Dear Representative Dawnna Dukes:
I am sorry that you believe that the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Austin is picking on you. I am sorry you believe that you have been given a scarlet letter by the Church. And I’m sorry that you think that it’s unfair that your request to speak at an event about the contributions of African-American women was denied because of your position on what you consider “preventative healthcare.”
I know it’s frustrating to be denied the opportunity to talk on a subject near and dear to your heart, such as this past February during Black History Month. I know it’s frustrating to be denied an opportunity to speak because you are being held to a standard concerning birth control and abortion that you consider “extremely archaic.” And I know it’s frustrating to be told that regardless of who you are (an 18-year sitting member of the legislator and a lifetime member of your parish), you are held to a standard policy that the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Austin has had in place since 2005, a policy known as the “Policy on Guest Speaker Approval.”
Representative Dukes, you are, to use your own words, “an African-American elected official who happens to be Catholic.” You have stated that you are Catholic. Publicly. And you have also stated that you are aware your “…position on ensuring preventative health care to save women’s lives,” (via birth control, abortion, etc), are not in conformity with Catholic Church teachings. Because of this, you cannot speak at Catholic Church events. Even if you aren’t talking about a faith-related topic.
Revised in 2010, the Policy on Guest Speaker Approval states:
The Lay Guest Speaker/Performer Application is to be used to ensure the conformity with Church teaching of Catholics [or the suitability of non-Catholics] invited to speak, perform, present, etc. in our diocese… It [the application] is to be submitted for approval to the bishop’s office before the individual/group is formally invited to speak/perform. (Italics not added, they are in the original application.)
Approval by the Diocese is required if you speak about Catholic teaching, human sexuality, are speaking to youth, and if your event is advertised beyond your parish. The event you were to speak at was advertised beyond your parish, which means that you would be seen as representing more than just yourself at your parish, but someone that the Diocese approves of representing the Catholic Church. And that can’t happen.
That can’t happen because you have openly and public professed things contrary to our Catholic faith as a public official. And you have been encouraging policies that are contrary to our Catholic faith.
Being held accountable for living out (or not living out) our Catholic faith in a public forum in the Diocese of Austin shouldn’t come as a shock to you. Last year there were several well-publicized instances here in the Diocese of Austin of Bishop Joe not allowing events or speakers at a parish in the Diocese because of they have chosen to act in ways contrary to our Catholic faith.
You ask in your video interview for KEYE news, “When do you [the Church] draw the line on when they [publicly elected officials] can speak? Representative Dukes, the line is clear: when you do not follow the teachings of the Catholic Church publicly.
We are all imperfect and do not follow the teachings of the Catholic Church perfectly. But we are called by Christ to live our Catholic faith at all times and stand up for it even when others disagree and even when we don’t live our Catholic faith perfectly. As a Catholic woman, it is a beautiful thing for me to see other Catholic women standing up for the faith in a public forum. And even more so when they are minorities like me (I’m Hispanic). Most recently, I have been amazed by the eloquent and unyielding words of Ms. Gloria Purvis, an African American Catholic who spoke as a part of a panel discussion, “Women Challenging the HHS Mandate,” on February 27. Her words were inspiring and insightful, as she spoke on our call to speak the Truth with charity and love, particularly with the topic of birth control in the HHS mandate, the effect this mandate will have on our religious freedom and how woman will be viewed in society.
As a Catholic woman it is also disappointing and disheartening for me to see other Catholic woman stand in direct defiance of the Catholic faith and speak out against the Catholic faith in a public platform. Most recently, I was disheartened when watching your interview with KEYE News yesterday, Thursday, March 15.
We are called to be faithful Catholic women who live in today’s society and that will stand up for the Truth of our Catholic faith. But the group of faithful Catholic women standing up for the Truth is dwindling and will continue to dwindle when public figures who are Catholic profess that they know better than the Catholic Church. No, the Catholic Church has not always spread that Truth in the most Christian manner. No, individual Catholics have not always been the best examples of the Catholic faith in how they’ve chosen to live our Catholic faith. But the Catholic Church has stayed true to its teachings for over 2000 years. And asks that all faithful Catholics, regardless of race or gender, do the same.
Representative Dukes, please know that I will be praying for you in your anger and frustration with the Catholic Church. Ours is not an easy faith to follow, particularly in the current culture. I will be praying for your heart and soul to be open to following the teachings of the Catholic Church. All the teachings, especially those related to birth control and abortion. And I will be praying that you will understand the wisdom the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Austin had in denying you the opportunity to speak.
Lifetime Catholic in the Diocese of Austin