In this issue of the Texas Catholic Voice:

  • Executive Director Jennifer Carr Allmon highlights chaplain access bill package...

A Message from Jennifer Allmon, Executive Director

This week we highlight a bill package we are supporting to ensure Texans who are patients in healthcare facilities or are incarcerated have access to chaplain services. There are several alarming incidents of patients who were unable to access the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (last rites) during the pandemic. Access to the sacraments and to spiritual support and comfort are critically important, especially at the end of life. HB 1354/SB 572 by Rep. James White (Woodville) and Sen. Drew Springer (Muenster) require the Texas Department of State Health Services to provide patients with access to clergy when they are patients or residents in a health facility during a public health emergency.

In addition to the access issues chaplains faced during the pandemic, many criminal justice chaplains raise concerns about the level of access to spiritual support for the incarcerated. HB 1579 / SB 654 by Rep. James White (Woodville) and Sen. Paul Bettencourt (Houston) with bipartisan support from joint authors Sen. Eddie Lucio (Brownsville) and Sen. Drew Springer (Muenster) requires the adoption of a policy that protects the free exercise of religious rights of inmates, by ensuring access to volunteer and faith-based chaplains.

John Gilluly, a prison chaplain in Austin, explains, “There is an inconsistency across the state for prisoners to have access to services such as Bible studies or the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (the Catholic ministry for those who are seeking to become Catholic), or even just to attend Mass or other religious services. This legislation will guarantee all who are imprisoned and seeking spiritual support to change their lives, can actually find that support.”

The TCCB supports these bills to ensure religious freedom for patients and residents of healthcare facilities or those who are incarcerated. While we don’t need a law to know that religious freedom and access is essential, we do need improvements in policy to ensure it is guaranteed. We want to thank Rep. James White, Sen. Drew Springer, Sen. Paul Bettencourt and Sen. Eddie Lucio for their work to file legislation to protect the religious freedom of Texans.

Upcoming Texas Executions

  • Ramiro Ibarra - 3/4/21

Please join our bishops in praying for those scheduled for execution, for the victims of violent crimes and for all affected, including their families and communities. As the bishops of Texas wrote in their pastoral letter, "May God give us the grace to witness to the dignity of human life. May the Lord console the suffering, protect our community, and grant conversion to those responsible for the inflicting of death and violence upon others."

 

Prayer for the Legislature

Please pray for all our public servants and elected officials, including our Governor, Lt. Governor, House Speaker, lawmakers, and their staff, that the Lord may grant them wisdom and prudence to work for the common good of all the people of Texas.

The Texas Catholic Voice is a publication of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops. For more information, write news@txcatholic.org or call 512-339-9882.