Hundreds of Texas Catholics rallied at the capitol Tuesday, calling on legislators to, among other things, show they value life with measures that reduce abortion and increase health care access and improve social justice in Texas by cracking down on predatory lenders.
Under the banner of the Texas Catholic Conference, a public advocacy association formed by the 15 Roman Catholic Dioceses of Texas, more than 1,000 people gathered on the south steps of the capitol building for Catholic Faith in Action Advocacy Day.
Conference leaders said they are is monitoring more than 500 bills moving through the Legislature, ranging from traditional Catholic moral issues like abortion and end-of-life care, to payday lending reform and school choice.
Daniel Flores, bishop of Brownsville, said that life issues have become increasingly relevant because society seems to be “losing confidence in the gift of life." Among other bills, Flores endorsed several measures that would tighten regulations on facilities that conduct abortions and close many of the state’s existing facilities.
“These bills are important for the sake of the health of the woman,” he said, “and for the sake of the protection of life.”
The bishops also endorsed measures that would change procedures relating to end-of-life care and strengthen parental consent laws for abortions.
The religious leaders also took on social justice issues. Bishop Curtis J. Guillory of Beaumont called for the Legislature to consider expanding Medicaid in the coming months. He said he hoped that Gov. Rick Perry would reconsider his intention to block Medicaid expansion.
“1.3 million people in Texas do not have medical care, and we know this is a continuing problem,” he said.
Bishop Plácido Rodríguez of Lubbock called for increased school choice and tuition tax credits for poor parents who want to educate their children in parochial schools.
“Today, with a new hope inspired by Pope Francis,” he said, “we want to redouble our efforts to stand on the side of poor families who need education."
Many of those in attendance represented Catholic organizations from around the state, and they had practical concerns with bills before the legislature. Albert Kasumaj, a director with the Catholic Charities of The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, expressed particular dislike of CSSB 1247 – one of a number of bills attempting to create a regulatory structure for payday and auto-title lenders. He said the bill wouldn't do enough to crack down on lenders and instead would explicitly allow existing predatory practices.
“This is one day, but we work on social justice 365 days a year," he said.