Why does the NCC get involved?

Friday, 07 April 2017

By Tom Venzor, Nebraska Catholic Conference 

It’s often asked: Why is the Nebraska Catholic Conference involved with [insert any given subject or legislative bill]? Most recently, this happened with a regulation pertaining to the Board of Psychology. I want to offer a summary of the Board of Psychology regulation in question and some key reasons why the NCC gets involved on this and many other issues.

 

Since 2008, the Board of Psychology has tried to update their rules and regulations that must go through the government’s administrative process. Part of the updated regulations include the board’s agenda to implement sexual orientation into the regulation’s prohibition on non-discrimination. In other words, they want to state that a psychologist could not discriminate or turn away a patient because of their sexual orientation.

It is important to note that the inclusion of sexual orientation into a regulation’s non-discrimination clause is not within the Board of Psychology’s regulatory authority. State law does not allow the inclusion of additional protected classes that are not already protected in the statute. Notably, the legislature has rejected implementing such an unnecessary legal protection.

In the spirit of compromise, the NCC offered language that would have allowed a psychologist to refer the patient to a list of other psychologists. For example, if a person who identifies as homosexual were to seek marriage counseling from a psychologist who sincerely believes that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman, the psychologist could refer the patient to a list of other psychologists.

However, the Board of Psychology has never been satisfied with this language and demands that a psychologist with this moral principle directly refer to a specific psychologist who would immediately assist the individual. But this direct referral would violate the conscience of the psychologist since they cannot directly refer for a service which they themselves would not provide. For example, this is analogous to asking a pro-life doctor who will not provide an abortion to directly refer the individual to Dr. Leroy Carhart or Planned Parenthood for an abortion.

Throughout the process of updating regulations – especially recently, as the issue has been renewed – a variety of Nebraskans, including government officials, have asked why the NCC is even involved as a stakeholder. 

First, the NCC represents psychologists who work in our Catholic diocesan offices. The Board of Psychology regulations have a direct effect on the everyday functioning of psychologists and psychological services offered throughout our dioceses. Notably, psychologists in our offices provide mental health counseling for any number of issues – depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder – regardless of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. However, they are unable to provide marriage counseling for a union that is contrary to the truth of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Second, the NCC is a stakeholder because we more broadly represent people of faith, which includes any number of individuals who serve as mental health professionals. The NCC is of service to all those who hold strong to Christian and Catholic principles.

The NCC’s mission is to preserve the ability and freedom of the Church and other people of faith to serve throughout our society without undue influence or coercion by the government.

Third, the NCC is a stakeholder in this conversation and many others because we are concerned about the common good of society, which includes advocating for the truth about marriage, human sexuality, and the freedom of conscience. Anytime there are rules, regulations, statutes, constitutional provisions, court cases that touch on the nature of marriage, human sexuality, or conscience rights, the NCC will be involved in the conversation. These issues touch on the very foundations of a well-ordered society and urge the involvement of all people, including those of faith.

While some people would rather see people of faith stay out of political matters, our faith commissions us to get involved. In the words of Pope Francis: “If indeed the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics, the Church cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.”