US Bishops Will Confront Obama on Life Issues

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meeting in Baltimore this week pledged to support president-elect Obama but also to stress areas of disagreement with him, particularly on abortion and other life issues.

“Obama will be the president of the United States, so of course we will do our best to help him in what is a formidable task,” said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the USCCB, during a mid-day news conference. “Particularly because he’s from the African-American community, his success is vital to all of us.”

However, this does not mean the bishops will accept Obama’s liberal positions on abortion, stem cell research and other life issues.

“It does not do away with the question of a legal system that does not protect those who cannot defend themselves, which is a very flawed constitutional order,” Cardinal George said.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, the first issue that is likely to cause a clash between the bishops and Obama is on embryonic stem cell research. Aides to the president-elect have already indicated that he is likely to issue an executive order overturning measures in the Bush administration that restricted federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Cardinal George said the bishops are likely to contact Obama about the issue and warn him that overturning President Bush’s prohibitions “will alienate tens of millions of people, not just Catholics, and will militate against the kind of unity the president-elect hopes to achieve.”

The U.S. bishops are meeting in Baltimore Nov. 10-13, their first gathering since the 2008 elections.

The bishops were unanimously pleased about the bans on same-sex marriage which were put in place by voters in three states on Election Day. Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco noted the irony that African-Americans in California, “on the same day and at the same polling places,” voted in strong numbers both for Obama and for the ban on same-sex marriage.

“For months we were told that this is a civil rights issue,” Niederauer said. “Yet the group most searingly familiar with civil rights battles in America voted in favor of the proposition by 70 percent. They did not see the issue as conservative/liberal, but rather the way we presented it – as a defense of traditional marriage.”

When asked what they think about so many Catholics voting for Obaama, Cardinal George said: “How I personally feel about this last election is that I think it’s 1932 revisited. In 1932 the contest was between incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover and the Democratic challenger Franklin Delano Roosevelt after the depression had begun. The parallels are evident. We have an incumbent Republican President and a deep recession if not a depression has begun and once again the country has turned to the other party to try to lift the country out of the present enormous economic difficulties.”

Cardinal George said the Bishops plan to discuss their outreach to Catholic voters during the last election.

“We’re going to discuss what worked and what didn’t work,” he said.


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