By Emily Zinos/Minnesota Catholic Conference Guest Columnist
When I came back to the Catholic Church 20 years ago, it was due in large part to the Church’s public witness defending the sanctity of life in the womb. Since then, my experience of the Catholic faith has broadened my pro-life convictions into a concern for human life at every stage.
The Church’s concern for the common good was on display for all to see at Catholics at the Capitol on Feb. 19 as over 1,000 Minnesota Catholics came together with one voice to defend the dignity of the human person. It was a beautiful day that left me feeling grateful for the opportunity to bring a consistent ethic of life to a wide scope of issues in political advocacy.
The morning was filled with encouragement and education, including my participation on a panel of local Catholics who have taken up the call of discipleship to be faithful citizens. I am involved with a global multi-partisan women’s coalition, which advocates for those who have been hurt by the influence of gender ideology. The same principle that motivated me to offer help to pregnant women seeking abortion 20 years ago now motivates me to protect children from suffering the medical harms of the transgender issue.
In this work, much of my time is spent cooperating with people across the political spectrum, including many transgender-identified people, pro-choice feminists, and people who identify as lesbian or gay. In a time when many of us find ourselves living inside a “Catholic bubble,” I see this aspect of my work as a gift that challenges me to “head for the periphery” and bring the love of Christ to those who are often overlooked.
My fellow Catholics at the Capitol panelist, Lynn Varco, captured this point in a quote he shared during our discussion, taken from the Epistle of Barnabas: “Do not live entirely isolated, having retreated into yourselves, as if you were already justified, but gather instead to seek the common good together.” We cannot work for the common good all by ourselves; it is always a collaborative effort, and the goal is always a society where the dignity of every single person is acknowledged, and every person’s contribution is embraced.
Catholics at the Capitol was a valuable lesson in finding common ground and working with legislators on both sides of the aisle. During the morning program we received practical tips about meeting with our legislators and discussing issues with them. This year, we focused on two issues: a bill that would ban commercial surrogacy, and a four-bill package highlighting the importance of the First 1,000 Days of Life, from conception until a child’s second birthday.
My afternoon lobbying companions included the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Franciscan Brothers of Peace, and high school students from St. Agnes, making us a group that not only donned habits, but also represented the needs of the elderly, poor, and youth.
What a joy it was to find points of agreement with the three legislators we met with, even if we did not agree on everything. The presence and engagement of legislators from across the ideological spectrum throughout the day at Catholics at the Capitol highlighted the importance of working to find common ground for the common good.
Advocating for the poor and the weak is just one of the many ways we build a culture of life. The poor, the vulnerable, and the stranger are all just as worthy of the law’s protecting hand as the unborn, and for the same reason: every man, woman, and child is created in the image of God.
That is not to say that all issues are of equal importance nor that those who propose harmful legislation should get a pass. It is to say that the evangelical witness of the Church demands our constructive engagement even with those with whom we disagree.
One of the keynote presentations from Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia underscored the importance of bringing a consistent ethic of life to the Capitol: “[A]ll of us are here today to live, to work, to do, as we struggle together for the dignity of the human person – all human persons, from the unborn child, to the poor, the weak, the immigrant, and the suffering . . . There are no pro-life Catholics or social justice Catholics – just Catholics.”
Emily Zinos is the mother of seven children and serves as the Minnesota coordinator for Hands Across the Aisle.