Declaring himself a convert to the ranks of those who practice political persuasion, Baltimore Archbishop William D. Borders personally brought his list of legislative concerns for the 1980 General Assembly session to a luncheon meeting of state officials here today.
"It seems to me that if we share the burden of advice, we can better abide by the decisions such advice might lead to," said the archbishop as he urged Gov. Harry Hughes and about 60 assembled lawmakers to increase state welfare grants and to oppose any effort to ease restrictions on state abortion funding.
"Some say that the church should not be seen in the political arena," Borders added. "And it is true that the church should not get involved in partisan party politics. But the church should get involved in issues -- the moral area and social issues . . . The church has a moral obligation to speak on those issues . . ."
The archbishop's "second annual visit" to Annapolis -- as his aides called it -- coincided with a gala luncheon thrown by a more traditional lobbying group, the Maryland/D.C. Vending Association, which was eager to pick up support for a new tax measure that could save its members up to $1 million next year.
About a dozen lawmakers found a simple, if hectic, answer to the dilemma presented by the conflicting luncheons: they shuttled between the two, moving back and forth from the first floor of the Annapolis Hilton, where the vending machine operators were serving fruit salad and roast capon, to the fifth floor, where the Maryland Catholic Conference was offering mushroom soup and chicken salad.
When Prince George's County Democratic Sen. John H. Garrity arrived at the vending operators' banquet room, lobbyist Bruce Bereano greeted him with a hearty "Thanks for coming" adding, "I know we're competing with the pope upstairs."
Garrity smiled politely, shook a few hands, and 10 minutes later returned to the fifth floor in time to hear Archbishop Border's address. Joining him in splitting time between the two gatherings were Dels. Gerard F. Devlin (D-Prince George's), William H. Cox Jr. (D-Harford) and Constance Morella (R-Montgomery).
"I accepted both places so I decided to go to both," said Del. William R. McCaffrey (D-Prince George's). Added Devlin, a sponsor of the new bill being pushed by the vending machine operators, "I ended up getting two lunches and no speeches."
Other delegates, however, declined to be part of the lobbying shuttle. "Every time I hear about [the vending operators"] parties. I feel like somebody's saying 'unclean, unclean,'" said Baltimore Democrat Frank C. Robey as he sat down to listen to Borders. "I avoid them like the plague," Robey added.
The clerical and lay members of the Maryland Catholic Conference showed no shyness, but instead a straightforward pride about their fledgling foray into the world of political lobbying.
"There is more sophistication on the part of the church leadership," said Frank McItyre, the executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "They realize we are facing problems -- like the plight of parochial schools -- that's part of the plight of nonpublic education in general, and they realize that you're got to be assertive in the political area to get what is coming to you."
As a mark of that recognition, the archdiocese appointed McIntyre its chief lobbyist 18 months ago, and he has been working at making the church a visible political presence in Annapolis ever since.
Not that the church has ever been totally absent from the political life in Maryland, which was founded as a Catholic colony and where nearly one in five citizens belong to the Catholic church. During the last two General Assembly sessions, the church and its concerns were very much a factor in the abortion funding debates.
But now, McIntyre said, "We're taking a more active approach." And, Del. Robey noted, the breadth of concerns mentioned by Borders in itself was noteworthy.
"The fact that he's touched on all these issues is amazing," said Robey as he leafed through the repared remarks of the archbishop and pointed out sections on school bus transportation and children with developmental disabilities.
"This is a pioneering effort," Robey added. "They have had luncheons like this before but I don't ever remember them getting into issues with the same depth."
Gov. Hughes, who avoided the vending operators' luncheon, did speak briefly to the group assembled with the archbishop upstairs, reiterating his support for an 11 percent increase in welfare grants next year and asking the legislator's support in providing "a few hundred thousand dollars" to turn the Vills Maria Child Care Center into a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed children.