The Washington Post reported that "The nation's Catholic bishops Tuesday approved a statement declaring that if the Democratic-controlled Congress and the incoming Obama administration enact proposed abortion rights legislation, they would see it as an attack on the church." The formal statement was written overnight by Francis Cardinal George, president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops and read and approved by the bishops on Wednesday.
From the statement (with emphasis added):
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.The Catholic League characterized the statement as a rebuke to the Catholic Left. Catholics for Choice stated,
It is by now well-known that the majority of Catholics disagree with the dictates of the Catholic hierarchy on matters related to sexual and reproductive health. In addition, the vast majority of Catholics do not believe they are under a religious obligation to vote on issues the way their bishops recommend. The election of President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph Biden proves this. Despite attempts by about two dozen bishops to make this election about abortion and abortion alone, the exit polls showed Catholics voted 54 percent for the prochoice Democratic nominee...While the Catholic League said “Cardinal George explicitly rejected the ‘common good’ mantra of the Catholic Left that justifies legal abortion while pursuing ameliorative social policies that may reduce abortions,” David Gibson observes that
Catholic voters and prochoice Catholic policy makers understand the importance of the church’s teaching on conscience in guiding them on the most important matters. In voting the way they do in elections and when making policy, Catholics follow their own consciences and respect the consciences of others.
Cardinal George’s latest remarks on that score seem far more nuanced than his personal pre-election motu proprio. The cardinal’s quote: “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.”
The president-elect has said,
Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.