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 | By Bishop Joe S. Vásquez

Advocating for the Common Good During This Legislative Session


Editor: Bishop Vásquez, the 88th state legislative session has convened in Austin. How do the bishops of Texas strive to have the Catholic voice heard by our legislators?

Bishop Vásquez: The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) represents the 15 dioceses within the State of Texas to provide for the coordination of the public policy concerns of the church. All the Catholic bishops throughout Texas form the TCCB.

The bishops gather annually to consult with one another and decide the priorities that we want to bring before the legislative session so we can promote the common good. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the common good is “the sum total of social conditions which allow people … to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.” (CCC 1906) We want to work for the wellbeing of all people in our society, not just Catholics.

Editor: What are some of the priorities for the TCCB during this legislative session?

Bishop Vásquez: Our first priority is defending the dignity of every human life. We defend life against abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty, and we seek the elimination of all funding for abortion providers. We also want to make sure the family is protected and strengthened. This includes protecting the sacredness, fidelity and permanency of marriage. Additionally, we want to make sure that gender ideology is confronted. And we want to ensure prudent laws are passed to prevent gun-related homicides.

There is also the issue of immigration. We, as bishops, support the right that every country has to protect its borders. At the same time, we want immigrants to be treated with dignity and respect, especially if they are refugees or asylum seekers. We want to make sure that unaccompanied minors are protected and not exploited, and that families are not separated. There is no doubt that caring for immigrants is rooted in the Gospel and the mission of the church.

The bishops want to ensure there is sufficient care for the sick and the dying, those suffering from addiction, widows, orphans and the poor. We want to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18 to protect young people. We want to make sure that our juvenile detention centers are safe places for our youth.

We stand with parents who are the primary educators of their children, especially in the areas of sexuality. They should be the ones who make decisions about how their children are instructed and formed about sexuality. We respect the independence and autonomy of private and religious schools while also fostering strong public school options. As far as healthcare is concerned, we want to make sure that everyone, especially children, those with disabilities and the elderly, have access to adequate healthcare. We also support conscience protection for healthcare providers and educators.

Editor: As Catholics in the pews, how can we advocate for the common good in our state?

Bishop Vásquez: The best way that every Catholic can work for the common good is to vote. This is our civic responsibility and privilege. During legislative sessions, especially in Texas, we want people to be actively advocating for the common good. Get involved and make sure to speak to your elected officials. Let them know what you believe about specific bills: write to them, call them and inform them. The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops will host the biennial Catholic Advocacy Day on March 28. This is an opportunity as bishops, clergy, religious and young people to meet with our legislators and have conversations with them. This is an opportunity for us to have our voices heard and explain our position on proposed legislation. More information will be forthcoming on this event.

Editor: What is your prayer for our state leaders during this legislative session?

Bishop Vásquez: May the Holy Spirit illumine our legislators through wisdom, so that they can enact laws that are just and that benefit all Texans, especially the most vulnerable, the poor, the underserved and those who have no voice. I pray this legislative session will be fruitful and create a society with laws to serve the common good. Amen.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez is the fifth bishop of the Austin Diocese, which is home to more than 700,000 Catholics. For details, visit the diocesan website at

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