HARTFORD – With a short legislative session set to open in a few weeks, the watchdog agency for the state’s bishops is asking Catholics to stay informed about issues that may affect their faith. Michael C. Culhane, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference (CCPAC), said that when the session opens on Feb. 5, a number of important issues may surface, and Catholics should be aware of them.
"I think that assisted suicide may surface during this next session," Mr. Culhane said. "I am assuming, though, that legislation dealing with what’s called MOLST [medical orders for life-sustaining treatment] and POLST [physician orders for life-sustaining treatment] may surface."
During the 2013 legislative session, disabled activists joined the pro-life side and helped defeat a physician-assisted suicide bill while it was still in committee. As Mr. Culhane noted in an op-ed piece in the February 2013 Catholic Transcript, "this legislation has been rejected more than 100 times in state after state. Only two states, Oregon and Washington, have statutes providing for assisted suicide."
Budgetary issues, adoption and sentencing of juvenile offenders are also on Mr. Culhane’s watch list.
"There will always be ... budgetary issues, dealing with cuts, and the conference will be following the budget as it evolves during the session regarding funding to programs affecting our poor population," he said.
A bill allowing adult adoptees to receive their original birth certificates may come up, he said. "We’re interested in it because of the adoption services that the Church is involved in," he explained.
"There is a bill dealing with juvenile sentencing reform that the USCCB [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops] supports conceptually, and we are waiting for the specific language of the legislation to determine whether we are going to get involved or not," he said.
The conference plans to meet with Archbishop Leonard P. Blair to discuss these and other concerns, he said.
He stressed that the conference members need to read each bill before making recommendations to the bishops to support or oppose them.
"Conceptually, the conference may support an issue or oppose an issue. But the reality of the situation, from my perspective, is that you have to read the bill to determine its contents and then make a decision from that point on. There are some aspects that we may like and some that we may not," he said.
What can Catholics do to be informed on these and other legislative issues of importance to the Church in Connecticut?
"The most immediate thing that our Catholic population can do is to go on our website, which is www.ctcatholic.org, and sign up to become a member of our legislative network," Mr. Culhane said. "Once this is done, then they will be receiving legislation updates and other information as the legislature evolves."
The legislative session is set to begin Feb. 5 and end May 7.