Orbiting Dicta

Obama and the Bishops

Despite Cardinal George’s brief congratulatory chirp uttered on behalf of the new President-elect, the US bishops wasted no time in the Baltimore conference drawing up battle lines in their struggle to recapture the moral high ground in what they anticipate as the coming conflict with Mr. Obama’s administration over “reproductive rights,” i.e., the abortion issue.

So much for any “honeymoon” allowance even the opposition political party traditionally accords a new President after his inauguration — itself still almost two months away. The shrillest invective came afterwards from individual prelates such as Cardinal Stafford, who called for a period of national mourning because of the impressive victory of Mr. Obama and the Democrats. It must have stung bitterly for some bishops to watch the majority of Catholic voters supporting candidates they had vociferously opposed.

It is understandable that the “hierarchy,” financially embarrassed by the obligation to hand over hundreds of millions of dollars to victims of clerical sexual abuse, wish to regain some moral credibility in the eyes of the public, Catholic and otherwise. But perhaps it would be better for the bishops to withhold their anti-Obama imprecations for a while. In case they hadn’t noticed, the house is on fire and the fellow they are hurling stones at wants to put it out.

Meanwhile, the age-old opposition of the Catholic Church to abortion is still in place, despite the inability of a Catholic-dominated Supreme Court, twenty years of Republican Congressional control, and eight years of the Bush administration (not to mention the Reagan and previous Bush administrations) to alter the status quo. Public policy is not any more likely to change under Mr. Obama. However that may be, working to eliminate the social and economic inequality that fosters the resort to abortion would no doubt advance the changes that the bishops seek more constructively and enduringly.