Dolan: White House “strangling” Catholic church

He made the remarks this morning:

The spat between Catholic leaders and the Obama administration over its contraception policies is heating up again, with one of the nation’s most prominent bishops charging that the White House is “strangling” the church over the matter.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan told “CBS This Morning” Tuesday that the compromise reached earlier this year is not sufficient because the exemptions made for churches are too restrictive.

“They tell us if you’re really going be considered a church, if you’re going to be really exempt from these demands of the government, well, you have to propagate your Catholic faith and everything you do, you can serve only Catholics and employ only Catholics,” Dolan said.

“We’re like, wait a minute, when did the government get in the business of defining for us the extent of our ministry,” Dolan said.

More than 40 Catholic organizations sued the Obama administration Monday over a government requirement that most employers provide birth control coverage as part of their employee health plans.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department adopted the rule to expand health care for women. Last year, an advisory panel from the Institute of Medicine, which advises the federal government, recommended including birth control on the list of covered services, partly because it promotes maternal and child health by allowing women to space their pregnancies.

However, faith leaders from across religious traditions protested, saying the mandate violates religious freedom. The original rule includes a religious exemption that allows houses of worship to opt-out of the mandate, but keeps the requirement in place for religiously affiliated charities.

In response to the political furor, President Obama offered to soften the rule so that insurers would pay for birth control instead of religious groups. However, the bishops and others have said that the accommodation doesn’t go far enough.

Dolan also criticized Georgetown University’s decision to invited Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to speak to graduates of its school of public policy last week because of her role in formulating the policy.

“Well, I do think that’s a problem. Georgetown is the oldest Catholic university in the country. Part of Catholic identity is to be in union with the bishops,” Dolan said.

“When they would invite someone that is so dramatically at odds with one of the central tenets of the faith, that does bother us,” Dolan said.

Continue reading.


  1. If the USCCB really wanted to show leadership in this issue, they would have thrown their money and their legal might behind the lawsuits or added one of their own. Else these are just nice consolation words.

  2. The lawsuits are an election year stunt.

    The public comment period on the rule is still open, groups like the cathlic church could still negotiate and communicate in a manner that is meant to find a solution.

    Legal experts have said that the suits have a good chance of being thrown out as premature because the rules at this point are proposals.

    The Vatican and US bishops have decided to all play Pat Robertson and jerry Falwell and try to inject the Catholic Church more and more into the political fray.

    The US bishops have not played a constructive role at any time in the recent process of the past few years to attempt to make health care available to more Americans. Of ocurse they are to be expected to promote a Catholic position, but they fail to understand the religious diversity of the United States and that the laws and rules are for all.

    The Amish lost landmark cases decades ago on the same legal points, when they argued against participating in Social Security.

  3. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


    I have a hunch the USCCB is very involved in this. This was “coordinated,” and I I don’t think it happened without some high-powered help.


  4. “The lawsuits are an election year stunt.”

    The only reason this comes in an election year is because it’s Obama who created this election year stunt by pandering to the feminist groups. The Catholic Church is reacting to a very hyper political White House who is desperate to get re-elected. They know they’re in the fight of their lives (and will probably lose, but that’s my opinion) and are trying rally their base. What it shows is that the base of the Democratic Party is at inherently odds with the Catholic Church.

  5. If you look a little closer at the history of the Bishop’s Conference, you will see that they have supported nationalized healthcare/insurance for several decades. The issue for the Bishops isn’t greater availability of healthcare –it’s that birth control, sterilization and abortion are considered healthcare.

  6. I’d love to see the evidence that puts them front and center as the central command. Coming from you I am sure there’s credence to your hunch, but being of the scientific (logic and order based) mindset, I like seeing the evidence before I can truly believe this claim 100%.

  7. naturgesetz says:

    It’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever see evidence such as memos and e-mails between the USCCB and the other organizations. It seems to me that the evidence we have is the limited number of venues in which these suits were brought. As I pointed out on another thread the suits are not in every district or even in every circuit. They are predominantly in the central part of the country, where the appeals courts are more conservative. This makes it more likely that when the cases are appealed (and the losing side is almost certain to appeal), it’s much more likely that we’ll win, than if the cases went to the appeals courts in Boston or San Francisco. It looks like a very sophisticated bit of forum-shopping, IMO.

  8. Young Canadian RC Male:
    To me it is quite logical that the recently formed (last fall) USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom is coordinating these lawsuits. In fact, at that meeting the U.S. bishops overwhelmingly approved a 3% increase of diocesan funds to the USCCB to support the work of the committee.

    What I find baffling, as you pointed out in your first comment, is that there are seemingly isolated and individual suits as opposed to one from the USCCB. My guess is that there is a reason for it, since there are some high-powered lawyers on the 10 members advising the committee. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Jones Day international law firm, eighth largest in revenue in the world, is litigating theses suits on a “pro bono” basis. (Also interesting is that the managing partner (aka head honcho) of Jones Day is a Notre Dame Law School graduate.

  9. I think the Bishops have a lot more to do than pull “stunts”. As Card. Dolan stated, we didn’t start the fight but we will fight it. Perhaps Peter you don’t understand religious freedom or diversity.

  10. oldestof9 says:

    “We walk by faith and not by sight.”

  11. The bishops have never given an explanation of how they allowed very similar rules on contraception coverage to exist for more than a decade in twenty-eight states, and only recently have squawked about this when the federal government was incorporating the existing policies of these twenty-eight states in the proposed rules. Secretary Sebelius very reasonably could have concluded that since the Catholic Church has lived with these rules for 10-12 years, depending upon the state, that they were acceptable to the Church for the Affordable Care Act implementation.
    There is an element of an “election year stunt” in all of this. A basic rule of litigation is that the controversy brought to the court must be “ripe” for the Court’s review. In light of the fact that the comment period is in fact still open, the basic test of “ripeness” is not being met. This would make the cases not only stunts, but very large wastes of money. Although it has been suggested that the bishops work with the government for a solution, I believe that the bishops prefer playing “martyr”. They are far more vocal about their rallying cry of assault on religious freedom that they have been on the sexual abuse cases, and they have all stood silent while the hugely scandalous trial in Philadelphia has implicated even cardinals of that diocese. One only wishes that they showed a similar interest and compassion for life after birth as they do about life not only prior to birth, but even prior to conception.

  12. They have explained, “why they didn’t squawk” about similar legislation in States. In most of the States with similar rules, the Church has been able to self-insure–an avenue that is being block by the forthcoming legislation. Those States generally provided an out for the Church that the Federal Government is not providing.

  13. Deacon Steve says:

    These lawsuits are about much more than being forced to provide contraception and abortion. The bishops were told that there would be an excemption for Religious Institutions, which is turning out to not be the case. The Government is now deciding which groups are “religious” enough to qualify for the exemption. The way the Government is defining a religious group is so restrictive that most religious organizations are not qualifying for the exemption. Catholic Universities don’t qualifiy because they allow non-catholics students and faculty, Charitible organization don’t qualify because they are not run by the Church, but are only affiliated with the Church. All of a sudden the Government is deciding religious orthodoxy which is a clear violation of the Constitution since they are now resticting the free expression of religion.

  14. yawn

  15. I wonder if MLK would have consider his civil rights battle with southern Democrat Governors and legislatures to be characterized as a ‘spat’ or a righteous battle?

  16. RomCath:

    Why are you yawning?

  17. You lose all credibility when you bring up the sexual abuse scandal. You’re just a chronic Catholic basher. I won’t even yawn because it’s not even worth that much.

  18. Bill McG says:

    I think Peter and Drake make some good points.

  19. The sexual abuse scandal DID happen — the truth always has credibility. Nothing Catholic bashing about that.

  20. Manny:
    I wish that you had let RomCath speak for him/herself. But now that you have revealed your thinking, I suggest that you come to Philadelphia and maybe then you will understand that our U.S bishops have a long way to go to reestablish credibility.

    I do not think that you were referring to me as a chronic Catholic basher. But if that be the case after what I have written now, let me tell you that those who know me well would never say that about me and I am pretty sure that you have read enough of my comments on the Deacon’s Bench to not make a judgment like that about me.

  21. HMS, I was yawning because I am tired of the tripe that Drake and Peter constantly spew vs the Church and the Bishops.

  22. The sex abuse scandals have nada, nothing to do with the lawsuit on the mandate. Zip.

  23. I’m leaning toward “stunt.” I think if we hire non-Catholics, and accept non-Catholic spouses as parishioners, who’s to say we’re not right? We are the universal Church, after all.

    I’m still waiting for Cardinal Dolan to put his head together with Carl Anderson and come up with a medical insurance plan we can all live with. If the executive branch wants Catholics only, we run it that way. You can’t tell me that with tens of millions of Catholics and tens of thousands of Catholic medical providers, including hospitals, we can’t start up and run a system of medical care and insurance for our own. Fr McGivney must be pulling out harp strings watching this useless politicizing.

    Bishops prefer to play martyr? Maybe. These guys don’t seem smart or courageous enough to initiate something like the Catholic school system or the Catholic hospital network. They stand on the toes of the religious orders, the Knights, and previous bishops instead of on their shoulders.

  24. Barbara P. says:

    HMS – the USCCB would likely not have standing to maintain this action since they do not have “injury” since they are exempt from the mandate. I am not sure how the Diocese are claiming standing – perhaps through their schools etc. The only quote I saw regarding funding for the lawsuit was from one Bishop indicating that Jones Day was representing it pro bono but usually that means attorneys fees not other fees such such as filing, discovery, online research costs etc. It would be intersting to know if any party, whether or not a plaintiff, is paying legal fees and how much other legal business Jones Day gets from the Church and its various organizations and what the hourly rate is on other matters, if there are any.

  25. “I think if we hire non-Catholics, and accept non-Catholic spouses as parishioners, who’s to say we’re not right? We are the universal Church, after all.”

    If non-Catholics want to work at our institutions then they follow our rules. They can always look for work elsewhere. No one is forcing them to feed at our trough.

  26. Dolan’s the Man. He’s such a good PR guy. Kills ‘em with kindness and his jovial good nature. I wouldn’t in a million years be in his position, but solely for sake of posing a hypothetical: if that were me talking with Charlie and Erica, I’d ‘a given ‘em a piece of my mind and worded our beef with the administration in slightly more elevated tones. And that, of course, wouldn’t have done anybody any good.
    But Dolan. Man. Dolan’s cool as as cucumber.

    Talk about a guy I’d love to sit down and have a couple brews with.

  27. Catherine says:

    I agree that the constructive approach would be to create an insurance system of some kind. The numbers are there, as Todd notes. I just googled “Christian health insurance” and found a number of evangelical Christian health insurance funds. It can be done.

  28. Oregon Catholic says:

    This isn’t a proposed mandate. It goes into effect Aug 1, 2012. That means for all employers that are not specifically church affiliated. That means that many employers with religious/conscience objections will be forced to violate their beliefs or drop insurance coverage. The HHS has said it will not change it’s rule.

  29. I think it does if the group that files the suit based on a moral principle is the same group who violated that moral principle; the moral principle being a sexual practice deemed illicit by the Catholic Church. And in the sex abuse scandal cases there were cover-ups; more truth, more credibility for those critical of the lawsuits.

  30. Oregon Catholic says:

    Yes, Rick, it’s clear Peter and Drake are getting their talking points from the same groups. The fact that the Church self-insured and did not fight the state rules will work in their favor IMO. It will show, as Dolan stated, that they are fighting the gov intrusion into religion, not the issue of contraception. If the Fed had left them a way out through self-insuring none of this would be happening.

  31. Oregon Catholic says:

    The major drawback I see to a Catholic insurance fund is the employer piece. You can’t force an employer to offer it and without the employer’s contribution toward the insurance premium it will still be unaffordable for too many.

  32. Midwestlady says:

    You bet. And the USCCB is not the one to do this. The USCCB is only a conference, with no juridical power in canon or civil law–many people don’t know that.

    The individual Catholic venues like colleges and hospitals are the ones to do it, in partnership with law firms who specialize in this sort of stuff. And that’s exactly who’s doing the legal action. This is probably the most well-thought out thing the Catholic church has done in the USA in the last 50 years. It has to be. There’s a huge amount at stake.

  33. Midwestlady says:

    Yes, I’m sure there’s some coordinating going on from the USCCB, even if not direct legal action. We’re only at 5% of the global Catholic Church, but I bet somebody in Rome is breathing down somebody’s neck over this. It’s a startling and serious problem here.

  34. Midwestlady says:

    Absolutely true, oldestof9. That’s a great line from my protestant childhood, BTW. Here’s another one: God helps them that helps themselves.

    God doesn’t expect us to go limp when we get into trouble in the world. He expects us to “Pray as though everything depended on Him and act as if everything depended on us.” That’s not a protestant line. It’s St. Augustine.

  35. Midwestlady says:

    Old order Amish have an exemption from paying social security. Many of them don’t even have social security cards because it’s traditional in that culture to self-employ.

  36. Midwestlady says:

    Jake, this thread is about the lawsuits surrounding the HHS mandate. I think you’re in the wrong thread because you’re completely off-topic.

  37. Midwestlady says:


  38. Midwestlady says:

    Rick, which they’re not because pregnancy isn’t a disease and a baby isn’t a tumor to be removed.

  39. Midwestlady says:

    Then expect a lot of insurance plans to be dropped.

  40. Midwestlady says:


    Yes, and it’s high time the Church realized that the Democratic party has been doing the same thing to us that it does to the African-American population in the USA, taking it for granted and feeding it tawdry little scraps to keep it in line.

    There are an increasing number of African-Americans who are realizing that the Democratic party is the last plantation, the one they need to leave behind for their own good. They can decide for themselves what they want and they can achieve it. There is no reason they have to settle for second fiddle just because they are African-American.

    In a similar way, Catholics need to realize that for us, the Democratic party is the last immigrant barrio, and one we have to leave. Catholics have a right to believe as we wish. There is no reason we have to settle for second fiddle just because we’re Catholic.

  41. Midwestlady says:

    Absolutely correct.

  42. “I think it does if the group that files the suit based on a moral principle is the same group who violated that moral principle; the moral principle being a sexual practice deemed illicit by the Catholic Church. ”

    So Jake since you have violated some moral principle in your life at one point or another you have no right to lecture the Bishops about moral principles.

  43. midwest lady:

    “There are an increasing number of African-Americans who are realizing that the Democratic party is the last plantation, the one they need to leave behind for their own good.”

    Can you give us sources for your statement?

  44. friscoeddie says:

    You left out USCCB plea forTaco Bell..

  45. Really? What does that mean?

  46. Midwestlady says:

    West: I’ll lead you off ‘plantation’

    Election 2010 surprise: rise of black Republicans

    Some polling numbers: “Notably, even African-Americans, who have been a strong source of Democratic support, say in growing numbers they support the other party at least occasionally. More than half (54%) of Democratic blacks now say they sometimes support a GOP candidate, up from 40% in 1990.”

    National Black Republicans Association:

    What the Democratic Party has tried to obscure for years: MLK was a Black Conservative.

  47. Barbara P says:

    Does this mean we all get to join those exclusive Republican countryclubs?

  48. Steve G. says:

    I felt the same way about George W. Bush. But that didn’t make him right. Or a good president.
    By skewing the definition of religious liberty and spouting tired dogma instead of tolerance and common sense, Dolan risks losing his credibility and eventually his bully pulpit. With appearances like the one on CBS, he’ll be the equivalent of a Bill Donahue wearing a color, nothing more.

  49. Hope so

  50. “I do not think that you were referring to me as a chronic Catholic basher. ”

    No, you are just someone who constantly sides against the Bishops and Church teachings, supports abortionists, makes snide remarks against faithful Catholics who support the leaders of our faith, and drags the sex scandal into every conversation, whether it is relevant to the issue at hand or not.

  51. Quite frankly HMS, I would not stand in the same line for communion as you. You are worse than a Catholic Basher. You are like Kennedy, Biden and Sibelius; a traitor, a Judas. How dare anyone pat themselves on the back and say they support social justice, when they remain silent against the gravest INJUSTICE of all. How can Social Justice even exist when life has been denied?

    [Ray...I find this statement outrageous, unwarranted, un-Christian, spiteful, vindictive and baseless. I'm not in the mood to be the hall monitor tonight. Grow up. Leave a comment like that again and you're banned. DGK]

  52. LOL, I don’t belong to a country club, and I’ve been a Republican for just about my whole adult life. ;)

  53. No I would not call you a chronic Catholic basher. I find you a sincere Catholic, though I can’t always keep straight the various personalities here. I am with you in saying the sex abuse scandal were (and still are) horrible and disgraceful. But to bring it up when the issue at hand has nothing to do with sex abuse is reaching for a cheap shot. It’s a low blow and irrelevant. It shows a character who is looking to smear rather than debate.

  54. Well stated RomCath.

  55. None of those characterizations seem to fit HMS in my observation.

  56. Here’s the deal: we completely remove health insurance from employment. No reason for it to be connected.

  57. Barbara P says:

    HMS I have read many of your comments and I think that Ray’s comments are mean, outrageous and wrong. Your comments have always shown you to be a faithful Catholic that loves the Church. I can hear how much you, like so many of us, have been hurt by the sex abuse scandal and the Bishops’ coverup of the rape of children. The Bishops have lost a great deal of credibility and have a long way to go to regain that credibility in the eyes of many Catholics and Americans. The stain of this evil colors all their actions in the public square. That is the situation they created.

  58. Joe Mc. Faul says:

    I agree with those commentators that suggest the bishops have no moral authotity to speak. They are bleeding from self-inflicted wounds. There is only one very simple problem that the bishops need to solve. An intelligent eighth grader could solve that problem. The problem is how to not commit crimes when dealing with reports of clergy sex abuse. We currently have two dioceses that are involved in criminal actions and both engaged in destruction of evidence.

    Not a single bishop has spoken out about this disregard for justice. Until bishops can handle the easy ones (don’t commit crimes) I hvave no confidence in their ability to handle complex matters. Catholic bishops have done more to strangle the Church in The US than 10 presidents.

    The bishops are “wagging the dog.”

  59. naturgesetz says:

    Complete illogic, as well as rejection of Catholic faith concerning the office of bishop.

  60. Come on Barbara, which Bishops? Treat people as individuals. I can say that because John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton all cheated on their wives while in the White House that all Democrat presidents lose credibility when it comes to healthcare or war or the budget. The stain of Democratic presidents colors the actions of all of them? That’s as silly as what you just said about the Bishops.

  61. Perhaps you ought to find a nice protestant denomination to go to, if that makes you feel better.

  62. “Not a single bishop has spoken out about this disregard for justice.”

    Why would a Bishop of a diocese be required to speak out about what happened in another diocese? For what purpose? To connect the abuse issue to the HHS issue is stupid. To say that the BIshops have no moral authority to speak on moral issues is dumber. If they don’t who will?

  63. “Why would a Bishop of a diocese be required to speak out about what happened in another diocese?”

    For openers, one would hope that the other bishops are individually persons concerned about the Catholic Church being implicated in criminal activity in such a great many dioceses. Also, one would hope that the bishops are also loyal Americans and good citizens. We do this sort of thing as Americans, preferring not to take the ostrich approach to major problems and issues. We speak up, we seek truth, and we look for solutions. With so many dioceses implicated in the various scandals, collectively the bishops have in fact lost a great deal of their moral authority not only among non-catholics, but also within the church. The bishops need to work hard to regain it, and it will take many years of consistent effort, transparency about a great many things that are traditionally secrets in the chancery. The NY Times is doing a fair job in covering the current criminal trials concerning the archdiocese of Philadelphia, and totally implicating cardinals. Why have not the bishops called out the several bishops who have not implemented the voluntary guidelines for protecting children adopted by the bishops conference? Has the bishop in Lincoln, Nebraska finally accepted these? I think that he had been a hold -out. I also think that any group of men collectively responsible for loosing billions of dollars of our donations in court awards and settlements for their mishandling and wrong-headed approach to the problems looses credibility automatically. The Vatican apparently has no requirement of competence for the job of bishop. In the real world, people in leadership positions who so mishandle situations are normally swiftly replaced, or have the decency to resign.

  64. I tend to agree with Catherine above, the church should create its own insurance plans – as the K of C did with life insurance. I think that it would be a better use of legal fees to explore that option. It strikes me that the problem is that the church has been taking money from the feds and the adage about he pays the piper comes to mind.
    I am not a lawyer, nor am I bashing the bishops, but to me this is trying to have your cake and eat it to. Perhaps it is time to examine what solidarity means as well as look at subsidarity. JPII talked about a culture of life and what better way to demonstrate the power of that culture than to begin to create a way to support it, sans government interference?

  65. Catherine says:

    I agree with that. We are the only country that provides insurance this way. And this kind of fight hasn’t occurred in any other country that I’m aware of.

  66. Catherine says:

    Well put, Andy.

  67. Catherine says:

    I think the point that several of us have been trying to make is that the bishops may well have the authority to speak on moral issues in terms of Catholic teaching, but that very few people in the US are likely to listen to them at the moment, largely due to the abuse crisis. In other words, commenters are trying to make a practical point about the bishops’ credibility in the public square at the present moment, not undermine Catholic teaching.

  68. joe mc faul says:


    I am Catholic. I hae received five of the sacramentes. If you find my presence in the Churhc personally repluslive, then you leave. You’ll probably find a denomination that shares your understanding of charity and protestant outlook on swtiching churches. If you chose to stay, I’d recommend reading Lumen Gentium.

    Here’s some relevant passages:

    The laity have the right, as do all Christians, to receive in abundance from their spiritual shepherds the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the assistance of the word of God and of the sacraments. They should openly reveal to them their needs and desires with that freedom and confidence which is fitting for children of God and brothers in Christ. They are, by reason of the knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy, permitted and sometimes even obliged to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the Church.

    Let the spiritual shepherds recognize and promote the dignity as well as the responsibility of the laity in the Church. Let them willingly employ their prudent advice.

    My advice to the bishops for the good of the Church: Your incompetent and often criminal repsonse to the widespread clergy abuse crisis robs you of all ability to be persuasive in the public square about the loss of “religious liberty.” As a result of your collective actions, a large number of criminal actions have been commenced agaisnt dioceses which agreed to be under the supervision of various secular courts. When you understand the gravity of yoru collective failures and demonsrtate ability or willingness to manage the problem, your message will be much better received.

    It is very difficult to plausible argue that anybody else is strangling the church when the bishops have already handled over supervision to secular authorities.

    The bishops are certainly entittled to reject my advice and I could be wrong–but I have the right and the duty to make my views known.

  69. Catherine says:

    I just spotted this article by E.J. Dionne, who claims that the bishops are not all on the same page about the lawsuits:

  70. You didn’t give advice. You denigraded the whole institution of the Bishops. I’m not telling you to leave. Just suggesting that if you don’t like the Catholic Church (and the Bishops are actually the core of the Church) then you should find something that makes you comfortable.

  71. joe mc faul says:

    Criticizing the frequently criminal performance of a group of office holders’ is not criticizing the office itself. I reject any suggestion that the Bishops are the core of the Church–that again is a somewhat protestant view of Christian orgazational structures. The Catechism teaches that the “Church” is the People of God. CCC 781-782. I am a member of the Church as much as any Bishop who is also a member and entiteld and even required, as noted above, to criticize

    Religion is not intended to be “confortable,” so your suggestion to find a “comfortable” religion is made from a protestant mindset. I’d rather work to reform the managerial procedures inthe One True Church than find some thing that is comfortable.

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