After much discussion, the Bishops also asked the President of the Episcopal Conference, Francis Cardinal George, to issue a statement concerning the recent national elections. I believe Cardinal George’s remarks are clear and helpful in dealing with some important matters that may come before us in the months ahead. He first recognizes the historical importance of the election of the first African-American President of the United States, and he writes that the bishops look forward to working together with President-elect Obama and the new members of Congress. The Church always looks to cooperate in bringing about the common good and the various goods that underlie it.
The Cardinal then writes:
“The fundamental good is life itself, a gift from God and our parents. A good state protects the lives of all. Legal protection for those members of the human family waiting to be born in this country was removed when the Supreme Court decided Roe vs. Wade in 1973. This was bad law. The danger the bishops see at this moment is that a bad court decision will be enshrined in bad legislation that is more radical than the 1973 Supreme Court decision itself.”
I share in Cardinal George’s recognition of a present danger. As the statement says, in the last Congress, a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was introduced that, if repeated in the next Congress, would outlaw any law that limited providing abortion at will. Any moderate restraints by the States would be annulled. FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortions with their tax dollars. Parental notification and informed consent precautions would be outlawed, as would be laws banning procedures such as partial birth abortion and protecting infants born alive after a failed abortion. FOCA would be disastrous for prenatal human life. FOCA would also have a disastrous effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors and nurses and health care workers whose convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children. Further, the passage of FOCA would threaten our Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Charities.
The bishops are of a single mind on opposing evil, the evil of abortion and those laws and statutes that promote abortion. I am in complete agreement with the Bishops on this and will, no doubt, be asking the commitment and active voice of our Catholic faithful in witnessing publicly to this basic commitment of our faith in the public square. We must all
watch carefully in the next few months to see how this pro-life issue is addressed and be ready to respond clearly and instantaneously.
Cardinal Francis George spoke for all the bishops in his formal statement, delivered upon the close of the conference. His words are even more stark than Cardinal DiNardo's:
FOCA would have an equally destructive effect on the freedom of conscience of doctors, nurses and health care workers whose personal convictions do not permit them to cooperate in the private killing of unborn children. It would threaten Catholic health care institutions and Catholic Charities. It would be an evil law that would further divide our country, and the Church should be intent on opposing evil.
On this issue, the legal protection of the unborn, the bishops are of one mind with Catholics and others of good will. They are also pastors who have listened to women whose lives have been diminished because they believed they had no choice but to abort a baby. Abortion is a medical procedure that kills, and the psychological and spiritual consequences are written in the sorrow and depression of many women and men. The bishops are single-minded because they are, first of all, single-hearted.
The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the economy, for the loss of jobs and homes and financial security for families, here and around the world. If the election is misinterpreted ideologically as a referendum on abortion, the unity desired by President-elect Obama and all Americans at this moment of crisis will be impossible to achieve. Abortion kills not only unborn children; it destroys constitutional order and the common good, which is assured only when the life of every human being is legally protected. Aggressively pro-abortion policies, legislation and executive orders will permanently alienate tens of millions of Americans, and would be seen by many as an attack on the free exercise of their religion.
This statement is written at the request and direction of all the Bishops, who also want to thank all those in politics who work with good will to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us. Those in public life do so, sometimes, at the cost of great sacrifice to themselves and their families; and we are grateful. We express again our great desire to work with all those who cherish the common good of our nation. The common good is not the sum total of individual desires and interests; it is achieved in the working out of a common life based upon good reason and good will for all.If these words aren't a clear message to the new administration and its supporters about who-owes-what, I don't know what is. There needs now to be a national drive to educate the Catholic public and Catholic politicians about the signal role of the life issues in the Seamless Garment doctrine. Certainly there are many types of advocacy collected under this general heading. However, we are ending the era when Catholic spokespersons, politicians, clergy and educators can draw a type of "moral equivalence" that levels out the issues and allows those who would cover their abortion-favoring agendas with this blanket.