A “Recalibration” of the Fight Against The HHS Mandate? Possibly An Announcement Soon UPDATED

A “Recalibration” of the Fight Against The HHS Mandate? Possibly An Announcement Soon UPDATED March 14, 2012

Rocco Palmo of the Whispers in the Loggia blog tweeted that an announcement broadening the front in the fight for religious freedom may be in the cards for as early as later today.

As USCCB Admin meet enters homestretch, Dolan-led body of top bishops likely to issue significant statement on religious liberty later today.

Stay tuned. Stephanie Simon of Reuters wrote yesterday,

There are no indications that the bishops will drop their fight against the federal mandate. But dozens of bishops, meeting this week in Washington, are likely to discuss concerns that their battle against the Obama administration over birth control risks being viewed by the public as narrow and partisan and thus diminishes the church’s moral authority, the sources said.

“They’re going to have to look at not just what their moral theology tells them they should do, but at what political reality tells them,” said Thomas Reese, a Catholic priest and Georgetown University scholar who has written extensively about the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “These are strategic and tactical questions.”

One sign of a coming recalibration: A sweeping statement on religious liberty, now circulating in draft form, that aims to broaden the bishops’ focus far beyond the contraception mandate.

The draft statement, slated to be released soon to a burst of publicity, condemns an array of local, state and federal policies as violations of religious freedom, said Martin Nussbaum, a private attorney who has consulted with the bishops.

Read the rest, though some of the information she presents, like polling data, conflicts with more recent polls on what folks think about the HHS Mandate. Like this one showing that a majority favor letting religious organization be exempt. Of course, poll data can be tortured to tell you whatever you’d like to hear, so caveat emptor.

Bruce Gibson, over at Religion News Service, posted an interesting piece two days ago in which he interviewed Bishop William Lori.

The Catholic bishop leading the push against the White House’s contraception mandate says the bishops hope to restart contentious talks with the Obama administration, but cautioned that church leaders “have gotten mixed signals from the administration” and the situation “is very fluid.”

…Many bishops are upset with Catholic groups that have dealt independently with the administration, and some have also accused the administration of trying to divide the church.

“I think the hardest thing is that the administration deals with us in a segmented way,” said Lori, who has testified before Congress three times in opposition to the mandate.

“If there is really going to be a solution to things, we ought to all be in the room,” he said.

Lori said the bishops “do not have a monopoly on the church” but are nonetheless “responsible for a large part of how this works and for the Catholicity of all the institutions. So there ought to be an attempt to have an inclusive conversation with the Catholic Church, and not a segmented one. And I think that is in part why we are in a fairly unhappy spot right now.”

Lori and some 40 other leading bishops will meet in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday (March 13-14) for discussions expected to focus on relations with the White House and, in particular, the contraception mandate.

Lori said that the bishops “are not looking for a fight with the administration.” The bishops, he said, “are painfully aware that it is awfully difficult, in an election year and in the culture we have now, to have that conversation” about birth control.

“Are we doing it perfectly? No, of course not. But that’s certainly our intent.”

You can find the rest of that interview here.

As Bishop Lori said, the situation is indeed “fluid.” In yesterday’s mass readings, Azariah (aka Abednego) was confronted with a, ahem, fluid situation too, along with his friends Shadrach and Meshach. He lifted his hands in prayer, while in the fire.

UPDATES: Mary Matalin: Fighting Obama’s HHS mandate ‘is moral to me’


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