Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

A Vision, A Voice, A Presence: A History of the First Forty Years of the Michigan Catholic Conference

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

A Vision, A Voice, A Presence: A History of the First Forty Years of the Michigan Catholic Conference

Article excerpt

A Vision, A Voice, A Presence: A History of the First Forty Years of the Michigan Catholic Conference. By Maxine Kollasch, I.H.M.. (Sterling Heights, Michigan: Lesnau Printing Company for the Michigan Catholic Conference. 2005. Pp. 105.)

The Reverend John J. Burke, General secretary of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (the predecessor of our current United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), wrote a doctoral student who described the NCWC as a "pressure group" in national politics. Burke objected to this appellation and instead noted that the NCWC acted according to Catholic principles to promote the integrity of government and in that sense was not a lobby group (Archives of the National Catholic Welfare Conference,Administration Files 42, Burke to Henry, Washington, D.C. January 28, 1930). Sister Kollasch articulates the same concern as she recounts the 1978 efforts of the Michigan Catholic Conference to exempt religious groups from a pending state lobbying bill: "Unless exempted, MCC and other religious groups working on behalf of the common good were subject to the law just as lobbyists representing special interests were" (p. 41). Whether it is the national organization of Catholic bishops or the various state organizations of Catholic bishops, the self-understanding is the same: their purpose is the common good, a truly Catholic obligation, an essential role for the Church in the public forum.

Marie T. Hilliard ("State Catholic Conferences: A Canonical Analysis of Two Constitutions and Bylaws," Licentiate in Canon Law Thesis, The Catholic University of America, 2003) concludes that the current thirty-four State Conferences in the United States "provide a mechanism for [the diocesan bishops in a state] to exercise a collegia! teaching function in matters of public policy" (p. 49). David Yamane (The Catholic Church in State Politics: Negotiating Prophetic Demands and Political Realities [Lanham: Rowman and Iittlefleld Publishers, Inc., 2005]) indeed focuses his study on "the political advocacy of state Catholic conferences" (p. 7), though this emphasis should not be narrowly understood as mere lobbying. Indeed, the earliest scholar of these structures, now Archbishop Michael Sheehan ("The State Catholic Conference: A New Development in Interecclesial Cooperation in the United States of America," Doctoral Dissertation in Canon Law, Pontifical University of the Lateran, 1971 [see "State Catholic Conferences," The Jurist 35 (1975):431454, for summary]) sees them as manifestations of "interecclesial communion" (p. …

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