Fr. Healey Has Dual Role: OLM Pastor, State House Lobbyist
This time of year, Healey spends most afternoons at the State House, lobbying on issues important to the Catholic Church.
Father Bernard Healey took over as pastor at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church last September, but he's been the diocese's lobbyist at the State House for the past 12 years. He's the executive director of the R.I. Catholic Conference.
During the legislative session (January to June), that makes for busy weekdays, with Healey traveling most afternoons from OLM in East Greenwich to the State House in Providence to meet with lawmakers and testify on bills that matter to the Diocese of Providence.
"I advocate and educate on behalf of the Catholic Church," he said, ticking off the important issues: "poverty, sanctity of life, immigration, education, same-sex marriage, abortion."
WPRI's Ted Nesi called Healey "an influential State House Lobbyist" in a story last Thursday about the same-sex marriage bill's chances in the Senate. The bill had just passed the House after 12 years of trying.
The Rev. Bernard Healey, executive director of the anti-legalization Rhode Island Catholic Conference and an influential State House lobbyist, said the House vote "strikes against the very foundation of our culture" and urged the Senate to ignore the issue.
He was one of the early speakers during the long night of testimony on same-sex marriage before the House Judiciary Committee last week.
Not everyone agrees that the Catholic Church should have such a big presence in the General Assembly. On the progressive website RI Future, Steve Ahlquist wrote, "Lobbyist Healey wields political influence incommensurate with the present status of the Catholic Church."
Ahlquist said Healey got more time to speak than others who testified.
Healey said if that was the case, "that's a decision of the chairwoman," referring to Rep. Edith H. Ajello, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
"In a big hearing on a contentious issue, the committee members usually ask a few proponents and opponents to testify a little longer at the beginning," he said. "It wasn’t just the Catholic Church."
With regard to the bill's passage in the House, Healey said he was disappointed, but he said he was happy Rep. Anthony Giarrusso's "nay" vote. Giarrusso, a Republican, represents East Greenwich.
With the same sex legislation most likely not to come up in the Senate until this spring, Healey said he'd do what he's been doing for the past 12 years. "We do what we always do, we motivate and activate people of our faith."