By John Jalsevac
March 17, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - On the same day that Cardinal Francis George released a video expressing, on the behalf of all American bishops, his deep concern about the Obama administration’s decision to rescind conscience protection regulations put in place by the Bush administration, he has met with President Obama at the White House.
News of the private, half-hour meeting between the two was only released late this afternoon. The meeting was not included in President Obama’s daily schedule.
The statements from the White House and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) give few details about what the Cardinal and the President spoke about, although the timing of the release of the Cardinal’s video may indicate that the conscience protection regulations were at the top of the agenda.
"The president and Cardinal George discussed a wide range of issues," stated the White House release, "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."
The statement from the USCCB said: "The meeting was private. Cardinal George and President Obama discussed the Catholic Church in the United States and its relation to the new administration."
Cardinal George, the president of the USCCB, taped the video released today after the Obama Administration announced in early March that it was rescinding the regulations which guarantee that health workers cannot be forced to provide services that violate their consciences, including abortions.
"As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we are deeply concerned that such an action on the government’s part would be the first step in moving our country from democracy to despotism," says the Cardinal in the video.
"Respect for personal conscience and freedom of religion as such ensures our basic freedom from government oppression. No government should come between an individual person and God - that’s what America is supposed to be about. This is the true common ground for us as Americans. We therefore need legal protection for freedom of conscience and of religion-including freedom for religious health care institutions to be true to themselves."
The Cardinal observed that the country respects conscientious objection in the case of those who object to war, "even though it’s good to defend your country," and for physicians who do not want to participate in the death penalty.
"Why 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 asks. "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."
The Cardinal concluded by urging concerned citizens to contact the government and tell them to retain the conscience protection regulations: "I ask you please to let the government know that you want conscience protections to remain strongly in place. In particular, let the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington know that you stand for the protection of conscience, especially now for those who provide the health care services so necessary for a good society. "
A 30 day public comment period on the administration’s decision to rescind the conscience protection regulations is currently underway. Comments may be submitted by email at email@example.com.