Colorado Catholic Conference 2021 Legislative Recap

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]On June 8, 2021, the First Regular Session of the 73rd General Assembly adjourned. Over 600 bills were introduced this session. Policy primarily focused on transportation, agriculture, healthcare, fiscal policy, and the state budget. However, the legislature also considered and passed many bills that could impact the Catholic Church in Colorado.

Some bills that were passed will uphold Catholic social teaching and protect the poor and vulnerable of our society while others pose potentially harmful consequences to the Catholic Church, its affiliated organizations, and Colorado citizens who wish to practice their well-founded convictions. There were also many bills that were considered by the legislature that did not pass, including two bills that would have upheld the sanctity of life and two that would have expanded education opportunity for K-12 students.

The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), as the united voice of the four Colorado bishops, advocated for Catholic values at the Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was heard in the shaping of policy.

Below is a recap of the CCC’s 22 priority bills from the 2021 legislative session. For a full list of the legislation the Conference worked on, please visit: https://cocatholicconference.org/2021-legislative-bills-analysis/

For regular updates and other information, please sign-up for the CCC legislative network here. 

Six Bills the CCC Supported That Were Either Passed or Enacted

Note: Passed means the bill was approved by both chambers of the legislature and is pending the governor’s signature as of June 9, 2021. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters­ Passed
If enacted, counties where either 2,000 adults or 2.5 percent of the adult population primarily speak a language other than English will be required to provide a ballot in that language.

HB 21-1075 Replace The Term Illegal Alien – Enacted
With the enactment of HB 1075, the term “illegal alien” was replaced with the term “worker without authorization” as it relates to public contracts for services.

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families – Passed
If enacted, the state government will allocate much-needed funding for nonprofit organizations to provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need, including Catholic Charities.

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing – Enacted
With the enactment of SB 77, verification of lawful presence will no longer be required for any applicant for a license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare.

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes – Passed
If enacted, SB 146 will establish practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons.

SB 21-158 Increase Medical Providers for Senior Citizens – Passed
If enacted, SB 158 will allocate more funding for senior citizen care, which is currently understaffed and underfunded.

Eight Bills the CCC Opposed that Were Passed

HB 21-1072 Equal Access Services For Out-of-home Placements – Enacted
With the enactment of HB 1072, Colorado law now prohibits organizations that receive state funding to place children with adoptive or foster parents from discriminating on, among other things, the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or marital status. This new law will likely be impacted by the imminent Fulton v. City of Philadelphia US Supreme Court decision.

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination – Enacted
With the enactment of HB 1108, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” are now recognized as protected classes in Colorado nondiscrimination code. This may have serious religious liberty implications for individuals and organizations that wish to practice their well-founded convictions on marriage and human sexuality.

SB21-006 Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil – Enacted
With the enactment of SB 006, human remains can now be converted to soil using a container that accelerates the process of biological decomposition, also known as “natural reduction.”

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program – Passed
If enacted, SB 009 will create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives.

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage – Passed
If enacted, the definition of “family planning services” and “family planning-related services” will not be clearly defined in law, and could potentially include abortion. Furthermore, SB 16 removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing family planning services to a minor.

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals – Passed
If enacted, SB 025 low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services, and sterilization services.

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest – Enacted
The enactment of SB 142 removes the requirement that, if public funds are being used, a physician must perform an abortion at a hospital, and instead allows for abortions to be performed by any “licensed provider.”

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period – Passed
If enacted, SB 193 will eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support.

Five Bills the CCC Supported That Failed

HB21-1017 Protect Human Life at Conception – Failed
HB 1017 would have prohibited terminating the life of an unborn child and made a violation a class 1 felony.

HB 21-1080 Nonpublic Education and COVID-19 Relief Act – Failed
HB 1080 would have established a private school and home-based education income tax credit for families who either enroll their child in private school or educate their child at home, thereby expanding education opportunities for families during and after the pandemic.

HB 21-1183 Induced Termination of Pregnancy State Registrar – Failed
HB 1183 would have required health-care providers that perform abortions to report specified information concerning the women who obtain the procedure to the state registrar of vital statistics, thereby increasing transparency in the abortion industry.

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status – Failed
HB 1191 would have prevented individuals from being coerced to take the COVID-19 vaccine by either the state or by employers.

HB 21-1210 Modifications to Qualified State Tuition Programs – Failed
HB 1210 would have allowed families to use some of their private 529 savings account funds for private K-12 school tuition for their children, including at Catholic schools.

One Bill the CCC Opposed That Failed

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests – Failed
SB 031 would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent.

Two Bills the CCC Was in an “Amend” Position That Passed

SB 21-073 Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault – Enacted
With the enactment of SB 073, the statute of limitations on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct will be removed as of January 1, 2022. Under this law, victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil cause of action if the statute of limitations has not expired, the abuse happened in Colorado, and the abuse could be considered a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor if it was a criminal case.

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act – Passed
If enacted, SB 88 will allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue public and private institutions for abuse that occurred between 1960-2022. Victims would have three years to bring a historical claim, starting from January 1, 2022. Claims brought during this window would be capped at $387,000 for public institutions and at $500,000 for private institutions, with the ability of a judge to double the damages depending on how the private institution handled the situation. Despite unanswered constitutional concerns regarding SB 88, the Colorado Catholic dioceses will also continue to offer opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to receive support in a non-litigious setting.

While the legislature has adjourned the 2021 legislative session, there is still the possibility that they will reconvene later this year. To stay up-to-date on Colorado legislative issues and their impact on the Catholic Church in Colorado, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE. [/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space empty_h=”1″][vc_button button_color=”color-wayh” size=”btn-lg” wide=”yes” border_width=”0″ link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fcocatholicconference.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2021%2F07%2F21-6-10-CCC-legislative-recap-on-Letterhead.pdf|target:_blank”]CCC Legislative Recap[/vc_button][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg

Bishop of the Diocese of Pueblo

Most Reverend Stephen Berg is a native of Miles City, Montana. He is the son of Connie and Jeanne Berg and the oldest of 10 children. He attended Catholic schools in Miles City, graduating from Sacred Heart High School in 1969. He earned a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1973 and a Master of Music from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales in 1975. Upon graduation, Bishop-designate Berg taught music at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth. Subsequently, he worked 14 years in the retail nursery industry as vice president or general manager for divisions of Sunbelt Nursery, Inc. in Fort Worth, Southern California, Phoenix and Atlanta.

Bishop-designate Berg entered Assumption Seminary in San Antonio in 1993 where he received a Master of Divinity degree from Oblate School of Theology in 1999. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1999 by his maternal uncle Bishop Joseph L. Charron, C.PP.S, S.T.D, now the Bishop Emeritus of Des Moines. After his ordination, Bishop-designate Berg served as parochial vicar of St. Michael Catholic Church in Bedford, Texas from 1999 to 2001. In 2001, he became parochial vicar of St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in North Richland Hills, Texas. From 2002 to 2008, he was pastor of four rural parishes: St. Mary in Henrietta, St. Jerome in Bowie, St. William in Montague and St. Joseph in Nocona. In 2008, Bishop Kevin Vann appointed him vicar general of the Diocese of Fort Worth and concurrently he served as pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church. In 2010, he became the Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese under Bishop Vann and also served as administrator of Holy Name of Jesus parish. Upon Bishop Vann’s installation as Bishop of Orange, then Monsignor Berg was elected diocesan administrator in December 2012 by the College of Consultors for the Diocese. Bishop Berg was ordained and installed as Bishop of Pueblo on February 27, 2014, by Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila at a Mass in Pueblo.

Most Reverend James R. Golka

Bishop of the Diocese of Colorado Springs

Bishop Golka is the fourth of ten children born September 22, 1966, to Robert and Patricia Golka. He was born and raised in Grand Island, NE. He graduated from Grand Island Central Catholic High School in 1985. He graduated from Creighton University in 1989 with degrees in Philosophy and Theology. He then spent one year as a Jesuit lay missionary volunteer at Red Cloud Indian School on the Native American Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

After applying as a seminarian for his home diocese of Grand Island, Bishop Golka enjoyed seminary formation at the St. Paul Seminary, School of Divinity, of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, where he received both a Masters of Divinity degree and a Masters of Arts degree in Sacramental Theology.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Grand Island on June 3, 1994. He has served as a Parochial Vicar and Pastor in various parishes. He has served the diocese in various capacities including Director of Ongoing Formation of Clergy, Chair of the Personnel Board, member of the Diocesan Finance Council, the Presbyteral Council, and as a member of the Diocesan College of Consultors. At the time of his election, he was serving as Rector of the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Grand Island, NE. He was also serving as the Vicar General for the Diocese of Grand Island.

Bishop Golka says that he greatly enjoys the pastoral ministry which is provided in a parish setting. Working with people at all stages of life and allowing the gift of our Catholic faith to provide direction, support and new life is greatly rewarding. He also enjoys helping to provide ongoing formation events for the clergy of the diocese to care for the wellbeing of his brother priests.

Bishop Golka has worked with national consultants to better help parishes develop stewardship as a way of life. He has offered numerous retreats across the country preaching the blessings of ordering our lives in recognition that all we are and all we have is a gift from God. A guiding scripture passage is Psalm 116:12 which proclaims: “How can I repay the LORD for all the great good done for me?”

Bishop Golka was Ordained a Bishop in Colorado Springs on June 29, 2021. The Diocese of Colorado Springs has approximately 183,150 Catholics in 39 parishes and missions. The diocese has 82 priests, 85 Deacons and 15 men in seminary formation. The diocese and its parishes provide religious education and formation to more than 9,000 students. There is one private Catholic high school in the diocese that currently serves approximately 254 students, while an additional 1,325 students receive instruction through five parish-based elementary schools. In total, there are more than 5,414 Catholic youths under religious instruction in the Diocese of Colorado Springs.

Bishop Golka looks forward to continued growth and expansion in the diocese. With God’s grace and with the support of the faithful, the Diocese of Colorado Springs will know many more years of serving the mission of the Church in Colorado.

Most Reverend Bishop Jorge H. Rodríguez

Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver

Bishop Rodriguez was born March 22, 1955, in Merida, Mexico, located in the state of Yucatan. He is the son of Nery Maria Novelo and Ramon Rodriguez (deceased), and he has one brother and four sisters, who live in Merida. In Merida he attended a primary school run by the Maryknoll Sisters, and then secondary and preparatory schools run by the Marist Brothers. When he finished high school, he joined the Legionaries of Christ to study and become a priest. He was ordained Dec. 24, 1987.

He was awarded a Doctorate in Sacred Theology by the Gregorian in Rome in 1994. He also has a licentiate in philosophy from the same pontifical university, and a diploma in Mariology from the Marianum in Rome.

He was the dean of the Theology Department of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome (1994-1997). He has taught theology at the Pontifical Lateran University, at the Pontifical Institute Regina Mundi and at the Institute for Religious Sciences at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

In 1999, he was invited by then Archbishop Charles Chaput to teach in the newly launched St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, and to serve as Associate Pastor of St. Therese Parish in Aurora.

In 2002, he returned to Rome to serve as Associate Pastor of Stella Maris Parish in the Diocese of Rome, but then returned to Denver in 2006 to be a professor at St. John Vianney.

From 2007-2014, Father Rodriguez served as vice-rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. He was incardinated as a priest of the Archdiocese of Denver in 2008.

Since 2014, he has served as pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Thornton, Colorado, and he continues to teach the seminarians as well as the permanent diaconate candidates.

Pope Francis appointed Father Rodriguez as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Denver on August 25, 2016 and was ordained on November 4, 2016 on the feast of St. Charles Borromeo, the patron saint of bishops. He is also currently the pastor at St. Joseph parish in Denver.

He speaks Spanish, English and Italian, and reads French, and is the author of various theological publications.

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila

Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Denver

Samuel J. Aquila was born on September 24, 1950, in Burbank, California.  He was ordained to the priesthood in Denver, Colorado, on June 5, 1976, and served in parish ministry for 11 years.  In 1987, he began graduate studies at San Anselmo University in Rome, earning a Licentiate in Sacramental Theology in 1990.

He served as Director for the Office of Liturgy and Master of Ceremonies in the Archdiocese of Denver from 1990 until 1995.  He served the archdiocese as Co-director for Continuing Education for Priests, as an advisor to the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy, and as Assistant Secretary for Catholic Education before being named Secretary for Catholic Education, a position he held from 1995 until 1999.

From 1999-2001, he served as the first Rector of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver and Chief Executive Officer of Our Lady of the New Advent Theological Institute.  In 2000, he was named a Prelate of Honor by Pope John Paul II, receiving the honorary title of Monsignor.

He was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Fargo on June 12, 2001, and his Episcopal Ordination Mass was celebrated at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo on August 24, 2001.  On March 18, 2002, he became Bishop of Fargo, and from 2005 to 2006 he also acted as Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese of Sioux Falls. On July 18, 2012 he was installed as the Archbishop of Denver, returning to lead the Archdiocese where he had originally served as a priest for 25 years.

Archbishop Aquila serves on numerous boards and committees, including the Papal Foundation, the Bishops’ Advisory Council for the Institute for Priestly Formation and the Board of Trustees for the Augustine Institute.  He is a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in which he has served as a member of various committees. Archbishop Aquila’s episcopal motto comes from the Blessed Virgin Mary’s instructions at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you (Jn 2:5).”