The March and April issues of the Catholic Anchor are historically our most political, as they come out at the time when the Alaska Legislature debates scores of bills that invariably shape Alaska’s cultural landscape.
As Christians, we cannot shrink from politics or view it as the purview of elected officials and political insiders. In a very real sense, we are all lobbyists. When we bring our Catholic social teaching to the public debate we enrich and deepen the discussion and root it in the inherent dignity of every human person as made in the image of God.
There is a lot packed into this seemingly simple belief. We value all human life, whether born or unborn, physically powerful or severely disabled, young or old, rich or chronically poor. Following the revolutionary lead of Jesus Christ, we value, defend and embrace the outcast. We seek out orphans, the homeless, those who are sick and dying. We visit the imprisoned and reach out to those gripped by addiction and mental illness.
None of these plights devalue in the least the inherent dignity embedded in every human life. In fact, it is the least among us whom Jesus elevates and highlights in his earthly ministry.
People are created to live in harmony with God’s plan for their life. Certain actions allow us to thrive and realize our God-given potential. Others cause us suffering and heartache. This is universally true. A kind turn lifts the heart of an atheist as much as an ardent Catholic. Likewise, injustice brings suffering without discrimination.
At this point many readers are nodding. “Yes, we know — these are old Christians teachings.” Perhaps, but they are unmistakably waning across much of the Western World, including here in Alaska.
Specific bills in the current legislative session may not be the source of the problem but they reflect an increasingly disintegrated and disordered view of the human person.
House Bill 99, for instance, proposes that we let doctors prescribed lethal doses of drugs to kill Alaskans who have come to believe that their lives are unbearable burdens. This bill contains two falsehoods: That human life does not contain inherent value, regardless of when there are sufferings or hardships, and that we may can decide when, where and how to end our life.
Other bills under consideration (HB 19, HB 42 and SB 20) would require state agencies, private employers, non-religious schools and other nonprofit groups to legally recognize and accommodate the preferred “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” of employees, customers, teachers, students and others regardless of their actual physical biology. This proposal flows from gender theories claiming that the reality of male and female are social constructs and not part of any natural law or given reality. Various expressions of sexual orientation are therefore perfectly acceptable.
Then there’s the current proposal to repeal Alaska’s constitutional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and open the door to state sanctioned same-sex “marriage.” These bills implicitly reject any ultimate or fundamental realities about the way human beings are created. When such ideas take hold, it is a short step to rejecting any notion of the fundamental dignity inherent in all human beings.
As Christians we must bring our perspectives to the public table. If we fail to do so, then our ideas about the dignity of persons will increasingly become marginalized and even trampled upon.
The current legislative session goes until April 19th. Between now and then many bills will be debated, passed or rejected. We have a duty to stay informed and raise our voices as we can.
To stay up on the latest legislation and public hearings, or to contact legislators, go to legis.state.ak.us. You can specifically follow certain bills via email alerts and find out how legislation is moving through various committees. It takes a few minutes but this is part of how we can help shape our culture in a manner that honors human life at every level.
“A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern,” Pope Francis explained back in 2013. “Politics, according to the social doctrine of the church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good,” the pope added. “We all have to give something!”
The writer is editor of the Catholic Anchor, the newspaper and news website of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.