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Forming 'A More Perfect Union' Together


Our Political Responsibility
Renewed Respect and Hope
Common Ground

When Barack Obama takes the oath of office as our 44th president on January 20, he will swear to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Other elected officials from coast to coast will take similar oaths.

They aren’t the only ones who have a duty to uphold the Constitution. It begins, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union....”

Forming a more perfect union is a huge task that will involve us working with our elected officials—those we voted against as well as those we voted for.

Let’s look for ways we can channel the energy of the large number of voters who did their civic duty last November. Are there ways to work together on common goals as Americans of all ages, races, religions and political parties?


Our Political Responsibility

Not long after the election last November, Gallup ( reported that 85 percent of Americans surveyed were disappointed with the state of the nation. In addition to the war on terrorism, we have lots of crises, including the economy, energy, unemployment, immigration, environment and health insurance. Abortion and stem-cell research are among the moral issues that divide our country.

We Catholics can turn to the document many of us studied to help us understand Church teaching on key social issues: Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility From the Catholic Bishops of the United States (

That same document can continue to assist us in challenging our lawmakers to make moral choices that benefit the common good. In some cases, that may involve us reminding them of their campaign promises. In other instances, it may mean encouraging them to change their positions. In all situations, we can offer our prayers.

When Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the United States last November, his historic win proved that the American dream is true: Indeed, the United States is a country where anyone can grow up to win the highest office.

After the election, Gallup reported that 80 percent of Americans surveyed think President Obama will make a sincere effort to work with the Republicans in Congress to find bipartisan solutions to problems. And 76 percent think he will increase respect for our country abroad. In addition, his win resulted in high optimism about race relations.

Indeed, many world leaders offered congratulations and hope for the future. In an ad in The New York Times, Sheikh Khalid Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, crown prince and deputy ruler of Ras Al Khaimah (United Arab Emirates), praised the “dynamic and unifying leader who will reach across geographic, demographic and political divides and forge new partnerships to meet new challenges of the 21st century.”

Although Obama’s position on abortion kept many Catholics from supporting him, exit polls show that 54 percent of U.S. Catholics voted for him, reported Catholic News Service (CNS).

Pope Benedict XVI was among the Catholic leaders who congratulated our newly elected president. Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Catholic bishops and speaking on their behalf, offered “our prayers that God give you strength and wisdom to meet the coming challenges.” But Cardinal George also affirmed the Church’s pro-life position—from conception to natural death—to the president-elect when he stressed, “We stand ready to work with you in defense and support of the life and dignity of every human person.”

While campaigning for president last year, Barack Obama explained his position on abortion, emphasizing, “Nobody is pro-abortion. I think it is always a tragic situation.” He called for working together on common-ground issues to reduce abortions, such as preventing unintended pregnancies in our youth by “communicating that sexuality is sacred and they should not be engaged in cavalier activity.” He also proposed “providing options for adoption and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.”

But he was also realistic about the differences, admitting, “We’re not going to completely resolve it....And those who are opposed to abortion, I think, should continue to be able to lawfully object and try to change the laws.”

Chris Korzen, executive director of Catholics United (, said a top priority of the nonpartisan organization is reducing abortions, as proposed by the new president, reports CNS.

There are other issues on which Catholics can work with others on morally acceptable common ground, for example:

• We can object to embryonic stem-cell research, which destroys human embryos, but support research on adult stem cells.

• We can oppose war while praying for peace and supporting our troops (

• We can encourage energy-saving research while taking measures to reduce our own consumption.

Working together on common ground may not be the perfect solution to all the issues that divide our nation. But it is a step in the right direction, toward “a more perfect union.”—M.J.D.


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