WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 18, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The president of the U.S. bishops' conference met with President Barack Obama on Tuesday for a private, half-hour dialogue.
The bishops' conference issued a statement reporting the meeting at the White House in which "Cardinal [Francis] George and President Obama discussed the Catholic Church in the United States and its relation to the new administration."
It noted that at the conclusion of the conversation, "Cardinal George expressed his gratitude for the meeting and his hopes that it will foster fruitful dialogue for the sake of the common good."
The White House also issued a press release stating that the pre! sident and the cardinal "discussed a wide range of issues, including important opportunities for the government and the Catholic Church to continue their long-standing partnership to tackle some of the nation's most pressing challenges."
It added, "The president thanked Cardinal George for his leadership and for the contributions of the Catholic Church in America and around the world."
Although the discussion between the prelate and the president was private, it took place the day after Cardinal George issued a public message through the Internet urging Catholics to appeal to the Obama administration to retain regulations governing conscience protection for health care workers.
A communiqué from the bishops' conference reported the release of a video on their Web site, as well as on Youtube, in which Cardinal George responds to the government's threat to revoke the regulations that keep healthcare workers from being forced to provide services that violate their consciences.
Cardinal George explained in his message: "On […] Feb. 27, the Obama administration placed on a federal Web site the news that it intends to remove a conscience protection rule for the Department of Health and Human Services.
"That rule is one part of the range of legal protections for health care workers -- for doctors, nurses and others -- who have objections in conscience to being involved in abortion and other killing procedures that are against how they live their faith in God."
He expressed "deep concern" that this action "on the government’s part would be the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism."
He asserted that "respect for personal conscience and freedom of religion as such ensures our basic freedom from government oppression," and "no government should come between an individual person and God."
The cardinal pointed out that citizens are allowed to claim conscientious objection to war or having to administer the death penalty. Why then, he asked, "shouldn’t our government and our legal system permit conscientious objection to a morally bad action, the killing of babies in their mother’s womb?"
He added, "People understand what really happens in an abortion and in related procedures -- a living member of the human family is killed -- that’s what it’s all about -- and no one should be forced by the government to act as though he or she were blind to this reality."
Cardinal George concluded by exhorting the people to inform the government "that you want conscience protections to remain strongly in place," especially for people "who provide the health care services so necessary for a good society."
On the Net:
Cardinal George's message: http://www.usccb.org/conscienceprotection