NY Times: Bishops planned for battle on HHS mandate

Some background and analysis, from the New York Times:

When after much internal debate the Obama administration finally announced its decision to require religiously affiliated hospitals and universities to cover birth control in their insurance plans, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops were fully prepared for battle.

Seven months earlier, they had started laying the groundwork for a major new campaign to combat what they saw as the growing threat to religious liberty, including the legalization of same-sex marriage. But the birth control mandate, issued on Jan. 20, was their Pearl Harbor.

Hours after President Obama phoned to share his decision with Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the bishops’ headquarters in Washington posted on its Web site a video of Archbishop Dolan, which had been recorded the day before.

“Never before,” Archbishop Dolan said, setting the tone, “has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.”

The speed and passion behind the bishops’ response reflects their growing sense of siege, and their belief that the space the Catholic church once occupied in American society and the deference it was given are gradually being curtailed by an increasingly secular culture.

The conflict puts not just the White House, but also the bishops to the test. Will their flock follow their lead? And are they sufficiently powerful, now that they have joined forces with evangelicals and other religious conservatives, to outmuscle the women’s groups, public health advocates and liberal religious leaders who argue that the real issue is contraceptive coverage for all women, and that the Obama administration was right?

On the day of the decision, bishops across the country posted similarly dire statements on their Web sites, and at Mass on the following Sundays, priests read the bishops’ letters from their pulpits and wove the religious freedom theme into their homilies. By the bishops’ own count, 147 bishops in the nation’s 195 dioceses have now issued personal letters on religious freedom, which are trickling down to Catholics through their local parish bulletins and diocesan newspapers.

Some bishops called on Catholics to lobby their legislators to overturn the mandate, while a few have called for resistance. Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who oversees Catholic military chaplains, instructed them to read a pastoral letter at Mass that said, “We cannot — and will not — comply with this unjust law.” Army officials ordered him to strike that line because it could be interpreted as a call for civil disobedience.

“I have never seen the bishops mobilize so quickly,” said Stephen S. Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America, in Washington. “I remember Roe v. Wade, and it took years for them to respond to that, in terms of an organized response.”

“The bishops really are convinced that this is a direct abridgement of their First Amendment religion rights,” Mr. Schneck said. “From their perspective, this really isn’t about contraception.”

Continue reading.


  1. Henry Karlson says:

    If what Luke Hill had read and pointed to on Commonweal ( http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=17315 ) is true, then yes, they have had a long time. Of course, when the Bush administration did/does the same thing as others, they are given the pro-life stamp of approval and so it didn’t matter….

    Nick Baumann writes, “In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today—and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that don’t offer prescription coverage or don’t offer insurance at all are exempt, because they treat men and women equally—but under the EEOC’s interpretation of the law, you can’t offer other preventative care coverage without offering birth control coverage, too.

    “It was, we thought at the time, a fairly straightforward application of Title VII principles,” a top former EEOC official who was involved in the decision told Mother Jones. “All of these plans covered Viagra immediately, without thinking, and they were still declining to cover prescription contraceptives. It’s a little bit jaw-dropping to see what is going on now…There was some press at the time but we issued guidances that were far, far more controversial.””

  2. Mark LaVergne says:

    Is it just me, or did the NY Times choose a somewhat unflattering photo of Archbishop Dolan to accompany their story?

  3. Mark LaVergne says:

    Your history lesson is interesting. But can we assume from your post that you condemn what the Obama White House has most recently decided? I think that is the issue currently on the table.

  4. Henry Karlson says:

    It is only the issue to those who look at this politically and have no interest in the real issues at hand, issues which transcend Obama /Bush/SCOTUS or the like. As long as it is seen as Obama is the problem you will fail to deal with the real problem. Our society has been losing respect for religion in general, and people from both sides have been working for the loss of religious liberty. Look to all the fearmongering against Muslims and the way so many have worked against their religious liberty. The fact that the policy seems to continue from what was in the past, without all the same rhetoric applied, but now it can be aimed at one man alone tells me that the people with the rhetoric have an agenda outside of religious liberty.

  5. This gives me hope that the Bishops have seen the light and recognize the danger that the leftist side of the political divide poses to religious freedom, to a properly ordered society (ie, gay marriage), and to cultural degradation.

  6. Henry, why don’t you try answering the question rather than bloviating about muslims.

  7. Henry Karlson says:

    You prove my case

  8. I rest mine

  9. Henry Karlson says:

    WASHINGTON – Faced with increasing pressure from religious groups and Catholic lawmakers in both parties over the new federal requirement for birth control coverage, the Obama administration is planning to announce an “accommodation” on Friday aimed at allaying some of the concerns of faith-driven employers. ABC News reported Friday morning that the announcement was “likely” to be made Friday. A source familiar with the deliberations told HuffPost the announcement was imminent.


    Let’s wait and see what will be offered.

  10. Henry Karlson says:

    You have no case. “You didn’t answer the question” is argument from silence. And if one had read what I’ve posted around here and other places already, the answer would be clear. I don’t need to get thrown into a side question and instead I think the focus on religious liberty is necessary. If we are not willing to purify ourselves from our lack of respect for that principle, we are but Pharisees.

  11. Mark LaVergne says:

    Any “compromise” that compels religious bodies to operate against their principles is unacceptable. We’re hearing this morning that instead of being required to provide coverage, Obama would require churches to provide referrals to insurance plans that provide coverage for morally illicit procedures and medications. That’s not acceptable either.

    Bottom-line: the administration needs to back-down and butt-out. Stop compelling churches to act against their moral beliefs!

    Moreover, any so-called “compromise” in an election year is suspect. This administration has lied before to Catholic leaders. Once safely re-elected in November, what would stop them from resuming their real agenda? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!

  12. I thought the same thing. They made him look as supercilious and patriarchal as possible. Of course this is the New York Times, more aptly named the NY Slimes.

  13. I guess it matters to those who want to justify a vote for Obama come Nov. I don’t see how any Catholic can now vote for him. But amazingly there will be. Right?

  14. Over on the Anchoress, someone made the comments that this just isn’t about the Catholic Church. What about the small businessman who is forced to pay insurance coverage for his/her employees that would include killer drugs, et al, when it, too, goes against his/her conscience?

    The Church and any and all businesses could just increase employee wages to cover a percentage of the monthly premiums making employees respsonsible for buying his/her own insurance and coverage for family. Would it be tax deductable? It SHOULD BE. What is a reasonable increase in wages? I have no clue. I am just throwing out an idea.

    To me, it is about setting priorities. Make it a person’s responsibility. Then people are accountable for their own choices.

  15. Elizabeth Scalia says:

    OF all of the affable photos of Timothy Dolan that are available, that’s the choice the NY Times went with? Dolan in full regalia, looking grim and forbidding?

    Oh, Times…you’re so dependable.

  16. Actually the bishops have had a 2,000 year history of defending the Church, so the NY Slimes got the general idea right, they just got the timeline wrong. Collectively, our bishops have presided over the funerals of several once-great empires, and will be here long after the USA is finished committing suicide.

  17. Elizabeth,

    Go easy on your criticism over the picture. Liberals don’t grasp adult concepts very well and need pictures to aid in understanding the story. A photo of an affable Dolan would be confusing. Pax.

  18. The Times’ hatred for the Catholic Church is so deep and so old. I believe in the late 1800s one of their columnists or editorials predicted the end of the Church. Said it was a dying entity or something. That choice of picture is deliberate.

  19. kevin —

    When Henry Karlson speaks of “those who look at this politically and have no interest in the real issues at hand, issues which transcend Obama /Bush/SCOTUS or the like,” he is talking about himself. He has made it crystal clear that nothing is more important to him than defending President Obama, regardless of the issues at hand. He has on other threads shown a willingness to distort facts in order to calumniate President Bush in support of a false claim that Obama is no worse than Bush.

  20. Henry, These ‘righties’, when they read that Obama has made an accommodation will be really disappointed. They get their energy from ‘religious wars’ ; a truce will be their biggest disappointment. they will reject a truce and keep firing at ghosts. The Catholic Universities that have had BC coverage for ten years will have to deal with the faculty and employees over the new policies. Righties will attack them if the universites say ‘forget about it’

  21. Considering the poor reporting, fictional reporting, and now the loss of over $40,000,000 last year, the NYTimes should have been put to bed (permanently) years ago.

  22. Kinda wish Henry and his ilk would stick to their own religion and keep their opinions about ours to themselves.

  23. What I want to know-why the great emphasis on free contraceptives when other pharmaceuticals require a copay? Is cancer or diabetes a lesser health threat than pregnancy? Or is this just another step on the path of increasing government control of our personal lives?

  24. It has to do with the priorities of the left. Sexual revolution is paramount to their identity, and that requires contraception, a collapse of marriage, gay marriage, and ultimately abortion.

  25. Hope the Bishops continue to fight this fake concession by Obama. There is good information and articles about this issue by Deacon Dan Gannon on http://www.catholicurrent.com/index.html.

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