April 12, 2006
Volume 3, Number 36
By Mark Adams
Speaking to an audience of more than 1,700 at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, President George W. Bush promoted the strengthening of a culture of life and called for immigration legislation that both "respects the rule of law" and "upholds the decency of our country." In his second consecutive appearance at the breakfast the president praised Pope John Paul II for his role in the downfall of Communism and cited Pope Benedict XVI's Christmas homily in which the pope preached that "the splendor of . . . Christmas shines upon every child, born and unborn."
The breakfast, held on Friday in Washington, is in its third year and, according to organizers which include Culture of Life Foundation president Austin Ruse, was founded as a response to Pope John Paul II's call to a "new evangelization." In addition to the president, this year's breakfast drew Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and at least 20 members of Congress. Also in attendance were numerous Congressional staffers, White House officials, Bishops, and scholars. Washington Archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and retired Philadelphia Archbishop Cardinal Joseph Bevilacqua were among the many members of the Church hierarchy in attendance.
Delivering the keynote address of the breakfast, Madison Bishop Robert C. Morlino gave an analysis on the now-famous "dictatorship of relativism" speech delivered by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he was elected pope last year. Bishop Morlino's speech stressed the importance of the natural law in fighting moral relativism. "We need to insist that the existence of God, the dignity of every human being, and the definition of marriage are not Catholic curiosities that we are trying to force on the rest of the world, but the dictates of reason — of the natural law itself," he said.
Introducing Bush was San Antonio Archbishop Jose Gomez who thanked the president for his immigration proposal which would give illegal aliens the opportunity to work legally. Bush called it "vitally important" that the debate over immigration "be conducted in a civil tone" and he praised the role Catholic charitable organizations play in immigration. "One of the many ways that Catholic faith-based organizations serve their neighbors is by welcoming newcomers and helping them become good citizens," he said.
The president's appearance drew a standing ovation and much of his speech was greeted with applause including his overtures to the pro-life cause. "Here in the United States, we work to strengthen a culture of life . . . We will continue to work for the day when every child is welcome in life and protected in law." Also drawing a vigorous standing ovation was Bush's recognition of the presence of Chief Justice Roberts.
Bishop Morlino called on audience members to work to make the concept of the natural law more accepted. "We must reclaim the proper use of language if we are to combat the dictatorship of relativism. Instead of hearing 'pro-choice' all over the place, we need to promote the use of 'natural law' all over the place or something better that is equivalent — that is a more catchy sound-bite. Some of you might well be gifted to articulate that sound-bite."