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In a recent open letter to Barack Obama, Francis Cardinal George outlines the “principles and priorities” which will “make this period of national change a time to advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all.” Writing on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal George emphasizes the right—and, indeed, the requirement—of the pastors of the Church to speak out on behalf of the human person, offering moral guidance and assistance to our nation’s political leaders.

He mentions several ways in which change for the common good is necessary, including advocacy for prudent economic recovery and international religious freedom, fighting poverty and disease, defense of the family and its primacy in society, furthering parental choice in education, and continuing support for faith-based initiatives. George concludes:

Most fundamentally, we will work 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. We will consistently defend the fundamental right to life from conception to natural death. Opposed to abortion as the direct killing of innocent human life, we will encourage one and all to seek common ground that will reduce the number of abortions in morally sound ways that affirm the dignity of pregnant women and their unborn children. We will oppose legislative and other measures to expand abortion. We will work 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. The Hyde amendment and other provisions which for many years have prevented federal funding of abortion have a proven record of reducing abortions. Efforts to force Americans to fund abortions with their tax dollars would pose a serious moral challenge and jeopardize the passage of essential health care reform . . . .

We offer this outline as an agenda for dialogue and action. We hope to offer a constructive and principled contribution to national discussion over the values and policies that will shape our nation’s future. 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.

In closing, I renew our expression of hope and our offer of cooperation as you begin this new period of service to our nation in these challenging times. We promise our prayers for you, that the days ahead will be a time of renewal and progress for our nation and that we can work together to defend human life and dignity and build a nation of greater justice and a world at peace.

As George implies, in the pursuit of true renewal and progress, justice and peace, defense of human life and dignity is not an optional embellishment. It is, rather, the warp and weft of our nation’s fabric.



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