Speaking from Rome, where he will be made a cardinal this weekend, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan told the National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen that the US bishops are not “Obama haters” and that he still sees “a little glimmer of hope” that a solution to the on-going controversy over the Obama administration’s contraception mandates for health insurers can be reached. But Dolan also said that the “accommodation” announced by the president on Friday “raises more questions than it gives answers” and “raises an alarm about the overriding philosophical question about what right a bureau of the federal government has to tell a church how to define what it’s going to do…which is scary and chilling for any thoughtful American.”
From Allen’s interview:
Having studied it, are you still convinced that the change announced by the Obama administration to the insurance mandates is unacceptable?
I am convinced of that. That doesn’t dull the truth of the initial openness to a possible glimmer of hope that we saw in the beginning. … I’m still trying to keep that little flicker alive. …
What’s threatening to suffocate and extinguish that flicker of hope is the fact, first of all, that the so-called mitigation he announced raises more questions than it gives answers. For example, what about the self-insured? What about individuals? … [T]he other thing that threatens to put out this little flicker of hope is that now senior officials, including his chief of staff, have said that it’s over, there will be no more moderation. That doesn’t gel with what the president has said publicly and what he’s said to me personally.
I’m not ready to give up hope, but upon the further study that we bishops promised we would give of the president’s announcement, we don’t think it does it.
Do you believe that Obama is waging a war on religion?
I don’t want to believe that. I find myself agreeing with many of President Obama’s policies. I find myself believing him when he assures me that he has the highest regard for the work of the church, especially in health care, education, and works of peace, charity and justice. I want to believe him when he says he wants this administration to do nothing to impede that good work, and that he considers the protection of conscience and freedom of religion to be one of the highest calls that he has as president, to protect the constitution. I want to believe him. I have to say that sometimes he makes it hard to believe him, but I will not place myself or my brother bishops in the camp of Obama-haters, because we’re not.
On the Catholic Health Association, and its stated support for the president’s revised policy:
When Obama announced the revision, the Catholic Health Association quickly supported it. Were you disappointed by that?
I would have to say I was disappointed. I have high regard personally for Sr. Carol [Keehan, head of the Catholic Health Association]. I’ve worked with her, I hope we can continue to do that, and I have a lot of respect for the Catholic Health Association. I was disappointed. Some people have said that the bishops don’t want anybody in conversation with the White House besides themselves, but that’s not true. I’m thrilled that Sr. Carol has an entrée, and that she’s making the Catholic voice heard. My disappointment is that she made an announcement that was pretty much popping the champagne cork before we could even respond. …
I haven’t had the honor of a conversation with her, though I have let her know of my disappointment in writing. I look forward to meeting with her personally. I have been led to believe by people that have spoken with her and other organizations that although they might see a bit more hope than we bishops do, they also, after the dust has settled, have serious reservations and continuing questions.
The full interview with Archbishop Dolan can be read here.
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