Abp. Dolan: “…the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

Do you think it is a coincidence that this is happening immediately prior to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade? As reported by TheHill.com:

Most healthcare plans will be required to cover birth control without charging co-pays or deductibles starting Aug. 1, the Obama administration announced Friday.

The final regulation retains the approach federal health officials proposed last summer, despite the deluge of complaints from religious groups and congressional Republicans that has poured in since then. Churches, synagogues and other houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, but religious-affiliated hospitals and universities only get a one-year delay and must comply by Aug. 1, 2013.

“This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”

The “balance” being along the lines of “Heads we win, tails you lose”?

The provision has attracted more than 200,000 comments, HHS said — most of them in favor of access to birth control, which the vast majority of healthcare plans already cover. Some religious institutions, however, said they would sooner close their doors than cover birth control, which they liken to abortion in some cases.

“What war and disease could not do to the congregation, the government of the United States will do,” Nashville’s Dominican congregation said. “It will shut them down.”

The dealers of death, of course, trumpet the decision as yet another step toward the Promised Land of Choice Without Consequences:

Abortion-rights groups immediately applauded the decision.

“Birth control is not just basic health care for women, it is an economic concern,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “This common sense decision means that millions of women, who would otherwise pay $15 to $50 a month, will have access to affordable birth control, helping them save hundreds of dollars each year.”

And Nancy Keegan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, praised the administration for standing “firm against intensive lobbying efforts from anti-birth-control organizations trying to expand the refusal option even further to allow organizations and corporations to deny their employees contraceptive coverage.

Cardinal-to-be Timothy Dolan of New York was blunt in his response, as reported by CatholicVote.org:

This morning President Obama called New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan to break the news.

Secretary of Health and Human Services and pro-abortion Catholic Kathleen Sebelius just announced that the proposed mandate requiring all insurance plans to pay for contraception, sterilization and some abortion drugs is official — and Catholics cannot escape.

…and the fig-leaf exemption for religious groups will not be modified, apart from allowing some groups an additional year to comply.

Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan responded minutes ago, saying: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

Exactly right. But recall that it was only a three months ago that Abp. Dolan had said, after meeting with Pres. Obama, that he felt “a bit more at peace [about religious liberty] than when I entered” and that he believed the president to be “very open to the sensitivities” of Catholics about religious liberty. But before anyone criticizes the Archbishop for being played by the POTUS, ask yourself, “Who hasn’t he played?” The list is short. The CatholicVote.org piece continues:

Beginning August 1, 2012 (less than eight months from today), the insurance premiums we pay, including the insurance premiums paid by Catholics for employees of churches and schools — will be used to cover drugs and procedures that are in direct conflict with the teachings of our Church.

That’s right. Our government will now force us to pay for insurance coverage for birth control, sterilization and even some abortion drugs.

President Obama ignored the organized efforts of Catholics across the country, including bold statements from the Bishops, university presidents (including Notre Dame’s Rev. Jenkins), and even his Catholic allies like Sr. Carol Keehan.

Instead, President Obama stood with his real friends — Planned Parenthood.

As you might recall, it was primarily orthodox Catholics and conservative Evangelicals who kept saying during the last presidential campaign that then-Sen. Obama’s record revealed a man with an unswerving, ideological obsession with making access to contraceptives and abortion available to just about anyone, anytime, anywhere—and on the taxpayers’ dime. Yet it is those very folks who are continually painted as the extremists and the rigid zealots, blinded by their religious faith. But, really, who are the extremists and zealots here? How much physical, familial, cultural, social, and spiritual damage must take place before the scales fall from the eyes of those who want a drug for every problem, an excuse for every sin, and the government’s heavy hand at every turn in the road of life? As Phil Lawler noted in a recent essay about “same-sex marriage”:

Since our society embraced the routine use of contraception, the damage to the family—and thus to all of American society—has been far more devastating than anything Al Qaida could have imagined. And while we have arguably made great progress in the war against terrorism, the casualties of the sexual revolution continue to pile up, and the assault on the family is intensifying.

For proof of that, we need look no further than the next question in that New Hampshire debate. Following up on the line of questioning by Stephanopoulos, Diane Sawyer asked for the candidates’ thoughts on same-sex marriage. But rather than pose the question directly, Sawyer eased into the issue with a smarmy introduction. Rather than continue talking about constitutional issues, she said, she wanted the candidates to talk about a “real” issue—the sort of issue that people talk about at home. (She thereby seemed to dismiss the Constitution as a “real” issue, or one that ordinary Americans could be expected to discuss. The authors—and original readers—of the The Federalist Paper were spinning in their graves.) That issue, Sawyer said, is how same-sex couples could form stable, lasting relationships without the benefit of legal marriage.

As William McGurn noticed in his Wall Street Journal essay, Sawyer’s line of questioning had the same purpose as Stephanopoulos’s: to help pigeonhole Republican candidates as extremists. After all, who would dare to say anything negative about those nice homosexual couples, who want nothing more than to live a quiet suburban life? Thus the question was framed in the terms most favorable to the gay-rights movement, and defenders of marriage were on the defensive.

Sebelius, who has now replaced Nancy Pelosi as the face of those are Catholic Without Catholicism or a Conscience, said in her statement, “We will continue to work closely with religious groups during this transitional period to discuss their concerns.” Right. And contraceptives are like little bits of candy that magically make women healthy, wealthy, and wise. Abp. Dolan is entirely correct, and his point echoes the remarks made by Benedict XVI a few days ago in his ad limina visit with bishops from the Washington, D.C., area:

In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-À-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.

The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. The Pope gets it. Abp. Dolan gets it now. Many other bishops do as well. But, sadly, many Catholics simply don’t, or simply don’t care. 2012 is going to be a most interesting and challenging year.

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About Carl E. Olson 1197 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.