By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published January 23, 2020
ATLANTA—The Georgia General Assembly began its spring session Monday, Jan. 13. Representing the Catholic Church in front of lawmakers falls to attorney Frank Mulcahy, who is the executive director of the Georgia Catholic Conference.
It’s his job to represent the public policy views of the bishops of Georgia to the 56 Georgia senators and the 180 legislators in the House of Representatives.
He takes guidance and direction from the Archdiocese of Atlanta, led by diocesan administrator Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, and the Diocese of Savannah and its leader, Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv.
Mulcahy spoke with The Georgia Bulletin in his office at the Chancery of the Atlanta Archdiocese. The interview was edited for clarity and length.
To keep track of issues from the Georgia Catholic Conference, go to georgiacc.org.
You’ve been representing the bishops of Georgia at the statehouse for many years. How is the Catholic Church seen by lawmakers?
We are seen favorably. I think it has helped the Catholic population in Georgia has increased.
We’ve tried to be a little more public in what we support. We have had our Catholic Day at the Capitol. We have had the bishops, Archbishop Gregory and former auxiliary bishops speak as chaplains.
I remember the first time that Archbishop Gregory went down there, and he gets up to speak in the House of Representatives. And he said, “I represent a Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta and we have just over a million people,” and I could see the look of surprise on a lot of faces. Certainly our bishops represent us well.
We are seen as a moderating force, but without giving up on our principles. We don’t compromise on legislation just to get it through.
How does the Georgia Catholic Conference determine what issues to pay attention to or focus on?
Our touchstone is always Catholic social teaching. We’ll look at the principles of Catholic social teaching. The other thing I look at is protection of people who are not otherwise being protected.
The other thing we have to look at is what’s reasonable in this climate in Georgia.
I present the issues early in the year to the bishops of both dioceses. I get their input, their direction on the issues we ought to be focusing on.
A bishop’s ministry is education, so part of what we’re doing is educating legislators, educating our own people. For example, the death penalty. That bill may not pass this year. But by speaking on it we are getting people thinking about it. And hopefully, educating them on the church’s position.
What issue will you be highlighting at the start of the session?
One of the ones we’re looking at is the death penalty bill, House Bill 702, which would have the effect of abolishing the death penalty in Georgia.
This is, in my opinion, going to be a several year project to bring this about.
It has bipartisan support, Republican sponsor and Democratic sponsor, which is good on something which is culturally difficult in Georgia. I think our first step is going to be to try to get a hearing on it.
Our teaching is that life begins at conception and ends at natural death. And we don’t compromise on that principle. But as St. John Paul II has told us in “Evangelium Vitae,” it is moral and, in fact, a good thing to vote and support legislation that may not solve the whole problem, but which takes us in the right direction.
There are different people who have different opinions on that and different opinions on why it should be cancelled or why it should be reduced.
One is the faith-based issue. We have Catholic teaching. (“The death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,” reads the latest edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with the addition the church “works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”)
A second is the economics of it, the cost of all the reviews and appeals and everything that goes into having to process a death penalty case, and the personal and the individual lack of incentive it gives people who are on death row to grow and change as individuals.
How can Catholics get involved in the legislative process?
The press does a lot of reporting. I find the media in Georgia is pretty accurate in what they report about individual bills. So that’s worth looking at. So pay attention.
Call their legislator. People think that’s not effective, but it is. You’d be surprised how few calls legislators really get or letters, or emails. If they hear from their own constituents they pay a lot of attention, because they think if this one person cares enough about this issue that they are going to call or write or contact us in some way, first of all, they’re the type of person who’s going to be talking to their friends and neighbors, and secondly they probably reflect a lot of people who feel that way.
Learn more about proposed legislation on the death penalty and assisted suicide.