Catholic World News News Feature
US bishops write president-elect; fundamental priority: defend right to life January 16, 2009
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops yesterday released a letter from Cardinal Francis George, the conference’s president, to President-elect Barack Obama. The letter, dated Tuesday, outlines the “principles and priorities that guide the [bishops’] public policy efforts” so as to offer “an agenda for dialogue and action.” A similar letter was sent to the vice president-elect and members of Congress.
The foundational priority, according to Cardinal George, is the protection of innocent human life. “Most fundamentally,” he writes, “we will work to protect the lives of the most vulnerable and voiceless members of the human family, especially unborn children and those who are disabled or terminally ill.“ He continues:
We will consistently defend the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death. Opposed to abortion as the direct killing of innocent human life, we will encourage one and all to seek common ground that will reduce the number of abortions in morally sound ways that affirm the dignity of pregnant women and their unborn children. We will oppose legislative and other measures to expand abortion. We will work to retain essential, widely supported policies which show respect for unborn life, protect the conscience rights of health care providers and other Americans, and prevent government funding and promotion of abortion. The Hyde amendment and other provisions which for many years have prevented federal funding of abortion have a proven record of reducing abortions. Efforts to force Americans to fund abortions with their tax dollars would pose a serious moral challenge and jeopardize the passage of essential health care reform.”
Cardinal George also discusses seven other priorities:
- economic challenges: the bishops “support strong, prudent and effective measures,” “advocate a clear priority for poor families and vulnerable workers in the development and implementation of economic recovery measures,” and “support greater accountability and oversight to address irresponsible abuses of the system that contributed to the financial crisis.”
- health care: the bishops “urge comprehensive action to ensure truly universal health care coverage which protects all human life including pre-natal life, and provides access for all, with a special concern for the poor. Any such legislation ought to respect freedom to choose by offering a variety of options and ensuring respect for the moral and religious convictions of patients and providers.”
- international affairs: the bishops support “a responsible transition in an Iraq free of religious persecution,” “early, focused and persistent leadership to bring an end to violent conflict and a just peace in the Holy Land,” “US investments to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through increased and reformed foreign assistance,” and anti-HIV efforts that are “both effectively and morally appropriate.” In wording that accommodates different sides of the debate on climate change, Cardinal George adds, “Recognizing the complexity of climate change, we wish to be a voice for the poor and vulnerable in our country and around the world who will be the most adversely affected by any dramatic threats to the environment.”
- immigration: the bishops call for “comprehensive reform” that is “based on respect for and implementation of the law,” defends “the rights and dignity of all peoples, recognizing that human dignity comes from God,” offers “a path to earned citizenship,” and is attentive to the impact of trade and development policies that foster emigration.
- marriage: the bishops call for a recognition of marriage as “a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of a man and a woman” that “must remain such in law. In a manner unlike any other relationship, marriage makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children. No other kinds of personal relationships can be justly made equivalent to the commitment of a man and a woman in marriage.”
- education: the bishops reiterate their support for “initiatives which provide resources for all parents, especially those of modest means, to choose education which best address the needs of their children.”
- empowerment of faith-based groups: “We will work with the Administration and Congress to strengthen these partnerships in ways that do not encourage government to abandon its responsibilities, and do not require religious groups to abandon their identity and mission.”