which political activities the Church may engage in. The Catholic Church is non-partisan, yet we are also called to advocate for specific policies that are in line with Catholic Social Teaching. If a parish or ministry is considering an issue or sign-on letter not already endorsed by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) or the WSCC, please consult with the WSCC first. Thank you for your advocacy!
When unplanned pregnancies occur or when young families encounter difficulty, the Pregnancy and Parenting Support (PREPARES) program provides support for individuals or families in need. PREPARES is a parish-based, Catholic ministry that is staffed by parish volunteers. Catholic Community Services and Catholic Charities direct PREPARES programs in all three dioceses throughout Washington. An initiative of the bishops of Washington, PREPARES serves families of all faiths and backgrounds by providing basic needs and support systems, and by connecting people to additional services. To learn more about how you can help babies, young children, and families via PREPARES, contact the ministry at your parish or connect with the Catholic Community Services/Catholic Charities director of your diocese.
Catholic hospitals throughout Washington comprise nearly half of the hospital beds in Washington state, providing health care, including charity care, to people of all faiths. The three large Catholic hospital systems in Washington are Providence, PeaceHealth, and Virginia Mason Franciscan Health. Providence, the largest health care provider in Washington, was founded in 1856 by the Sisters of Providence. PeaceHealth was founded in 1976 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace. VMFH was founded in 1891 by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia.
June 24 is the anniversary of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Read the USCCB statement marking the occasion here. This date marks a new chapter of pro-life advocacy. In Washington state, we saw a marked increase in pro-abortion bills during the 2023 legislative session. The USCCB statement also calls for “radical solidarity with women facing an unexpected or challenging pregnancy,” including “doing whatever we can to provide them with the care and support they need to welcome their children.” Please see the PREPARES article above for opportunities to connect with this ministry that helps young families.
Religious Freedom Week begins June 22, and this year's theme is "Embracing the Divine Gift of Freedom." Religious freedom issues can range from the freedom to worship in countries where Christianity is under attack to the freedom to serve refugees and immigrants, regardless of their status. Visit the USCCB's Religious Freedom Week webpage (Spanish link) to learn more about how we can pray, reflect, and act for religious freedom. The USCCB also invites you to sign up for their monthly Religious Freedom Newsletter.
Exemplifying the importance of religious freedom, this past state legislative session, an amended version of Senate Bill 5280 (SB 5280) encroached upon religious liberty and the clergy-penitent privilege of the sacrament of reconciliation. SB 5280 would have required clergy to be mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect. The WSCC supports mandatory reporting with one exception – when information is obtained solely during the sacrament of reconciliation. Catholic priests are already mandatory reporters in our Church. The seal of the confessional is sacred, and it is a violation of canon law for a priest to reveal what has been confessed during the sacrament of reconciliation. Revealing information confessed during reconciliation results in excommunication, whereby a priest would be forbidden to celebrate or receive sacraments. While this bill was not passed by the Legislature this year, legislators are likely to work on the bill once again during the 2024 legislative session. The WSCC looks forward to working with the House and Senate to pass a bill that protects children, the clergy-penitent privilege, and the sacrament of reconciliation.
Mark your calendars for the 7th annual Catholic Immigration Summit, Partners on the Journey: Sharing Stories and Discerning Next Steps, at Seattle University on September 30, 9 am-2 pm. Following National Migration Week (September 18-24), this year’s summit includes Mass with Bishop Elizondo, sharing of stories from impacted communities, lunchtime table discussions, and discerning actionable next steps. Registration will open in August. The summit is organized by the Archdiocese of Seattle Immigrant and Refugee Ministry, Catholic Community Services and Catholic Immigration Legal Services, Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, Seattle University’s Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, and the WSCC.
June 20 marks World Refugee Day. Visit the USCCB's new Justice For Immigrants(JFI) website to learn more aboutCatholic Social Teaching on migration and the Church's work to advocate for immigrants. Be sure to check out JFI’s World Refugee Daytool kit. Catholic Relief Servicesalso provides information on World Refugee Day and their work to help refugees. Additionally, the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be occurring on September 24, and Pope Francis' message to mark the day may be found here.