Cardinal Dolan on Obama Mandate: “We will tirelessly defend the timeless and enduring truth of religious freedom”

By Dave Andrusko

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sent out a press release Friday that brought attention to a letter sent by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to his fellow bishops. (The full letter can be found at

The flavor of the March 2 letter is captured in the headline of the release: “Cardinal Dolan Voices Dismay at Handling by White House in Letter updating Bishops on HHS mandate controversy.” Here are excerpts of some of the many pertinent points made in Cardinal Dolan’s letter found in the release:

Given church concerns about religious freedom, Cardinal Dolan wrote, “the President invited us to ‘work out the wrinkles.’  We have accepted that invitation.  Unfortunately, this seems to be stalled: the White House Press Secretary, for instance, informed the nation that the mandates are a fait accompli (and, embarrassingly for him, commented that we bishops have always opposed Health Care anyway, a charge that is scurrilous and insulting, not to mention flat out wrong.”)

Cardinal Dolan also said that “The White House already notified Congress that the dreaded mandates are now published in the Federal Registry ‘without change.’ He added that “The Secretary of HHS is widely quoted as saying, ‘Religious insurance companies don’t really design the plans they sell based on their own religious tenets.’ That doesn’t bode well for their getting a truly acceptable “accommodation.”

Cardinal Dolan also described a recent meeting at the White House between bishops’ conference staff and White House staff, and said “our staff members asked directly whether the broader concerns of religious freedom- – that is, revisiting the straight-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemption–are all off the table.  They were informed that they are.  So much for ‘working out the wrinkles.’  Instead, they advised the bishops’ conference that we should listen to the ‘enlightened’ voices of accommodation, such as the recent, hardly surprising yet terribly unfortunate editorial in America.” [America is a Catholic publication which sharply criticized the Bishops over their response to the Obama mandate.]

“The White House seems to think we bishops simply do not know or understand Catholic teaching and so, taking a cue from its own definition of religious freedom, now has nominated its own handpicked official Catholic teachers.”

Cardinal Dolan also said  “We will continue to accept invitations to meet with and to voice our concerns to anyone of any party, for this is hardly partisan, who is willing to correct the infringements on religious freedom that we are now under.  But as we do so, we cannot rely on off the record promises of fixes without deadlines and without assurances of proposals that will concretely address the concerns in a manner that does not conflict with our principles and teaching.”

He added that “Congress might provide more hope, since thoughtful elected officials have proposed legislation to protect what should be so obvious: religious freedom. …  Our commitment to seeking legislative remedies remains strong.  And it is about remedies to the assault on religious freedom.  Period.”

Cardinal Dolan warned the bishops that “given this climate, we have to prepare for tough times. …

Cardinal Dolan added that “we know so very well that religious freedom is our heritage, our legacy and our firm belief, both as loyal Catholics and Americans.  There have been many threats to religious freedom over the decades and years, but these often came from without.  This one sadly comes from within.  As our ancestors did with previous threats, we will tirelessly defend the timeless and enduring truth of religious freedom.”