U.S. Catholic bishops debated a statement on the nation's political life on Tuesday (Nov. 11), one week after a majority of Catholics shrugged off church leaders by voting for President-elect Barack Obama, who supports abortion rights.

The bishops, meeting here through Thursday, appeared divided over whether their statement should take a strident, "prophetic," or more conciliatory approach to the incoming administration, which includes Vice President-elect Joe Biden, a lifelong Catholic who also favors abortion rights.

"I know there is considerable opposition to what I want to comment on right now," said Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Pa, Biden's hometown.

But, he said, "I can't have a vice president-elect come to Scranton saying that he learned his values there when those values are utterly against Catholic teaching."

Following a presidential campaign in which prominent lay Catholics pushed back against the church's approach to abortion, the bishops should "reclaim the prophetic voice of the church on this issue," said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I.

According to exit polls, 54 percent of Catholics backed the Democratic ticket. Although many bishops said the election was not a referendum on Catholic teaching, many were eager to reassert their authority in the face of widespread dissent.

"I believe we have one important thing to say," said Cardinal Edward Egan of New York. "And I think we should say it clearly, with a punch."

Bishop Robert Hermann, diocesan administrator of St. Louis, said, "We have lost perhaps 50 times as many children in the last 35 years as we have lost soldiers in all the wars since the (American) Revolution."

"We should consider it a privilege to die tomorrow to bring about the end of abortion," ...

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