Encouraging Catholics to lead the way and inspire others to join the effort, the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of Minnesota’s Catholic bishops, embarked this month on a multi-year campaign to build up the family while strengthening charity and justice in society.
“We’re trying to bring people out of their silos, to make connections, to encourage this work and to give it real momentum,” said Jason Adkins, MCC executive director and general counsel.
The sites are independent of the conference’s website mncatholic.org to help draw people to the campaign who are not members of the Catholic Church but could adopt Church teachings and policy initiatives that help the broader society, said Ryan Hamilton, MCC government relations associate.
“We hope that the Catholic community will lead the effort, but by no means should the Catholic community be the only folks participating,” Hamilton said.
The conference will continue its yearly advocacy agendas with state lawmakers and others to help alleviate poverty, meet social concerns, lobby for criminal justice and fight for the right to life, Hamilton said. It also wants to help eliminate the primary causes of social challenges, which often can be traced to struggles faced by families, he said.
“The time has come to go upstream, to address the root causes of those problems,” he said. “And we feel that’s family fragmentation and family economic insecurity and a decline in family formation.”
Policy initiatives under the Families First Project include lobbying for a state tax credit for families that would have a real impact — such as $1,800 per child, Hamilton said. With rising inflation, it’s been estimated that households will spend an extra $5,200 this year compared with last year for the same basket of consumer goods, he said. For a family with three children, such a tax credit would offset those increasing costs, he said.
To help growing families, Minnesota could set up a $5,000 minivan grant to families with three or more children who buy a vehicle that seats at least six people, Hamilton said.
Individuals and families might suggest other ways to foster a society that supports the stable base on which societies thrive — the family — and share their ideas on the Families First website, he said.
“The MCC will be working with lawmakers,” Hamilton said, “but ultimately it’s faithful citizens, the people in the pews, people of goodwill, anyone who cares about the common good, especially the common good vis-a-vis the family” who can make a powerful difference.
The goal is to “transform Minnesota into a state where the economic well-being of the family has been elevated to the top priority for elected officials and a focal point of public policy discussions,” Hamilton said.
The conference’s Civilization of Love website cites Pope St. John Paul II: “The future is in your hearts and in your hands. God is entrusting to you the task, at once difficult and uplifting, of working with Him in the building of the civilization of love.”
The site encourages people to share their stories of helping create a civilization of love and offers monthly challenges, such as October’s: supporting pregnancy resource centers, which also strengthens the U.S. bishops’ Walking with Mom’s pro-life initiative, Adkins said.
The November challenge will be burying the dead, a work of corporal mercy, he said.
“That might seem like a stretch, but we must honor and respect human life, especially at the end of life, and provide a dignified and honorable burial, especially in a society where now we’re talking about composting human remains and alkaline hydrolysis, and other, really troubling ways of disposing of human bodies,” Adkins said.
December’s challenge is likely to be increasing shelter space for the homeless, Adkins said.
“All these things build up the common good,” he said. “We find that many people are allergic to politics these days, but there is a great need to encourage people to live their discipleship in social life. We build a healthy society, the civilization of love, with the two hands of charity and justice.”
Weaving a network of people placing family first, acting in charity and justice and advocating for the common good will strengthen efforts to create policies and laws that support those priorities, Adkins said.
“We hope as we engage people deeper in the social apostolate, that they’ll begin to make the connections — that it’s not just charity that builds the civilization of love, but it’s also the work of justice that can provide that framework,” he said. “And that’s what political life is about.”