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Washington – Even before he stepped into the Oval Office on Tuesday (Jan. 20) as America’s 44th president, the nation’s Catholic bishops sent Barack Obama their public policy wish list, with a special emphasis on “the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death.”
In twin letters sent to President-elect Barack Obama, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago outlined the policy priorities for the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops as they face a new president and strong Democratic gains in Congress.
The letters reflected possible areas of agreement– fighting climate change, reforming immigration and expanding healthcare, among others — but also listed a host of social issues where Obama is poised to take a more progressive direction than the bishops would support.
Specifically, George asked Obama to uphold Bush administration conscience protections that allow healthcare providers to opt out of procedures that violate their religious or moral beliefs.
“I urge you to consider that this could be a terrible mistake — morally, politically, and in terms of advancing the solidarity and well-being of our nation’s peoples,” said George, the president of the bishops’ conference.
He also asked Obama not to overturn the so-called Mexico City Policy, which restricts U.S. funds from going to international family planning groups that provide abortions, and not to lift Bush’s 2001 restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem cell research.
“To divert scarce funds … toward the avenue that is most controversial as well as the most medically speculative would be a sad victory of politics over science,” George warned in a Jan. 16 letter to Obama.
In an earlier letter sent on Jan. 13, George asked Obama to make the poor a priority in his economic plan; to work toward “truly universal health care coverage”; to aid the persecuted Christian minority in Iraq; create a “path to earned citizenship” for immigrants and uphold marriage as the “faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of a man and a woman.”
“We seek to work together with our nation’s leaders to advance the common good of our society, while disagreeing respectfully and civilly where necessary for preserving that same common good,” George said.
By Kevin Eckstrom
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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