The Church has a proper role in the political order and a responsibility to contribute to the public debate on issues having significant moral dimensions. This role and this responsibility flow from a Gospel mandate, from the Church's moral and social teaching and from Her concern for the common good.
Executive Director: James R. Cunningham
State Director, Bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro Life Activities: Gregory J. Schleppenbach
Associate Director, Education Issues: Jeremy Murphy
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The Nebraska Catholic Conference is an activity carried on jointly and cooperatively by the three dioceses of the Catholic Church located in Nebraska. Its primary focus is on public policy. Through the Conference, the Church, on a statewide basis, officially interacts and communicates with government agencies and officials, and with other organizations and groups, both religious and secular.
The Nebraska Catholic Conference is operated pursuant to the authority and direction of three Diocesan Bishops. The Bishops are the principal administrators and leaders of the Church in Nebraska, but first and foremost they are teachers. They exercise their teaching role by defining moral principles and applying them within specific contexts, one of which is public policy. The Conference is the mechanism by which the Bishops speak with one voice relative to public policy.
As a purely practical matter, the Church's interaction with the political order and involvement with public-policy processes are made necessary by the fact that the Church is a large, multi-dimensional institution. Not unlike many corporations and secular institutions, the Church holds and looks after a variety of property rights and interests which are affected by government policies, programs, and decisions.
Justification for the Church's interaction and involvement runs much deeper than mere institutional self-interest, however. In a pluralistic society, it is the right of all, including the Church, to be heard in debate over public policy. The Church legitimately fulfills a public role because it willingly and responsibly brings to the debate a carefully cultivated tradition and a disciplined capacity to analyze the moral, social and religious significance of public issues. The Church's involvement is not a threat to public-policy processes, or to genuine pluralism, but an affirmation of their importance.
The application of Gospel values to real situations is inherent in the Church's function as a religious institution. Christian social teaching demands that the common good be seriously considered in all matters, so that human dignity and justice can be encouraged and upheld. Based on this foundation, the Church must participate with other concerned parties in the formation of public policy.
The Nebraska Catholic Conference is a federation. A written constitution is its organizational document. The members of the federation are the Archdiocese of Omaha, the Diocese of Lincoln, and the Diocese of Grand Island. Each diocese is under the authority of a Diocesan Bishop. The Bishops serve as the officers of the Conference.
In addition to its officers, the Conference is composed of one representative from each of the three dioceses in each of the following categories: Education, Social Services, Health, Public Affairs and Pastoral Ministry. Also, each diocese may have two representatives of the laity. All positions are appointed by the respective Diocesan Bishop. The appointees include priests, women religious and laity.
Policies and positions of the Nebraska Catholic Conference are determined, after study and discussion, by a majority vote of the members. However, no policy or position is adopted unless it has an affirmative vote from each Diocesan Bishop. Thus, the Conference, as a state-level agency, acts form a position of unity and coordination. When the Nebraska Catholic Conference does not hold or act upon a position on a certain issue, each Diocesan Bishop is free to speak out publicly or act upon that issue as he sees fit, either on his own behalf or on behalf of his diocese.
The day-to-day operation of the Conference is the responsibility of an executive director and assisting staff employed by the Conference. To facilitate its interaction with state government, the Nebraska Catholic Conference maintains its office in the capital city, Lincoln.
I. The Nebraska Catholic Conference serves as an accessible channel of information between government and the institutional Church, interacting will all three branches:
Legislative: NCC monitors the actions of the Nebraska Legislature, commenting, when appropriate, on bills and amendments and advocating positions on various proposals. The Conference is registered as a principal with the Clerk of the Legislature and is represented in that capacity by staff members who are registered lobbyists. The Conference is an information resource for legislative committees, individual legislators, and legislative staff.
Executive: NCC monitors the administrative activities of the Governor's office and state agencies, giving special attention to rules, regulations and administrative decisions that impact upon the Conference's areas of interest and concern.
Judicial: NCC monitors court rulings and other legal advisories (e.g. Attorney General's opinions). The Conference may on occasion facilitate intervention in court cases or act as a friend-of-the-court by filing legal briefs on behalf of the positions and constituencies it represents.
II. The Nebraska Catholic Conference informs and advises the dioceses, parishes, other Church organizations and interested individuals concerning the public-policy processes, activities of the political community and the moral and social dimensions and implications of public issues.
III. The Nebraska Catholic Conference promotes public understanding of the Church's teachings and concerns about morality, justice, health, welfare, education, and human rights.
IV. The Nebraska Catholic Conference is also
active on public-policy issues at the federal level. NCC often
communicates with members of the Nebraska delegation in the U.S. Congress,
either on behalf of its own particular interest or as a "grassroots"
representative of its national counterpart, the United States Catholic
I. The Dignity of Human Life
Fundamental to Catholic tradition and teaching are a belief in and commitment to the inherent dignity of every human being--the clearest reflection of God among us. From this foundation, the Nebraska Catholic Conference addresses a range of concerns, including the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.
II. Economic Justice
Scripture teaches that God has special concern for the poor and vulnerable. All persons have a right to participate in the economic life of society. The Nebraska Catholic Conference, challenged to promote a fundamental option for the poor, is an advocate for economic policies and conditions which uphold the dignity and value of each person.
III. Social Justice
All persons are entitled to participate in society in a manner which acknowledges and respects their dignity as members of the human community. The Nebraska Catholic Conference represents a tradition which opposes oppression, exploitation, discrimination, and disrespect. The Conference is an advocate for social policies and conditions which promote justice and bolster the dignity and value of each person.
IV. Family Life
Strong family life is essential to the well being of society. The Nebraska Catholic Conference represents a tradition which emphasizes the family. The Conference is an advocate for public policies which promote stabilization of the family unit and enhance family life.
V. Health Care
Health care is a basic human right which flows form the sanctity of human life. The public-policy process is challenged to ensure that all persons have access to adequate health care. There also are many medical-moral issues which challenge not only the health care system, but society as a whole. The Nebraska Catholic Conference assists in articulating and responding to these challenges.
All persons are entitled to educational opportunities which can help them achieve their fullest potential. The Nebraska Catholic Conference firmly acknowledges and endorses the critical role of parents in the education of their children. NCC is an advocate for public policies that promote educational choice, including the choice of religiously-based schools.
The interest and concerns of the Nebraska Catholic Conference are manifested in a range of issues in the public-policy forum. These include, but may not be limited to the following:
While there are innumerable issues that the Conference could justifiably address, its general policy is to regularly review and prioritize issues and concentrate its actions and activities on these priorities.
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