Text of statement by Cardinal George on abortion, election

Just off the presses. It’s the followup to this story.

STATEMENT of the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

“If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil.” (Psalm 127, vs. 1)

The Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States welcome this moment of historic transition and look forward to working with President-elect Obama and the members of the new Congress for the common good of all.  Because of the Church’s history and the scope of her ministries in this country, we want to continue our work for economic justice and opportunity for all; our efforts to reform laws around immigration and the situation of the undocumented; our provision of better education and adequate health care for all, especially for women and children; our desire to safeguard religious freedom and foster peace at home and abroad.  The Church is intent on doing good and will continue to cooperate gladly with the government and all others working for these goods.

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.

In the last Congress, a Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was introduced that would, if brought forward in the same form today, outlaw any “interference” in providing abortion at will.  It would deprive the American people in all fifty states of the freedom they now have to enact modest restraints and regulations on the abortion industry.  FOCA would coerce all Americans into subsidizing and promoting abortion with their tax dollars.  It would counteract any and all sincere efforts by government and others of good will to reduce the number of abortions in our country.

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.  Abortion clinics would be deregulated.  The Hyde Amendment restricting the federal funding of abortions would be abrogated.  FOCA would have lethal consequences for prenatal human life.

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.

Our prayers accompany President-elect Obama and his family and those who are cooperating with him to assure a smooth transition in government.  Many issues demand immediate attention on the part of our elected “watchman.” (Psalm 127)  May God bless him and our country.

Bishops and the Catholic electorate: One more view

The debate likely will never end over whether the U.S. bishops had any influence on Catholic voters in last week’s presidential election.  We’ve had several pieces, such as here, here and here, on the issue as well as links to some of the articles (e.g., here and here) our clients have been doing.

Taking a more in-depth look at something one of our stories from last week touched on, Our Sunday Visitor has an article in an upcoming edition maintaining that Barack Obama actually lost votes in states where bishops spoke out. What makes this article of more-than-average interest is that it’s written not by a lackey (ouch!) of the Catholic right or left but by Mark M. Gray, director of Catholic polls at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. (Gray, some of you may recall, was also one of the researchers on last year’s readership study — is the glass half empty or half full? — on the Catholic press and other Catholic media efforts.)

More on what the election means for us

Picking up where we left off yesterday:

10:54 a.m. ET: Catholic high school in Arizona had an election-night watch party so that “dry facts” of the classroom could come to life. (From The Catholic Sun of Phoenix)

9:30 a.m. ET: The national Catholic newspaper Our Sunday Visitor offers three post-election perspectives:

– Editor John Norton (a proud member of the CNS alumni association from his work in our Rome bureau) writes that Catholics must find ways to work together after this divisive election season even though some are jubilant at the results and some are sickened to the core because of the president-elect’s “pro-abortion ideology.”

– Longtime Catholic author and commentator Russell Shaw has a column titled “What an Obama presidency means for Catholics,” in which he notes both the challenges facing the pro-life movement and the questions surrounding the influence of the U.S. bishops over their flock.

– Also online is the paper’s first post-election editorial, simply headlined “President Obama.”

Election ’08: What does it all mean?

(UPDATE: There are new links on a new page we’ve started here.)

Make sure you refresh this page often for the latest updates on this day after Election Day. Plus, we want to hear what you think (see below).

4:45 p.m. ET: Latest updates posted for referendums storygubernatorial and congressional story, and story on congratulations from Catholic leaders in U.S. to Obama.

3:25 p.m. ET: Sneak peek: Was it race, or something else, that led to an Obama victory? (From the CNS columns package offered to our client publications for their editorial use.)

2:13 p.m. ET: This CNS story, which ran last month, is worth a second read in light of Obama’s victory because it captures the historic nature of this election balanced by the troubling position of Obama on abortion: Black Catholics see Obama candidacy as a path to racial equality.

2:00 p.m. ET: Here’s one way of looking at yesterday’s results if you’re a pro-lifer (from the National Catholic Register): “Life Didn’t Lose – the GOP Did.”

President-elect Barack Obama smiles during the election-night victory rally in Chicago Nov. 4. (CNS/Reuters)

President-elect Barack Obama smiles during the election-night victory rally in Chicago Nov. 4. (CNS/Reuters)

1:28 p.m. ET: Quite the variety of reactions in this story in the National Catholic Reporter. Everything from “hope” and “promising” to “a tragedy because of the gap between what he (Obama) claimed to embody and what his few unscripted utterances, and his votes and associations indicate him to be.” The paper also editorializes, “In moment of hope comes the challenge of accountability.”

12:55 p.m. ET: Early story on Cardinal George’s letter to President-elect Obama now updated with more U.S. church reaction. Includes comments from Archbishop Wuerl, Bishop Zubik, Catholic Students for McCain, Priests for Life, others.

12:23 p.m. ET: Second update now posted on pope’s message to Obama and other Rome reaction. There’s an extremely intriguing comment at the end from a Rome-based missionary news agency:

Obama’s victory speech ended with the words, “God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America,” something that would not be possible in Catholic Italy and which demonstrates that religion remains at the foundations of public life in the United States.

12:06 p.m. ET: Another CNS election story, Democrats make gains in gubernatorial, congressional races, includes comments from a political science professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

11:45 a.m. ET: Don’t miss yesterday’s story on reconciliation after a particularly contentious election. We’re hearing that several parishes have called because they want to reprint it in their church bulletins. Nice to hear positive feedback from readers, especially this year.

11:25 a.m. ET: Our earlier story on the pope sending a congratulatory message to Obama has now been updated with comments from the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

11:18 a.m. ET: Backgrounder from our Latin America correspondent: When dealing with Latin America, Obama faces complexities.

11:13 a.m. ET: The Catholic Sun in Phoenix (where John McCain conceded last night) has its own story on last night’s events there.

11:02 a.m. ET: Our story on yesterday’s referendums: Church view on same-sex marriage prevails; other ballot issues fail.

10:51 a.m. ET: In addition to noticing the success of ballot initiatives on marriage (see below), the National Catholic Register has an editorial titled “Our President” noting that, like it or not, Barack Obama won the election and deserves to be treated with respect even when opposing some of his policies.

10:44 a.m. ET: The next U.S. ambassador to the Vatican? Amy Welborn says she first thought of Douglas Kmiec but then had this name flash through her mind: Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. As she says, “Hmmm.”

10:33 a.m. ET: The Catholic Key, newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., has this blog post up reminding readers that no matter who won or lost, the Lord God is the one we should trust.

10:25 a.m. ET: A blogger on the site of Commonweal magazine wonders if the day will pass without someone putting up the headline, “First Catholic VP is elected.”

10:15 a.m. ET: Big Wins for Marriage, says the National Catholic Register.

9:05 a.m. ET: Pope sends congratulatory message to Obama

8:52 a.m. ET: President of U.S. bishops congratulates Obama on ‘historic election’ (text of news release)

8:40 a.m. ET: Vatican spokesman expresses hopes for Obama’s presidency

- – -

Today we’re gathering reaction from around the church and the Catholic press to the results of last night’s election returns.

But also, what do you think? By any measure, the election of the first African-American to the presidency of the United States is historic. But also, what does yesterday’s election mean to the future of race relations, to the future of the abortion issue, to the future of the rest of the Catholic Church’s social agenda? And what about the approval in California of the amendment that defines marriage as the union of husband and wife?

We’ll be adding links here throughout the day, but you can also comment below. (Comments are moderated, but if you’re on topic yours will appear as soon as we can get to it.)

The Catholic vote in the long campaign

It won’t be long before results of the looooong presidential campaign of 2008 are known, but the debate over the Catholic influence on that vote is likely to continue. A quick search of Google news alerts on Catholic vote shows that it’s a subject that seems to fascinate the world.

The Times of Malta, for example, had this story yesterday. The Dallas Morning News said in this article that the election had as much to do with “Church Street” as it did with Wall Street or Main Street. A Los Angeles Times columnist proclaimed the end of the Catholic vote last week, while Medical News Today had this summary of various newspapers’ views on the subject.

We here at CNS also have had a lot to say about the Catholic vote, as evidenced by this story and this one. There will be more tomorrow, next week at the U.S. bishops’ meeting in Baltimore and beyond.

Poll shows how young Catholics say they’ll vote in 2008 election

A recent survey on the political views of young Catholic voters found that they have similar views to their peers on many issues in this election.

The “Faith and Politics of Young Adults in the 2008 Election” survey, sponsored by Faith in Public Life and conducted by Public Religion Research, polled young adults ages 18-34 on issues such as the economy, immigration, the environment, torture, same-sex marriage, abortion, employment nondiscrimination, religious liberty, and the role and size of government.

“As we go forward, expect to see young people across faiths focusing more and more on issues that reflect a concern for America’s image in the world and how our government treats the least of these at home and abroad. Expect to see the dividing lines of the culture wars continue to fade,” said Katie Paris, director of communications strategy at Faith in Public Life.

You can access the entire report, including statistics on the so-called “God gap,” views of candidate “friendliness” to religion, and the candidate preference of different religious groups.

Voting and being a faithful citizen

The U.S. presidential race is being hotly debated on the campaign trail, by the water coolers in the workplace, and probably before and after church.

In an Oct. 16 column “Voting as a Faithful Citizen” in The West Tennessee Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Memphis, Bishop J. Terry Steib discusses why it’s important to study the issues, why it’s important to vote and why he won’t reveal for whom he will cast his ballot.

He also addresses why he believes clergy should not endorse candidates from the pulpit and discusses the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2007 letter “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”

Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing, Mich., writes about the duty to vote and the formation of conscience, and Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu has issued a pastoral letter on the virtues of voting. In his Monthly Message, Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y., tells Catholic voters they should focus “more on the needs of the weak than on the benefits to the strong.”

In a homily delivered Oct. 19 at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Fargo, N.D., Bishop Samuel J. Aquila told worshippers that above loyalty to candidates and political parties, Catholics must “place the God-given alienable rights first, bginning with the right to life.”

These are just a few of the U.S. Catholic bishops who have issued statements or written columns for their diocesan newspapers or Web sites. Catholic News Service reported on a number of them in an Oct. 22 roundup story.

There’s power in numbers

When people feel disconnected and that their concerns are going unaddressed, history shows they can be a prime target for an organizing campaign. But that only works if they want to be organized and begin to take steps to right an injustice they are confronting.

A CNS report on community organizing looks at one campaign to address predatory lending in Cleveland in portraying how a campaign works.

Campaigns to right a wrong are won at the grass-roots level. It takes commitment and dedication and local leadership, as any community organizer knows. Organizers such as Sarah Nolan of the San Francisco Organizing Project and Jenelle Dame of the East Side Organizing Project in Cleveland know it’s not their job to push an agenda forward. An organizer’s job is to help train leaders in the community. It’s up to those leaders to work with their neighbors, who already know very well what wrong they want to correct.

Organizing campaigns can take place just about anywhere even though most efforts take place in low- and moderate-income communities. Face it, it’s those communities who have the most grievances with society.

Catholic San Francisco reports on one such campaign involving support for Proposition 8 to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Not every campaign will be successful. Victories, as community groups like to call them, come only when members welcome and accept a common goal and work in unison to achieve it. Campaigns are just as dependent on a well-developed strategy — at times developed to garner attention or even embarass their target. At the same time, plans must be flexible enough to change when roadblocks appear or new facts are learned.

But the key to any campaign revolves around numbers. With numbers comes power. With power comes influence. And with influence comes success.

‘Catholics have an obligation to be interested in politics’

As Canadians go to the polls today to elect a government, Catholics are being wooed by candidates and parties in much the same way U.S. Catholic voters are sought.

The Catholic Register, Canada’s oldest Catholic weekly, has been in the thick of things. A detailed article, “The spirituality of politics”, tackles what some of the nation’s Catholic groups are emphasizing as important in voting. Associate editor Michael Swan talked about politics with people from a range of Catholic organizations — from the Campaign Life Coalition, which focuses on abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia, to the Catholic Worker Movement, which focuses on peace and life issues such as opposing the death penalty and supporting people with mental handicaps.

He also traces the history of the church’s involvement in Canadian politics, dating back to the 1890s, when Bishop John Cameron of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, regularly dined with Canada’s first Catholic prime minister, Sir John Thompson. That was 70 years before the United States elected its first Catholic president, John Kennedy.

The page also includes a summary of the points in the Canadian bishops’ federal election guide, which starts with this premise: “Catholics have an obligation to be interested in politics.”

More “new media” in the Catholic community

Speaking of “new media,” the editor of The Catholic Key in Kansas City, Mo., Jack Smith, has a new post on the paper’s blog titled “Facebook Bishops” about bishops who either have sites on the popular social network or have fan clubs set up by other Facebook members.

He notes that his two local prelates, Bishop Robert W. Finn of K.C.-St. Joe, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., have fan clubs on Facebook. He also points out that a whole lot of bishops may not even know they have their own Facebook fan clubs. (I discovered while putting together this post that there’s a relatively new “Goodbye Archbishop Burke” fan club established after the St. Louis prelate was appointed to a high Vatican position in June, and I also saw a fan club for Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta. I also remember seeing a fan club for Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston when he was elevated to the College of Cardinals last November.)

I suppose it would be appropriate now to shamelessly plug the Catholic News Service Facebook page established last year. We’re planning on beefing it up in the coming months — right now it only has a couple RSS feeds from CNS.

Also on the new media front, Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., now has a podcast version of a letter he sent last week to the Bush administration and members of Congress on the economic crisis besetting the nation this fall. (Bishop Murphy is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.) In the podcast he explains why the bishops get involved in such issues and reads the letter sent to the White House and to Capitol Hill. His is one of several dioceses and other Catholic agencies posting material to iTunes, the popular site for iPod owners to download a wide variety of paid and free content for listening or viewing.

And since we’re talking here about Facebook and the bishops, we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind readers that the bishops are using Facebook and other tools to promote their “Faithful Citizenship” election guide.

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