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On Monday, 43 Roman Catholic organizations filed lawsuits in a dozen different federal courts, challenging the Obama administration’s mandate requiring insurance coverage for “preventive health services” inimical to their faith. The litigation represents the latest stage of a battle that began January 20th, when the administration announced that the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would require Catholic institutions and individual Catholic employers to provide contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs to all of their employees. The Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services Departments are being sued by Jones Day, a law firm representing all the plaintiffs pro bono. “We have tried negotiations with the administration and legislation with the Congress — and we’ll keep at it — but there’s still no fix,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan in a statement.
Cardinal Dolan further illuminated the Church’s position on “CBS This Morning” yesterday. “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?”
Perhaps the best answer to that question would be Friday, February 10th, when the administration claimed they would “accommodate” Catholic concerns with a “compromise,” whereby insurance providers would provide coverage for the disputed services. It was initially well received by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who called it “a first step in the right direction.” Twenty-four hours later the compromise was rejected. “In the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer’s plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This, too, raises serious moral concerns,” the Bishops decided.
At that juncture, the administration managed to peel away some of the more left-leaning Catholic organizations, such as Catholic Charities, the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals across the country, as well as individual Catholic Democrats and other liberals who applauded the ostensible compromise. James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, a liberal advocacy group aligned with the administration, castigated the bishops, whose “blanket opposition appears to serve the interests of a political agenda, not the needs of the American people.” Apparently for Mr. Salt and other like-minded thinkers, it is Catholics who have a political agenda, not a federal government that mandates that they violate their religious beliefs.
During the next phase of the battle, a hopelessly compromised mainstream media not only took the Obama administration’s side on the issue, but amplified it into a “war on women.” A Washington Post column by Sally Quinn claimed “Jesus would be rolling over in his grave if he hadn’t already left it,” because Vatican bishops issued a report critical of nuns who aligned themselves with President Obama on the issue of birth control mandates. The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd was equally apoplectic. “It has become a habit for the church to go after women,” she wrote, further noting that church leadership “never recoiled in horror from pedophilia, yet it recoils in horror from outspoken nuns.” OpEdNews columnist Gregory Paul contended that “the Catholic patriarchy is engaged in a global conspiracy to deny women their reproductive rights.”
The common thread? Like so many progressives, these three and countless others believe the Church should accommodate a “more enlightened” (read progressive) ideology, even where that ideology is utterly antithetical to Catholic tenets. For genuine Catholics, that kind of reasoning is exactly backwards. Yet it is precisely this same backward reasoning that animates an Obama administration willing to “negotiate” its way around that part of the First Amendment that doesn’t fully “accommodate” ObamaCare.
Soon after that, the Catholic war on women became the Republican war on women. A Georgetown law student named Sandra Fluke got her 15 minutes of fame bemoaning the fact that the Catholic university didn’t provide her and her classmates with free birth control, further arguing that free contraceptives were “a natural human right.” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius accused Republicans of wanting to “roll back the last 50 years in progress women have made in comprehensive health care in America.” Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) trolled for campaign donations to counter Republicans’ “unprecedented assault on women’s rights.”
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