The nation's Roman Catholic bishops vowed Tuesday to forcefully confront the Obama administration over its support for abortion rights, saying the church and religious freedom could be under attack in the new presidential administration. In an impassioned discussion on Catholics in public life, several bishops said they would accept no compromise on abortion policy. Many condemned Catholics who had argued it was morally acceptable to back President-elect Obama because he pledged to reduce abortion rates. And several prelates promised to call out Catholic policy makers on their failures to follow church teaching. Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Pa., said he planned to counter Vice President-elect Biden, a Catholic, Scranton native who supports abortion rights. Chicago Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is preparing a statement during the bishops' fall meeting that will press Obama on abortion.
Along with their theological opposition to the procedure, church leaders say they worry that any expansion in abortion rights could require Catholic hospitals to perform abortions or face legal sanctions. Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Chicago said the hospitals would close rather than comply. During the campaign, many prelates had spoken out on abortion more boldly than they had in 2004, telling Catholic politicians and voters that the issue should be the most important consideration in setting policy and deciding which candidate to back. Yet, according to exit polls, 54 percent of Catholics chose Obama, who is Protestant. The new bishops' statement is meant to drive home the point in a way that cannot be misconstrued.