Archbishop Michael Owen Jackels.

The state’s four Catholic bishops are at the statehouse this morning as legislators prepare to debate a bill that makes changes in Iowa’s collective bargaining law for public sector unions.

Archbishop Michael Owen Jackels of the Dubuque Archdiocese is Iowa’s top-ranking Catholic official and this is his message to lawmakers: “I would hope that they would follow reason and devotion to the common good. Personally, I don’t know how reason and devotion to the common good could lead you to do otherwise than oppose the bill limiting collective bargaining.”

The Iowa Catholic Conference issued an official statement late last Friday and sent it to Governor Terry Branstad, who is a Catholic, and every legislator. While the Iowa Catholic Conference is registered as “neutral” on the bill, “the bishops are concerned about provisions which limit the items that can be bargained as well as what an arbitrator can award for a pay raise.”

Archbishop Michael Owen Jackels talks with Senator Amanda Ragan.

“The Catholic Church has a very solid and old, if you will, body of social teaching and one of those principles is the right to do collective bargaining,” Jackels says.

The bishops say it’s important to remember the benefits many workers enjoy today “are the result of negotiations between unions and management.”

“There are two cardinal or hinge principles in our social teaching and one is respect for human life and dignity and the other is the common good,” Jackels says. “This whole issue’s solidly on the foundation of the common good because it’s for the good of all, not just for the workers, and not just for the increased profit or revenue for ‘the boss’.”

The archbishop says specifically targeting teachers is puzzling.

“It’s the most important profession and they should have the right to bargain all things,” Jackels says.

The Republican-led Iowa House and Senate are scheduled to begin debate on the labor bill this afternoon.

Jackels says the state’s four Catholic bishops are pleased GOP lawmakers are showing “respect for human life and dignity” by advancing another bill that would no longer allow Medicaid patients to get contraceptives or reproductive health exams at clinics where abortions are performed. The bill to “defund” Planned Parenthood cleared a House subcommittee late Monday afternoon. It passed the Republican-led Iowa Senate on a 30 to 20 vote earlier this month.

About half a million Iowans attend mass at the 473 Catholic parishes in the state.

Top photo courtesy of the Catholic Diocese, bottom photo courtesy of Rod Boshart.