This article’s title adorned the banner behind Bishop Thomas John Paprocki as he spoke to a gathering in the Cathedral Atrium after Mass on June 24 (above) to celebrate religious freedom, a weeklong event of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Issues of religious freedom are many in Illinois and beyond, according to Bishop Paprocki who sits on the Bishops’ standing committee on religious freedom.This article’s title adorned the banner behind Bishop Thomas John Paprocki as he spoke to a gathering in the Cathedral Atrium after Mass on June 24 (above) to celebrate religious freedom, a weeklong event of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Issues of religious freedom are many in Illinois and beyond, according to Bishop Paprocki who sits on the Bishops’ standing committee on religious freedom.
Longtime observers know that an adjournment date means little, since no bill ever, really dies in Springfield. Lawmakers still have plenty on their plates. Here’s a rundown of some items of interest to Catholics in the Springfield diocese and the other dioceses statewide.
After a false start on Feb. 1, Empower Illinois is once again accepting scholarship applications.
Citing what it called “extreme demand” that crashed its computers on Feb. 1, Empower Illinois said in a Feb. 19 media release that “our system has been enhanced to make it easier for families and to manage the demand expected for tax credit scholarships to private schools throughout Illinois.”
Jan. 31 was the first day that families of K-12 students who attend one of the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois could apply for a “Tax Credit Scholarship” made possible by the Invest in Kids Act that was signed into law last year by the governor.
“Our schools are doing a really good job of getting information out to both donors and parents,” said Brandi Borries, diocesan superintendent of Catholic Schools. “Some even set up times in their computer labs for parents to come in and fill out the application.”
For more than 300 excited young people and adults, the pilgrimage to the nation’s capital began on or about Jan. 17 via dozens of chartered motor coaches. Once there, they became part of the estimated 300,000 voices raised to support life at the 44th annual March for Life on Jan. 19.
“What an incredible witness for life!” declared Kyle Holtgrave, diocesan director of the Office for Youth and Young Adult Ministry in a pre-march letter to parishes.
After listening to 90 minutes of oral arguments from defenders and opponents of taxpayer-funded abortion in Illinois, it took Judge Jennifer M. Ascher less than 10 minutes on Dec. 28 to rule that House Bill 40 would take affect, as scheduled, on Jan. 1, 2018. Opponents of the new law quickly filed an appeal of the ruling.
“We respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling,” said Peter Breen, Thomas More Society special counsel. “The Illinois Constitution was clearly violated here.”
The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has joined a coalition of pro-life organizations and legislators in filing suit against state officials to stop the implementation of House Bill 40.
“I am grateful to the Thomas More Society for bringing this lawsuit on behalf of Illinois taxpayers, county and statewide pro-life organizations, several Illinois legislators from across the state, and the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois,” said Bishop Thomas John Paprocki. “It is despicable that the Illinois General Assembly passed this bill requiring taxpayers to pay for abortions and shameful that Gov. Rauner broke his promise to veto it. I pray that this litigation will lead to reversing this disgraceful law.”
One of the final actions of the extended spring session of the General Assembly was the passage of the Invest in Kids Act which, among other things, will allow Illinois taxpayers to receive a scholarship tax credit for making donations for scholarships to private schools — Catholic or otherwise — in Illinois.
Emergency administrative rules to implement the five-year pilot program were published late last month ahead of the Jan. 1, 2018 launch date when donations to scholarship granting organizations (SGO) can begin where donors can receive a 75 percent credit toward their state income taxes.
The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocations Awareness Week on Nov. 5-11. It is an annual event and special time for parishes throughout the U.S. to actively foster and pray for a culture of vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life.
In what many veteran state Capitol observers regard as a stunning reversal, Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has signed a bill that allows taxpayer money to pay for abortions. Rauner vowed to veto the bill last April.
House Bill 40 authorizes the use of taxpayer money to pay for elective abortions for Medicaid participants and state of Illinois employees who are covered by state health insurance. It also removes a “trigger” provision in state law that called for elective abortions to become illegal in Illinois if the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturned its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion across the country.