Advising Obama

  • January 29, 2009
{mosimage}If U.S. President Barack Obama thought the hard slugging was through, overcoming centuries of oppression for  blacks in the United States to make history as its first African-American president, just wait for what the future will bring.

As Obama took his position as leader of the world’s only superpower Jan. 20, he assumed control of a nation mired in crisis, on so many fronts. The economy is in the tank, facing its worst financial crisis in eight decades. The United States is in deep in not one, but two major wars, with a third conflict in the Middle East never far beyond U.S. parametres. The rich-poor divide is widening, too many Americans do not have proper health care coverage, action is needed to combat climate change and, yes, despite his election, racial tension is always on the radar — just see the reaction to the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white transit police officer in Oakland at New Year’s for evidence.

That’s why the new U.S. president would be wise to listen to those who can offer him the right advice in facing these challenges. Among them he should include his nation’s Catholic bishops.

 In a Jan. 13 letter to Obama, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has given assurances it will work with Obama and the 111th Congress to “advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all, especially the vulnerable and the poor.” (See our story at

In his letter, USCCB President Cardinal Francis George touches on many of the obstacles Obama will face over the next four years.

Cardinal George emphasizes — rightly so — that the Catholic Church cannot support efforts to expand abortion availability or the funding of abortion with tax dollars (Obama supports greater access to abortion, contrary to Catholic teaching). “We will oppose legislative and other measures to expand abortion” and will fight for the protection of the unborn, writes the cardinal. But his letter goes beyond this single, albeit very important, issue. Immigrants, the poor, the sick, the family made up of a “faithful, exclusive, life-long union of a man and a woman,” and so many more issues need to be addressed. It would be wise for Obama to take note.

Echoing much of what has come out of the Vatican, Cardinal George says ethical solutions are the key to overcoming the problems the United States faces. The moral principles that have guided the U.S. bishops, he says, can help America find its way again.

While Obama will be under pressure from many different directions, particularly from those who helped him ascend to the presidency, he must look beyond rewarding his friends to make the right choices in guiding all the American people.

Taking advice from the U.S. bishops would be a good start.

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