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BISHOPS-PRESS Nov-10-2008 (460 words) With photo. xxxn

Questions at bishops' press conference focus on U.S. election results

By Chaz Muth and Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The sizable victory of President-elect Barack Obama in winning the White House became the central subject of the Nov. 10 press conference during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore.

"It's 1932 revisited," said Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the USCCB, referring to the election in which Democratic candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt overwhelmingly defeated Republican incumbent President Herbert Hoover following the 1929 stock market crash that contributed to the Great Depression. "The American voters have turned to another party."

Though Obama's support for keeping abortion legal is contrary to church teachings, Cardinal George acknowledged a majority of U.S. voters who identify themselves as Catholics voted for the incoming president.

He also agreed that the economic crisis trumped just about every issue important to the bishops, including abortion, immigration reform and the war in Iraq.

The big surprise in the election, however, was that many people who supported Obama also voted in favor of a same-sex marriage ban in California, Arizona and Florida, said Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco.

"They did not see this as a conservative/liberal issue," Archbishop Niederauer said. "They saw it as a natural law issue."

The infusion of new voters in this election warrants study by the bishops on how the electorate selected candidates and ballot questions, he said.

Jesuit Father Tom Reese, a senior fellow at Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington, asked whether the bishops would support an approach supported by some Catholic backers of Obama to focus on reducing abortions by providing better social services and addressing poverty. The bishops said that would be possible if the programs met certain criteria.

Some pro-life Catholics who supported Obama said they did so out of the belief that an abortion-fighting strategy based primarily on overturning Roe v. Wade was not likely to succeed anytime soon. Therefore, they said, they were supporting the idea of reducing abortions by improving services to poor women, and finding ways of working toward that goal with those who support keeping abortion legal.

Cardinal George said the bishops would support programs to improve social welfare in general. But, he said, "it's still to be proven what the connection is between poverty and abortion."

He said "social isolation" certainly could be one factor that might lead some women to seek abortions, so working "to be sure no one is isolated" would be one outreach effort to support.

Archbishop Niederauer said "both/and" would be his preferred approach, working to change a legal system that cannot protect the most vulnerable in society, as well as aiding women facing an unwanted pregnancy.


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