Cardinal Dolan: “We did not ask for this fight, but we will not run from it”

By Dave Andrusko

Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Yesterday we talked about a letter sent by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to his fellow bishops, updating them on the “progress” (actually, lack thereof) dealing with the Obama Administration on its mandate. As you recall, the edict from the Department of Health and Human Services still compels virtually all employers (religious, religiously-affiliated, or otherwise) to pay for services they regard as morally objectionable.

We quoted from the letter, but on reflection it was clear there were more of Cardinal Dolan’s insights that should be shared.

· In the first sentence of the letter, sent March 2, Cardinal Dolan says what this battle is about: “protect[ing] our religious freedom from unprecedented intrusion from a government bureau, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).” Taking dead aim at “this bureaucratic intrusion into the internal life of the church,” Dolan writes, “We did not ask for this fight, but we will not run from it.”

· As much as the Obama Administration would like to paint this as a fight between HHS and the Catholic Church, Dolan shows that breadth opposition belies such a clichéd answer. “We are grateful to know so many of our fellow Americans, especially our friends in the ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, stand together in this important moment in our country.” They know what this about: “It’s about religious freedom, the sacred right of any Church to define its own teaching and ministry.”

· He writes that the USCCB withheld an immediate response to the President’s  “accommodation,” only to quickly discover that  “In many ways, the announcement of February 10 solved little and complicated a lot. We now have more questions than answers, more confusion than clarity.” For example, “For one, there was not even a nod to the deeper concerns about trespassing upon religious freedom, or of modifying the HHS’’ attempt to define the how and who of our ministry. Two, since a big part of our ministries are “self-insured,” we still ask how this protects us. We’ll still have to pay and, in addition to that, we’ll still have to maintain in our policies practices which our Church has consistently taught are grave wrongs in which we cannot participate.”

· Cardinal Dolan spoke of 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.]

· Cardinal Dolan warns, “Given this climate, we have to prepare for tough times.”  He concludes, “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.”

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