Bishops Fire Warning Shot Across Bow of HHS Obama

One day after President-elect Barack Obama first spoke with His Holiness the Pope, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement expressing concern about the direction the pending Obama administration will take the nation as far as abortion is concerned.

The statement states that the Church is completely united and resolute in defending “the unborn child from the moment of conception,” with a particular opposition to the proposed Freedom of Choice Act, which would strike down many abortion restrictions and which Obama supports.

The statement also states that the election was not a referendum on abortion, and suggests that aggressive abortion-rights polices "would alienate many Americans and be interpreted by many Catholics as an attack on the Church." The bishops also expressed a desire to work with the administration on immigration reform, health care reform, education, religious freedom, and working for peace.

"Any one of us here would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow -- die tomorrow! -- to bring about the end of abortion," Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis said during a press conference at the Bishops’ conference in Baltimore.

Bishop Joseph Martino said his fellow bishops should be more outspoken in condemning public officials who are both Catholic and "stridently anti-life."

Martino is bishop in Scranton, Pa., which –- if you haven’t heard –- is where Vice President-elect Joe Biden spent his childhood years.

"I cannot have the vice president coming to Scranton and saying he learned his values there when those values are utterly against those of the Catholic Church," Martino said.

Yesterday, Obama held his first telephone conversation with Pope Benedict XVI.  The Vatican described the chat as part of any "normal exchanges" between a new U.S. president and another world leader.

The same day at the Vatican, the Pope’s “health minister,” Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico, re-articulated the church’s opposition to embryonic stem cell research, saying it "served no purpose" since adult stem cells are available for research.  Obama has pledged to reverse the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Yesterday in Baltimore, the bishops also approved a new blessing for unborn children, the first specifically of its kind. By a vote of 223-1 they approved the Order for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb for use in the dioceses of the United States.

- jpt

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