Thursday, November 13, 2008

US bishops to emphasize protection of unborn in letter to President-elect Obama

The US bishops are scheduled to vote today on the text of a letter from bishops’ conference president Cardinal Francis George to President-elect Barack Obama. The letter, according to guidelines approved by the bishops yesterday, will note the ‘the Church is intent on doing good.’ The bishops will thus state that they ‘desire to work with the administration, especially in the areas such as economic justice and opportunity: immigration reform; health care for the poor, especially for women and children; education; religious freedom; and working for peace.’

At the same time, the letter will emphasize that ‘the Church is also intent on opposing evil,’ particularly the evil of abortion. ‘The bishops are completely united and resolute in our teaching and defense of the unborn child from the moment of conception. The bishops therefore express our concern for those left unprotected by law in our present situation: children in their mother’s womb.’

The bishops continue, ‘In the last Congress, a law that would make abortion a ‘fundamental right’ and remove any restrictions now in law would consequently forbid the involvement of the parents of a minor child in a decision to abort, would permit partial-birth abortion, would apparently reject freedom of conscience for health care workers and place Catholic health care in jeopardy, would deregulate abortion clinics, and use tax money to pay for abortions. Such a law would reduce religious freedom and the Church must work against its passage … The common good of our country is assured only when the life of every unborn child is legally protected. Aggressively pro-abortion policies and legislation will permanetly alienate tens of millions of Americans and would be interpreted by many Catholics as an attack on the Church.’

This emphasis was echoed in comments made by several prelates. ‘I cannot have a vice president-elect coming to Scranton to say he’s learned his values there when those values are utterly against the teachings of the Catholic Church,’ said Bishop Joseph Martino. Pro-abortion politicians ‘cannot call themselves Catholic when they violate such a core belief as the dignity of the unborn,’ added Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City. While Cardinal Edward Egan and Bishop Thomas Tobin called for a statement with verve-- ‘We have a very important thing to say. I think we should say it clearly and with a punch,’ said the New York prelate-- Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City cautioned, ‘We must act and be perceived as acting as caring pastors and faithful teachers.

Catholic supporters of Obama called upon the bishops to make an irenic statement. ‘We’re calling on the bishops to move away from the more vicious language,’ said the president of Catholic Democrats. The executive director of Catholics United-- an organization quite distinct from Catholics United for the Faith, which has been known since its founding for its loyalty to the Magisterium-- added, ‘What are the bishops going to do now? They have burned a lot of bridges with the Democrats and the new administration.’

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