December 12, 2008

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Bishops committed to working with those who cherish the common good

It should not be a surprise that at our November meeting, we bishops of the United States were conscious of the ongoing economic crisis in our country and our world. It is apparent that it was this crisis that was very much on the mind of voters in our recent national and local political elections.

I hope you are aware that our United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ president, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, released a statement addressed to President-elect Barack Obama indicating the deep concerns of the bishops about issues pertaining to the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

In particular, the statement expressed grave concern because the new president told a gathering of Planned Parenthood that his first executive act would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).

FOCA would have horrible consequences for the rights of the unborn humans, not to mention Catholic health care providers and Catholic Charities.

You may not be aware of another statement released by Cardinal George that calls for “Solidarity at a time of Economic Crisis.”

Like the letter to the president-elect, this statement won the unanimous endorsement of all the U.S. bishops.

I want to call it to our attention and quote it at length because it is an important message of hope in troubled times.

In fact, we make the statement “as servants of Jesus, our hope” in which we express our active support for the people in our respective dioceses that are being hurt by the current consequences of the economic crisis.

We note that, as pastors and bishops, we see many human and moral consequences of this crisis.

“Clearly, the impact is greater in some regions than others. However, across our nation families are losing homes; retirement savings are threatened; workers are losing jobs and health care; and many people are losing a sense of hope and security.”

In the context of stressful times for the economy, the cardinal wrote in the name of all of us bishops: “This disturbing and complicated situation brings home a universal truth: We are all children of God. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. We all are in this together. Hard times can isolate us or they can bring us together. The Catholic community will continue to reach out to those in need, stand with those who are hurt, and work for policies that bring greater compassion, accountability and justice to economic life.”

Earlier in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI had outlined the Catholic Church’s goals in his World Day of Peace message.

He said, “The family needs to have a home, employment, just recognition of the domestic activity of parents, the possibility of schooling for children, and basic health care for all.”

The Holy Father insists that society and public policy should be “committed to assisting the family in these areas.”

Speaking for the U.S. bishops, Cardinal George concluded his statement pledging that “we offer our prayers for the families and individuals, our sisters and brothers, who are hurting, anxious or discouraged in these difficult times. We also pledge our prayers for our wounded nation and suffering world. We pray that, working together, we can find the courage, wisdom and ways to build an economy of prosperity and greater justice for all.”

In the coming months, the USCCB committees for international and national affairs, along with their respective staffs, will continue to monitor legislative and policy issues that affect all of us.

Certainly, the Indiana bishops and lay representatives on the board of the Indiana Catholic Conference will do the same here at home. We ask that all of our folks be attentive to potential calls for networking and communicating with our national and local elected government officials in the near future.

It seems likely that all of us will need to tighten our belts in the face of troubling economic realities during the coming Christmas season.

Even so, we need to act in solidarity as sisters and brothers who, despite inevitable challenges, look out for the good of our neighbors—and the teaching of Jesus reminds us that everyone is our neighbor. Indeed, he redefined the family: All of us are brothers and sisters.

Many of our political leaders are calling us to seek “common ground,” and they are rightly calling us to look out for the “common good.”

It is important to understand the true meaning of the common good. We bishops are committed to working with those who cherish the common good here at home and around our nation.

But the common good is not just the sum total of our individual desires and interests.

As Cardinal George has pointed out, the true common good “is the working out of a common life based upon good reason and the good will of all.” †

Local site Links: