Here is the preliminary text of the statement from the U.S. bishops offered this afternoon providing guidelines to Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops president, in drafting a post-election statement expressing the church’s concerns about abortion and other issues:
“The bishops of the United States have agreed to address the opportunities and dangers for our country at this time. According to the bylaws of the conference, the body of bishops cannot write and approve a statement that is not submitted through the Administrative Committee. Consequently, the bishops have asked the president of the conference to write a letter which will be published with their approval. It remains a statement of the president and not of the conference.
“The points to be addressed in the statement include the following:
“1. Essential elements of the (cardinal’s) presidential address can inform the statement.
“2. The bishops desire to work with the administration, especially in the areas such as economic justice and opportunity: immigrattion reform; health care for the poor, especially for women and children; education; religious freedom; and working for peace. The church is intent on doing good.
“3. The church is also intent on opposing evil. 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. 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.
“4. The recent election was principally decided out of concern for the collapse of the economy, the loss of jobs and economic security for families, here and around the world. Even issues such as the Iraq War and universal health care, let alone abortion rights, were of secondary importance. If the election is interpreted 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. The common good would be even more grievously wounded and our society would be more deeply divided than it is now. 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.
“5. We are grateful for the good will and good work of those Catholics in political life who work to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us by correcting unjust laws, sometimes at the cost of great sacrifice to themselves and their families. We again express our desire that all Catholics in public life be fully committed to the common good. The church is a communion of persons united around Christ, and we pray that this communion may always be complete.”