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4:11 p.m.: Go here for the rest of this afternoon’s liveblog, because this post was getting too long.
3:48 p.m.: To help you understand the discussion earlier in this post on politics and abortion, we now have, in a separate post, the preliminary text of the guidance statement for Cardinal George as he formulates that response.
3:42 p.m.: Just before coffee break, votes are announced on “action items” discussed in the morning. All were approved: priorities and plans, the budget for 2009 and both the English and the Spanish versions of the special blessing for children in the womb.
3:37 p.m.: Other bishops talking about the impact of recent hurricanes in Texas and Louisiana. These are heavily Catholic areas, where the parish hall serves as the community gathering place, but the media has moved on and no one knows about the ongoing suffering.
3:29 p.m.: Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston is giving an update on recovery from Hurricane Ike. Notes that once the media left, no one knows about the devastation. Says life in Galveston is still a catastrophe.
3:24 p.m.: Cardinal George sums up by noting the variety of audiences the statement could be aimed at — general public, Catholics, politicians — but that arguments can be based on natural law theory, not just religious principles that others can reject. He promises “I’ll do my best” with all the suggestions that have been made.
3:18 p.m.: More calls for a “prophetic” statement. Obama was elected by using the words “hope” and “change,” and the bishops must be equally prophetic.
3:15 p.m.: Bishops encouraging other bishops to not be afraid to stand up for life in whatever they do in their home dioceses, even if it means risking their own lives.
3:07 p.m.: Bishop Martino of Scranton alludes to Vice President-elect Biden when he comments that no Catholic politician should be able to come into his diocese — Biden was born in Scranton — and erroneously state Catholic teaching on abortion.
3:05 p.m.: Bishop Trautman says he trusts that Cardinal George will issue a good statement, but also suggests that it take a prophetic tone. Bishops now express joking concern that the cardinal will be up all night trying to take all their suggestions to heart.
2:53 p.m.: Bishops also concerned about the term “common good” since some Catholic groups tried to use that terminology to justify voting for pro-abortion politicians.
2:47 p.m.: Lots of bishops speaking up now. I take back what I said below at 2:29 — they were just getting warmed up.
2:45 p.m.: Archbishop Hughes raises issue that President Obama may be able to reverse a number of executive orders on his first days in office, underlining the urgency of this question.
2:38 p.m.: More applause as bishops recall the link Cardinal George made in his presidential address yesterday tying the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision to the current battle for the rights of the unborn.
2:34 p.m.: Bishop Boyea draws applause when he raises the specter of Catholic hospitals being forced to shut down because of their refusal to comply with regulations requiring them to perform abortions.
2:29 p.m.: Bishops going point by point through a five-point proposal for the statement. Little discussion, because obviously everyone in the room agrees on the importance of the abortion issue in America today.
2:25 p.m.: Cardinal Egan asks that the statement be limited to “one important thing to say” and not let it get lost in trying to cover too much. Bishops agree by voice vote.
2:21 p.m.: Politicians and abortion discussion now beginning. Statement coming, but can’t be issued by the full body of bishops on such short notice, so the bishops are authorizing Cardinal George to issue a statement on their behalf.
2:19 p.m.: Just for the record, Cardinal George is reading the text of this morning’s statement on the economy.
2:15 p.m.: Here’s a link to the list of the five committees for which the bishops are electing chairmen.
2:12 p.m.: Back to elections for committee chairs, but they’re doing them by paper ballot, so we won’t get results right away.
1:57 p.m.: Getting ready for the afternoon session. Bishops have lots to cover.