Today, Cardinal Timothy Dolan released a statement outlining the USCCB’s objections to the Obama administration’s revision of the revision of the contraception mandate. The new rule scotches the previous iteration’s much-maligned four-part definition of “religious employer,” and proposes arrangements to make sure religious employers — including colleges, hospitals, and charities — won’t have to pay for or refer for contraception coverage in their employee health plans. In other words, the Department of Health and Human Services listened to its critics and attempted to allay their concerns. As the editors of Commonweal put it, “This will do.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops disagrees.
First, a word of praise for the tone of Cardinal Dolan’s statement. It avoids the hyperbolic rhetoric that has characterized this debate for far too long. The cardinal states that the bishops are open to further discussion. He acknowledges that the Obama administration “has heard some previously expressed concerns and that it is open to dialogue,” and promises “additional, careful study.” He notes that the new proposal does away with the “exceedingly narrow” definition of “religious employer,” which, the bishops claimed, “created a ‘second class’ of citizenship within our religious community” — subordinating Catholic charities to Catholic parishes. But apparently that’s not enough for the bishops. Read the rest of this entry »