Flynn to assist bishops in public policy education campaignL. Tracy

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy arm of the Church in the commonwealth, announced this week they are enlisting the help of former Boston Mayor and Ambassador to the Vatican Raymond L. Flynn in launching a new, non-partisan public policy education campaign for Catholics throughout the state. Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley has pledged the Church’s backing for Flynn’s efforts.

"The great challenge exists in society today for Americans to become more informed about the many important public issues of the day. This is especially the case with the Catholic faithful," Archbishop O'Malley said in a statement from the MCC. "Nobody is more capable, or has shown more loyalty, to help in this objective than Ambassador Flynn. He has been a courageous, effective and compassionate political voice in America for social and economic justice, and his knowledge and experience will be a great asset to the many concerned Catholics who strive to be informed voters, patriotic citizens and loyal Catholics. He will have the Church's complete cooperation."

Flynn has received similar pledges of support from the bishops of Massachusetts’ three other dioceses.

According to the statement, the initiative is being launched “to help the laity to answer the call of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops pastoral entitled ‘Faithful Citizenship.’”

The document, issued by the bishops in the Fall of 2003, calls on Catholic Americans to “participate now and in the future in the debates and choices over the values, vision and leaders that will guide our nation.”

Flynn, working through a newly-formed, independent group called Catholic Citizenship, “will travel throughout the state to encourage Catholics to become more informed and actively involved in the civic life of their community and Church,” the statement said.

Flynn had served as president of the national organization Your Catholic Voice until earlier this month. His contract with the group had expired, and his departure was “scheduled” and “mutual,” according to Your Catholic Voice Chairman Michael Galloway.

Daniel Avila, associate director for policy and research at the MCC, told The Pilot that the “new alliance” between the MCC and Catholic Citizenship “has yet to take complete form” and that it has not yet been determined when Flynn will begin traveling to parishes or what form the visits will take.

Avila speculated that one of the first tasks Flynn and his group will likely undertake is the holding of voter registration drives in parishes. The MCC announced its intention to hold such drives in March, just days before the final session of the Constitutional Convention in which legislators approved an amendment that, if ultimately approved, would uphold the traditional definition of marriage while at the same time establishing civil unions in Massachusetts.

Speaking to The Pilot in March, MCC associate director Maria Parker called the same-sex marriage struggle “an eye opener” for Catholics “who were not aware of how their legislators were voting on moral issues of the day.”

However, according to Avila, the non-partisan public policy education campaign traces its “roots [to] before” the gay marriage debate.

"There always has been in our minds a need for some kind of a vehicle even above and beyond the diocesan structures" to educate Catholics on public policy matters, Avila said. "So [Flynn] coming forward, in effect, was responding to something we've been working toward from a long-term perspective."

The collaboration with Flynn provides an opportunity “to expand the reach of the Church’s teaching on public policy issues,” Avila concluded.