Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 4, 2000
New Catholic group debates public policy
Spiritus wants to be lobbyist for Catholic political thought
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Politicians beware. A recently established grassroots Catholic organization has just held its first general meeting and policy convention and is ready to enter political debate on issues that impact faith and life.
The group, Spiritus, seeks to influence societal values and political decisions through political advocacy at all levels of government, said group president Colin MacIsaac of Calgary.
Spiritus says it will strive to be "an effective grassroots voice of Catholic political thought in Alberta."
"I have a lot of faith in this group," said John Lynch, coordinator of the archdiocesan Social Justice Commission. "This can be a powerful sort of thing. The bishops are certainly behind it."
At its Nov. 25 convention at Providence Renewal Centre, Spiritus approved resolutions in the areas of social justice, health care, education, the institutional Church and family life. Some 45 people attended the meeting.
The year-old group says it wants to be "pro-active" and "intimately involved in the political life and debate of our community and society."
MacIsaac noted that the resolutions approved at the convention will form some of the organization's resources for future political advocacy work at all levels of government.
"We are a lobby group and we have the capability of making an impression."
Groups represented on Spiritus 15-member board of directors include the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association, the Catholic Women's League, and the Knights of Columbus.
Board members include Newman Theological College President Kevin Carr, ACSTA lawyer Kevin Feehan, and Mary Ganton, former archdiocesan youth coordinator.
Delegates approved about 30 resolutions, including five on education, eight on health, eight on social justice, three on the institutional Church, four on family life and four on political advocacy.
On education, Spiritus vows to actively support the constitutional right of Catholic property owners to levy property tax at the local level in support of Catholic education with this money not being subject to government constraint.
The group also advocates the right of Catholic school supporters to "independent" school facilities in order that the principle of permeation be implemented throughout the school day.
On the health front, Spiritus vows to promote a publicly funded, sustainable health care system that provides quality health care for all. The group will also monitor the implementation of the Health Care Protection Act and will take "appropriate action" if the principles of the act are not respected.
"If we see a rapid growth of private for-profit facilities we'll mobilize," MacIsaac said.
Spiritus will lobby the government of Canada to introduce legislation regulating new technologies as it relates to human reproduction/genetic engineering and the Alberta government to better fund palliative care.
The group will also express to government its strong opposition to physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia.
The group will also demand the Alberta government "protect the working poor and the vulnerable, the disabled receiving assisted incomes and those on welfare from the outcomes of market forces which further restrict their capability to look after themselves."
Spiritus will further challenge Parliament to renew and fulfill its commitment to eradicate child poverty in Canada and will lobby the Alberta government to provide safe and affordable housing for the homeless.
Delegates also said it will "strongly oppose the 'culture of death mentality' by advocating respect for life from the moment of conception to natural death."
Last year Spiritus wrote to Premier Ralph Klein and the federal minister of health advocating on behalf of the Canada Health Act and against the further contracting out of insured acute care services within the public health care system.
Spiritus also opposed Bill 18, the Personal Income Tax Act (flat tax), on the grounds the act would require middle-income earners to pay more and allow the rich to pay less.
MacIsaac said he expects Spiritus soon to become a province-wide organization with regional branches in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge.