After a lecture Tuesday evening on "Law and the Gospel of Life" at Fordham Law School, I asked New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan about his reaction to President Obama's decision on the contraception mandate -- a decision which seemed to run decidedly counter to the impression Obama had left with the archbishop after their Oval Office meeting last November. From my RNS write-up:
"The president seemed very earnest [in November], he said he considered the protection of conscience sacred, that he didn't want anything his administration would do to impede the work of the church that he claimed he held in high regard," Dolan recalled on Tuesday. "So I did leave a little buoyant."That optimism ended last Friday, however, when Obama phoned Dolan to tell him that he was not expanding the conscience exemption to include religious institutions -- such as Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies. In a bid to appease critics like Dolan, the White House gave church organizations an extra year to find a way to comply with the mandate that all health insurance plans provide free contraceptive coverage."I had to share with him that I was terribly let down, disappointed and disturbed, and it seemed the news he had given me was difficult to square with the confidence I had felt in November," Dolan said.
Understandable, I think, given the grief Dolan could now face from bishops who want to take a harder line with the administration.But not to worry! As my RNS colleague, Lauren Markoe reports, the White House yesterday honored Catholic teachers. All good. Right?
"Irony is the word of the day," said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Ouch.UPDATE: BTW, the nine educators (one of them a student and educator) got shafted as their stories and their cause got swamped by the political controversy. I have a blog post on them over at RNS.