By Dave Andrusko
Would I love to read the full transcript of an interview that Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), gave the Associated Press Tuesday. But even lacking the full context, there are plenty enough nuggets so you don’t have to dig very far to conclude that Dolan is deeply skeptical of what the AP characterized as “a compromise by President Barack Obama to his healthcare mandate that now exempts religiously affiliated institutions from paying directly for birth control for their workers, instead making insurance companies responsible.”
Dolan was in Rome where on Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI will make Dolan and 20 other bishops cardinals.
Let’s take several of Dolan’s comments, one by one.
· Most important was this remarkably frank admission: “I want to take him at his word,” but “’I do have to say it’s getting harder and harder,’ to believe Obama’s claim to prioritize religious freedom issues given the latest controversy.” Later he poses a question and then answers it: “Was what was intended to be a concession, and what gave us a glimmer of hope at the beginning … really just amount to a hill of beans? And it seems as if it does.”
(One part of the explanation for that conclusion may be that the Obama Administration tried to bamboozle the USCCB and many others, which worked for about 15 minutes, and which has left a bitter taste.)
· Yesterday, the White House termed legislation to protect conscience rights “dangerous and wrong.” AP paraphrased Dolan as “vow[ing] to support legislation under way in Congress that would allow any employer to deny birth control coverage if it runs counter to their religious or moral beliefs.” Dolan said the bishops would work hard, adding, “I couldn’t see why the president would have any consternation, because he said to me that religious freedom remains sacrosanct. Well, let’s legislatively guarantee it.”
· One of the many, many scary features of the Obama proposal—the original and mandate 2.0—is that his Administration aggrandizes the authority to decide which institutions would qualify as “religious.” In the interview Dolan asked, “Does the federal government have the right to tell a religious individual or a religious entity how to define yourself?” This, he said, “is what gives us greater chill.”
· Finally, according to the AP, “Separately, he said, the bishops will back court challenges to the mandate being undertaken by others.”
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