New speaker for a new era

Salvatore F. Dimasi takes the helm of the Massachusetts House of Representatives with a track record of opposing the views of the Catholic Church on a variety of important moral issues.

Until now, rank and file Catholics have heavily relied on their religious leaders, and on other Catholics in public life, to steward the Catholic vision of society — one based on the respect for natural law.

That reliance on others cannot continue. Each Catholic must become a defender of that vision of society. The Church’s public voice has been weakened by the abuse scandals and many Catholic politicians have refused to let their “private” beliefs influence their public actions and votes.

Moral values are extremely important for the survival and continuation of a society. Laws are pedagogical. What is legal helps to define what is considered moral by society and has a strong impact on people’s conduct.

The Church’s position on moral issues, such as same-sex marriage or abortion, is not based on an arcane code of prohibitions aimed at preventing individuals from pursuing their own happiness and freedom. Natural Law is at the root of the Church’s teachings on morality. Creation was not the casual interaction of cosmic elements that came together to create order and wisdom. Instead, it was the decision of a loving God who created us and gave us a set of norms — natural law — precisely to assure that happiness and freedom for His creation.

As we, as Catholics, move forward, we must become more educated and knowledgeable about our faith and beliefs.

DiMasi is a new speaker for a new era. In that era, we hope, Catholics will hold their politicians more accountable for their failure to defend the values of our society based on natural law. The recent same-sex marriage debate showed an awakening of a unified Catholic response demanding our political leaders preserve the basic institution of marriage.

Many issues are sure to arise under DiMasi’s leadership during the 2005-2006 legislative session.

The Legislature will once again be called on to deal with the ballot question that would amend the state Constitution affirming marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We urge the new speaker not to hinder that process.

We expect that the House will see further attempts to pass a bill that will require Catholic hospitals to dispense emergency contraception without first screening for a possible pregnancy. That would be an outrageous attack on religious freedom.

Another issue, one that has failed to pass the House even after several attempts, is an official endorsement of embryonic stem cell research in Massachusetts. The harvesting of embryonic stem cells results in the destruction of human life for the sake of experimentation and should not be endorsed or supported with public funds.

Also, an effort to legalize casino gambling in the state as well as the governor’s plan to reinstate the death penalty are likely to resurface in the next legislative session.

At the same time, we hope that a “right to know” bill will be allowed to move forward. That bill would offer women seeking an abortion the opportunity to learn more about the procedure and its consequences.

On all those issues, and many others, the Church has a position that we hope will prevail. It is our conviction that by upholding Church teaching on those issues we are defending cultural values that will result in a better society not only for us but, more importantly, for our children and grandchildren.

We hope that the new speaker will let ideologically diverse voices be heard. It is of the utmost importance that bills on morally sensitive issues receive the proper level of debate. Too frequently, we have seen attempts to thwart debate and public hearings on such issues.

As speaker, DiMasi has a special responsibility to consider the interests of all of the citizens of Massachusetts. We trust he will fulfill that responsibility and we wish him well.