March 6, 2009


Priorities for the new administration and Congress

Shortly before he was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama received a letter from Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The cardinal wished our new president well, and promised the prayers and support of the U.S. Catholic bishops “to make this period of national change a time to advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all, especially the vulnerable and poor.”

Cardinal George assured the new president that the U.S. bishops want “to work constructively with the new administration and Congress and others of good will to pursue policies which respect the dignity of all human life, and bring greater justice to our nation and peace to our world.”

The cardinal then proceeded to outline 10 priorities that the bishops of the United States would like to pursue in their collaboration with the leaders of our nation.

The first priority can be seen as the most immediate, or urgent. It is “to support strong, prudent and effective measures to address the terrible impacts and injustices of the economic crisis.”

The last priority discussed by Cardinal George is the most fundamental, or essential, of all. It is “to protect the lives of the most vulnerable and voiceless members of the human family, especially unborn children and those who are disabled or terminally ill.”

In between these two critically important priorities, the cardinal listed health care, a responsible transition out of Iraq, peace in the Holy Land, the fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases worldwide, immigration reform, support for marriage (“a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of a man and a woman”), educational choice for parents and support for faith-based initiatives.

This outline of priorities is not complete, Cardinal George said. “There are many other areas of concern and advocacy for the Church and the USCCB especially: religious freedom and other civil and human rights, news media and communications, and issues of war and peace.

“We seek to work together with our nation’s leaders to advance the common good of our society,” Cardinal George wrote, “while disagreeing respectfully and civilly where necessary for preserving that same common good.”

Respectful disagreement has already been voiced on the new administration’s decision to provide government funding for international agencies that are pro-abortion.

As Cardinal George’s letter warned President Obama, the U.S. bishops will continue to vigorously oppose legislative and other measures to expand abortion.

Toward this end, all Catholics in the United States are being urged to join with other people of good will “to retain essential, widely supported policies which show respect for unborn life, protect the conscience rights of health care providers and other Americans, and prevent government funding and promotion of abortion.”

Each of the priorities outlined by Cardinal George merits the strong support of Catholics in central and southern Indiana and nationwide.

But we should be especially attentive to the challenges faced by the new administration and Congress in the two most urgent and fundamental priorities outlined by Cardinal George: to renew our economy and to safeguard human dignity, especially the rights of the unborn and the most vulnerable members of our society.

Our task, as Catholics and as citizens, is threefold: 1) to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in governmental affairs; 2) to urge civic leaders at local, state and national levels to seek workable solutions that are truly in the best interests of all; and 3) to support the U.S. bishops in their efforts to engage in public policy as pastors and teachers called “to advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all, especially the vulnerable and poor.”

May the Lord of Life guide and sustain our new administration and Congress, and all of us, in these difficult times!

—Daniel Conway

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