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Obama fixes contraception mandate. (updated)

President Obama has announced a major revision of the mandate requiring employers to provide contraception coverage in employee health plans. Under the new rule, senior administration officials confirmed, no religious institution will have to pay for health-insurance plans that include contraception coverage. Not houses of worship, not parish schools, not universities, not hospitals, not charitable organizations.The outline of the new rule is fairly simple. Nonprofit religious institutions that do not fall within the narrow religious exemption will not have to offer employee health plans that cover contraception. Instead, the employer's insurance company will have to contact employees directly and offer contraception coverage at no cost. (Religious organizations that primarily employ and serve co-religionists, and whose mission is primarily to inculcate its values, will not be covered by this new arrangement.)

Why would insurers agree to provide contraception services for free? Because, actuarially, it seems to make financial sense. The average pregnancy costs roughly $12,000. Enrollees who use contraception are cheaper to cover.

The revised ruling seems to have satisfied both Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, who had criticized the original ruling, and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, both of whom made statements praising the revised policy.Given that religious institutions will not have to pay for policies that include contraception, and they there is no requirement that they refer employees for such services, the new policy directly addresses the legitimate objections raised by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.We'll see. More details as they come throughout the day.

Updates: USCCB press release:

"While there may be an openness to respond to some of our concerns, we reserve judgment on the details until we have them," said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of USCCB. "The past three weeks have witnessed a remarkable unity of Americans from all religions or none at all worried about the erosion of religious freedom and governmental intrusion into issues of faith and morals," he said.

"Today's decision to revise how individuals obtain services that are morally objectionable to religious entities and people of faith is a first step in the right direction," Cardinal-designate Dolan said. "We hope to work with the Administration to guarantee that Americans consciences and our religious freedom are not harmed by these regulations."
 

Statement from Sr. Keehan:

The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions. The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed.We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished. The unity of Catholic organizations in addressing this concern was a sign of its importance.This difference has at times been uncomfortable but it has helped our country sort through an issue that has been important throughout the history of our great democracy.The Catholic Health Association remains committed to working with the Administration and others to fully implement the Affordable Care Act to extend comprehensive and quality health care to many who suffer today from the lack of it.

President Obama's remarks:

As part of the health care reform law that I signed last year, all insurance plans are required to cover preventive care at no cost. That means free check-ups, free mammograms, immunizations and other basic services. We fought for this because it saves lives and it saves money - for families, for businesses, for government, for everybody. That's because its a lot cheaper to prevent an illness than to treat one.

We also accepted a recommendation from the experts at the Institute of Medicine that when it comes to women, preventive care should include coverage of contraceptive services such as birth control. In addition to family planning, doctors often prescribe contraception as a way to reduce the risks of ovarian and other cancers, and treat a variety of different ailments. And we know that the overall cost of health care is lower when women have access to contraceptive services.

Nearly 99 percent of all women have relied on contraception at some point in their lives - 99 percent. And yet, more than half of all women between the ages of 18 and 34 have struggled to afford it. So for all these reasons, we decided to follow the judgment of the nations leading medical experts and make sure that free preventive care includes access to free contraceptive care.

Whether you're a teacher, or a small businesswoman, or a nurse, or a janitor, no woman's health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes. Every woman should be in control of the decisions that affect her own health. Period. This basic principle is already the law in 28 states across the country.

Now, as we move to implement this rule, however, we've been mindful that there's another principle at stake here - and thats the principle of religious liberty, an inalienable right that is enshrined in our Constitution. As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right. In fact, my first job in Chicago was working with Catholic parishes in poor neighborhoods, and my salary was funded by a grant from an arm of the Catholic Church. And I saw that local churches often did more good for a community than a government program ever could, so I know how important the work that faith-based organizations do and how much impact they can have in their communities. I also know that some religious institutions - particularly those affiliated with the Catholic Church - have a religious objection to directly providing insurance that covers contraceptive services for their employees. And that's why we originally exempted all churches from this requirement - an exemption, by the way, that eight states didn't already have. And that's why, from the very beginning of this process, I spoke directly to various Catholic officials, and I promised that before finalizing the rule as it applied to them, we would spend the next year working with institutions like Catholic hospitals and Catholic universities to find an equitable solution that protects religious liberty and ensures that every woman has access to the care that she needs.

Now, after the many genuine concerns that have been raised over the last few weeks, as well as, frankly, the more cynical desire on the part of some to make this into a political football, it became clear that spending months hammering out a solution was not going to be an option, that we needed to move this faster. So last week, I directed the Department of Health and Human Services to speed up the process that had already been envisioned. We weren't going to spend a year doing this; we're going to spend a week or two doing this.Today, we've reached a decision on how to move forward. Under the rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services - no matter where they work. So that core principle remains. But if a woman's employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company - not the hospital, not the charity - will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.The result will be that religious organizations wont have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly. Let me repeat: These employers will not have to pay for, or provide, contraceptive services. But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services, just like other women, and they'll no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could go towards paying the rent or buying groceries.

Now, I've been confident from the start that we could work out a sensible approach here, just as I promised. I understand some folks in Washington may want to treat this as another political wedge issue, but it shouldn't be. I certainly never saw it that way. This is an issue where people of goodwill on both sides of the debate have been sorting through some very complicated questions to find a solution that works for everyone. With today's announcement, we've done that. Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women.We live in a pluralistic society where we're not going to agree on every single issue, or share every belief. That doesn't mean that we have to choose between individual liberty and basic fairness for all Americans. We are unique among nations for having been founded upon both these principles, and our obligation as citizens is to carry them forward. I have complete faith that we can do that. Thank you very much, everybody.

E. J. Dionne reports Catholic Charities USA is pleased with the new ruling:

"Catholic Charities USA welcomes the Administration's attempt to meet the concerns of the religious community and we look forward to reviewing the final language," the group said. "We are hopeful that this is a step in the right direction and are committed to continuing our work to ensure that our religious institutions will continue to be granted the freedom to remain faithful to our beliefs, while also being committed to providing access to quality healthcare for our 70,000 employees and their families across the country."

And Catholics for Choice is none too pleased:

Previous compromises of this nature, such as that in Hawaii, may have made some conservatives happy, but they have also meant that some women have not been able to access coverage in a timely and easy manner. That is unacceptable.Its unfortunate that on this issue, as many others, far too many in the administration and Congress have sacrificed womens health to get something they want more.

I'm not sure they have the slightest idea what the new rule actually requires.

About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Instead, the employers insurance company will have to contact employees directly and offer contraception coverage as a separate policy at no cost.Leave it up to Obama and his administration to make believe that the costs just disappear....

CBS quotes a document from the White House:* Today, the Obama Administration will publish final rules in the Federal Register that:o Exempts churches, other houses of worship, and similar organizations from covering contraception on the basis of their religious objections.o Establishes a one year transition period for religious organizations while this policy is being implemented.* The President will also announce that his Administration will propose and finalize a new regulation during this transition year to address the religious objections of the non-exempted religious organizations. The new regulation will require insurance companies to cover contraception if the non-exempted religious organization chooses not to. Under the policy:o Religious organizations will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer their employees to organizations that provide contraception.o Religious organizations will not be required to subsidize the cost of contraception.o Contraception coverage will be offered to women by their employers' insurance companies directly, with no role for religious employers who oppose contraception.o Insurance companies will be required to provide contraception coverage to these women free of charge.Covering contraception saves money for insurance companies by keeping women healthy and preventing spending on other health services. For example, there was no increase in premiums when contraception was added to the Federal Employees Health Benefit System and required of non-religious employers in Hawaii. One study found that covering contraception lowered premiums by 10 percent or more.

This is a fair and reasonable accomodation.

Bruce, the last paragraph of that statement from the White House explains that it does not cost more to provide coverage for contraception because it reduces costs the insurance company would otherwise pay for pregnancy.

Bruce et al are disappointed that this 'religious war' might have a truce. 'war' creats an energy that is lacking. . Predictions; Bishops and GOP will take credit for a huge defense of religious liberty. Catholic Universities and hospitals that have been covering BC in their employee health care policies for ten years will now have to scramble and re-write all their existing insurance policies, and therefore will have a lot of sniping from faculty and employees. Some Universities might just say 'forgettaboutit' and get a rush of contempt from the usual suspects.

Sr. Keenan and the CHA say yes (as does Planned Parenthood.No word from USCCB:Though theyre on opposite sides of the birth control and abortion debate, both Sister Carol Keehan, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued statements Friday morning applauding the compromise, which allows religious organizations to keep contraception out of its coverage while requiring the insurance companies to step in and offer contraceptive coverage to the female employees.The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions, Keehan said. The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed. We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished. The unity of Catholic organizations in addressing this concern was a sign of its importance. This difference has at times been uncomfortable but it has helped our country sort through an issue that has been important throughout the history of our great democracy.http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/02/white-house-to-announce-acc...

I'm happy with what I see in that.

Whew! That was a close one. We'll see if all the bishops accept it. Good for Obama for reacting decisively and avoiding what could have been a brutal constitutional war. He didn't say in so many words, "I made a mistake", but actions speak louder than words. The compromise is a fine one.

"Universities and hospitals that have been covering BC in their employee health care policies for ten years will now have to scramble and re-write all their existing insurance policies, and therefore will have a lot of sniping from faculty and employees."Ed, it's an interesting point. Do any of these HHS regulations supersede existing state mandates? Or do they exist along side one another?

Hopefully the bishops will take this opportunity to teach about the meaning of the word "direct" in moral theology. It enters into so many of these thorny issues and I know I would like more clarity myself.http://youtu.be/G2y8Sx4B2Sk

Let's say I won't drive someone someplace to facilitate an immoral act. Instead, I call a cab. It's still "direct" cooperation.Wenski said the Miami Archdiocese pays an insurance company to cover its 5,000 employees and argued that if the insurance company is paying for and providing contraceptives, as the new compromise lays out, the church would still be paying for it. http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/10/mixed-catholic-reaction-to-revi...

Looks as if the White House consulted with Sr. Carol Keehan of CHA and not anyone from the USCCB (not Picarello, Doerflinger, etc). "An official with the U.S. Catholic Bishops said that the administration did not consult with their group before announcing the compromise, but the group has not yet officially commented on the revisions."http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/under-god/post/conservative-catholic...

Already you find rejection; I love the talk about a shell game when, imo, it is the ever changing response. Oh, you will give to us what we first said we wanted? Well now, that's not really proper... say what?! Seriously, I hope Native Americans, Muslims, Quakers and others take note! http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2012/02/source-obam... on religion said the accommodation isn't enough. "It's a shell game," says Robert Destro, law professor at Catholic University.Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, said he remained unsatisfied."A resolution to this issue cannot only cover 'religious' employers," Pavone said. "Religious freedom, which includes freedom of conscience, does not belong only to religious entities but to every American. There are many non-religious reasons to object to the Administration's policy."

Sorry everything after the link is from the article; I meant to put it in quotes

Inasmuch as our notions of religious liberty have been preserved, this is something to celebrate.To the extent that whatever cooperation with evil Catholic institutions would have been required to engage in has now been made more remote, or even removed completely, this is a reason to cheer.If the question is, is the Catholic Church pleased that the US government requires employers to subsidize the sinful behavior of its employees, the answer, I hope, is no.

At face value, this is a good compromise, but the question about the states' laws and Catholic universities practice that have previously covered these services is a worthwhile one. Also, what does this mean about sterilizations that were supposedly in the new plan. Will insurance companies cover them also for free? This may be fiscally prudent in the long run but I'm not sure.I suppose the larger bullet may have been dodged about the "religious liberty" and "religious insitution" issue, but I can't imagine that it is over. Also, raising the whole "birth control" issue as it had setled into a rather comfortable DADT will be intersting to see within the Church.Women will be covered at no expense to themselves - that is good. However, I still wonder about what twisting insurance companies will do with other premiums to cover these costs even if it seems to mean that they would have less outlay from expenses from childbirth.

Smart resolution.

Interesting factoid: The Netherlands, home of free "love" and legal gay marriage and legal "recreational" drugs and FREE abortion on demand, has 1/4 the abortion rate of the most conservative, abortion-restricted states in the US. What creates demand for abortion isn't the availability of abortion, it's the availability of contraception. If the US Bishops had their way, no one would use "artificial" contraception and there would be 5 times as many abortions, as was the case in Russia, before Russia instituted programs to dramatically include availability of contraception. The US abortion rate has plummeted down to nearly that existing before Roe v Wade, and it's the result of contraception, not Operation Rescue or conservative politics. With not the not only universal availability of free contraception, but universal availability of free contraception counseling, hopefully the US abortion rate will precipitously fall by 75%, as in the case of the Netherlands, preventing the slaughter of 900,000 babies per year.If the US Bishops oppose the latest, entirely sensible compromise proposed by the Obama administration, they'll lose whatever moral high ground they think they have. They would have the nation believe that they are martyrs for the faith and that the Catholic Church is a persecuted institution. Nothing can be further from the truth.- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

So insurance companies will be required by law to offer free contraception (which may or may not include sterilization) to women whose Catholic employers will NOT cover it?But women whose employers DO cover contraception WILL have to pay for contraception by meeting whatever the non-Catholic employer policy requires in the way of co-pays and deductibles?Sounds like working for a Catholic employer will be a great deal for women who want contraception!I must be missing something here. What is it?

Ooops. Need the (non-existent edit function).Should have read What creates demand for abortion isnt the availability of abortion, its the NON-availability of contraception.

Hi Jean Raber. In the case of contraception services (including counseling), there is to be first dollar coverage. i.e. no deductible and no co-pay.

Why would insurers agree to provide contraception services for free? Because . . .. . . they would not. They will not.This "compromise" is completely illusory.While contraceptives may not be included as a covered benefit, the cost of the contraceptives will nevertheless be included in the premiums that Catholic employers will be required to pay. Catholic employers will still be paying for and subsidizing contraception.Nothing has changed.But it does give Obama supporters cover to falsely claim that the matter has been resolved.

While contraceptives may not be included as a covered benefit, the cost of the contraceptives will nevertheless be included in the premiums that Catholic employers will be required to pay. Catholic employers will still be paying for and subsidizing contraception.Bender,According to what I have read, contraceptive coverage is either cost-neutral or actually saves the insurance company money. The costs of pregnancy and hospital delivery are dramatically more than the costs of contraception.

Larry, thanks, but I can't tell from your response whether that first-dollar rule applies to just exempted religious employers or ALL employers?Moreover, if the government mandates something free from an insurance company, isn't it likely the company will simply pass the cost on to consumers across the board? So, as I think my friend Kathy has implied, Catholic employers will have to absorb any premium hikes this "free" stuff will cost the companies ... and will thereby end up paying for contraception indirectly.Seems to me a better solution would be to provide universal health care. Churches and other religious institutions pay no taxes, so they won't be paying for ANY benefits, including contraception.However, individual Catholics would have to pay into a universal system, which means they would likely pay for other people's contraception.Ye gods, is there no way out?!

Ooops, I see Bender beat me to the point. Go Bender!But perhaps give some thought to how far you want to take this "don't make Catholics pay for the sins of others" rant. When you live in a free society, you always end up paying for things you find repugnant. For instance, my subscription to C'weal keeps this blog up so you can express your opinions at no cost to yourself.I wonder if there's any way for some Catholics to be mollified on this short of forming their own theocracy?

As is typical, the rich already have insurance which goes through companies which already pay for the things they are fighting against now (if not their own policy, the policies given to others). They are saying it's not good enough for others but it is good enough for themselves. I would take their criticism to heart if they decided to have no insurance and to be with those who have no insurance until insurance companies remove all that they object to in their policies. They don't, so it tells me all we need to know.

E. J. Dionne quotes Catholic Charitiies. They approve (sort of - may be waiting to hear from the bishops)"Catholic Charities USA also spoke favorably of Obamas decision: Catholic Charities USA welcomes the Administrations attempt to meet the concerns of the religious community and we look forward to reviewing the final language, the group said. We are hopeful that this is a step in the right direction and are committed to continuing our work to ensure that our religious institutions will continue to be granted the freedom to remain faithful to our beliefs, while also being committed to providing access to quality healthcare for our 70,000 employees and their families across the country.Some conservative Catholics were claiming even before the announcement that Obamas move was insufficient, and they appeared to be moving the goal posts in the argument by demanding that the exemption be extended to any employers with a religious objection to contraception coverage. But there was also sentiment among Bishops that they should be prepared to declare victory and move on.http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/post/dionne-obama-cont...

Jean,Here's my suggestion. Since it seems likely that insurance coverage with contraception coverage actually costs the insurance company less than insurance without contraception coverage, religious organizations who take advantage of this compromise should pay more to the insurance company. Surely the bishops don't want organizations to benefit from the fact that their employees are taking advantage of contraception coverage and saving the insurance company money. To be totally pure, religious organizations should pay the insurance companies a rate that reflects the maternity costs that would have been incurred had none of its employees used contraception.

JohnIndeed, it is moving goalposts. Which is sad. It is also expected.

CNN says the president spoke to Archbishop Dolan, who then arranged a conference call to iscussion it with more bishops. They must be trying to agree among themselves how to respond, since there is no word from Dolan and only Wenkis is quoted:The USCCB is losing the PR edge by not being able to respond quickly. "Washington (CNN) As word trickled out of a White House compromise with Catholic groups on its rule around contraception coverage on Friday morning, administration officials took to the phones to sell the plan to religious leaders across the spectrum.Catholic officials say President Obama called New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, to explain the revised policy, which exempts religiously affiliated universities and hospitals for paying for no cost contraception for their employees but requires insurers to offer such coverage for for free to women who work at such institutions.It's unclear how Dolan has responded to the White House plan, but some other bishops have been critical. "I think he's punting, just kicking the can down the road," Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenkis told CNN. "He's hasn't really addressed our concerns. I think the only thing to do is... to take back the whole thing."After hanging up with Obama Friday morning, Dolan quickly organized a conference call with other bishops nationwide, according to a source briefed on the calls. It's yet to be seen how the Catholic Church will greet the revised White House policy, but some conservative religious voices say they're not satisfied."http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/10/mixed-catholic-reaction-to-revi...

I think we can accept this agreement while still not being pleased with the road we took to get here.The Administration *first* chose to please PP and Emily's List, and then backtracked to address Catholic concerns (of which they were well aware) only after a week of unrelenting criticism.So, if some Catholics are giving less than three cheers , I can't say I blame them.

David, yes, it is true that insurance companies find it far cheaper to pay for contraceptives and abortions than maternity costs and the ensuing little dependents. In my view, the larger issue in this specific push-pull over contraception is that when one group is allowed a pass based on religious conscience, another group will end up paying the cost. During World War II, someone else's kid was drafted and sent to the front because another kid was given a CO by the draft board. I think that's the interesting gray area we have to wrestle with as a free society; if we don't protect minority claims, democracy can become a tyranny. On the other hand, it's very easy for the minority to be so concerned with their parochial views that they don't see how they affect the rest of us.

I'm not sure that's really "moving the goal posts" since it is the "goal" of every most conservative Catholics that there not be a contraception mandate at all, let alone a narrow religious exception to it.That's a separate questions then what could have reasonably expected from this particular skirmish. My opinion is that this represents most of what could have been reasonably hoped for in the current environment.If Catholic conservatives want more, we are going to have to work to change the environment.

I think I don't fully understand the compromise because I don't fully understand how insurance works in the first place. In my dim understanding of things, private universities of a certain size pony up the capital for insurance costs themselves, and then hire an outside company to administer those insurance funds.In this instance, wouldn't it be the case that a Catholic university would be basically just paying another company to contact their employers to provide a service that the university ostensibly sees as morally objectionable? And wouldn't the university itself be the sole beneficiary of the reduced health care costs that come from providing its employers with birth control?Again, I might be very off base in how I understand insurance to work, so I apologize if my question seems to come from left-field.

John -- look to the comments and links to blog posts here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theanchoress/2012/02/10/obama-accommodation... You will see that the talk is this is a fake, this is not good, this doesn't do it, etc. Now, I do agree with you -- we really have to change the environment. 100% agree with that. It would be great if we can remove the hyper-sexuality leading to the use of contraceptives in our society. That we get people to see the problems of contraceptives and to stop using them. That would be great. However, I fear this is not going to happen with people from both sides of the issue not wanting an honest discussion.

According to what I have read, contraceptive coverage is either cost-neutral or actually saves the insurance company money.__________________The money that insurance companies pay to pharmacies that sell contraceptives is cold hard cash. Real money.Where does that cash come from?Do insurance companies get that cash from the ether of hypothetical actuarial future "savings"? No, they get the cold hard cash, the physically-existing tangible money from premiums.They take those premiums, paid by Catholic employers and others, and it is that money that is used to pay the pharmacies for contraceptives.At least the prior plan had the benefit of being open and honest.

USCCB response - not exactly enthusiastic.New opportunity to dialogue with executive branchToo soon to tell whether and how much improvement on core concernsCommitment to religious liberty for all means legislation still necessaryWASHINGTON The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sees initial opportunities in preserving the principle of religious freedom after President Obamas announcement today. But the Conference continues to express concerns. While there may be an openness to respond to some of our concerns, we reserve judgment on the details until we have them, said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of USCCB.The past three weeks have witnessed a remarkable unity of Americans from all religions or none at all worried about the erosion of religious freedom and governmental intrusion into issues of faith and morals, he said.Todays decision to revise how individuals obtain services that are morally objectionable to religious entities and people of faith is a first step in the right direction, Cardinal-designate Dolan said. We hope to work with the Administration to guarantee that Americans consciences and our religious freedom are not harmed by these regulations.

Bender: I don't want to blow your mind, but you know those contraception-free plans the bishops and other Catholics have been paying for over the years? Their money goes to insurance companies that cover contraception in other plans. You know those taxes you pay to the federal government? They help to pay for contraception for women on Medicaid. They also help to pay for non-elective abortions.

Not a bad compromise for a "foreign-born, Saul Alinsky-loving, Kenyan socialist, illegitimately elected" president hellbent on destroying the First Amendment guarantees of religious liberty!What a politically deft move by the President: Nothing essentially changes for women who will get the comprehensive health care insurance coverage they desperately need!Could the delay for a response from Arch. Dolan be because the hierarchs have to check with headquarters first to get their marching orders?I wonder what political games the hierarchs will now indulge themselves?

"I wonder what political games the hierarchs will now indulge themselves?"--Jim Jenkins The three lines at the beginning of the press release may give a clue:"New opportunity to dialogue with executive branchToo soon to tell whether and how much improvement on core concernsCommitment to religious liberty for all means legislation still necessary"It wasn't clear to me at first that they were part of the press release but I checked the New York Archdioces ewebsite and they were there, also.The first line tries to frame this as just a first offer from Obama and that they can now send over Picarello and Doerflinger to negotiate the real deal. I doubt that Obama sees it that way and that while they will be polite in listening to them and adjusting technical details, the bishops have basically missed the train on shaping the deal. The last line suggests that they still want to get Rubio's bill passed. I think that was never very likely to get through the Senate andthat is much less likely now that Obama has made a reasonable response to their concerns.

Kathy -- 1:03 pm: "Wenski said the Miami Archdiocese pays an insurance company to cover its 5,000 employees and argued that if the insurance company is paying for and providing contraceptives, as the new compromise lays out, the church would still be paying for it."If it is true, as it has been reported, that providing access to contraception lowers an insurer's costs by reducing the incidence of much more costly pregnancy, and that insurers adjust premiums to reflect that, then the Archdiocese may actually save money under the new arrangement. That very saving, I suppose, could be viewed as cooperation with, or profiting from, evil. If so, the Archdiocese may insist on paying the higher premium. But it is not mandated.

If the bishops have objected to paying insurance companies that cover contraception at all -- that is, to people not included in their employees plans -- then why have they remained silent for all these years?Welcome to remote material cooperation.

"To be totally pure, religious organizations should pay the insurance companies a rate that reflects the maternity costs that would have been incurred had none of its employees used contraception."If you want to take this to the nth degree, and some people seem to, religious organizations should not provide health insurance nor any wages that could be spent on contraception and abortion. They should go live on an isolated island with Tom Monaghan as king.

They don't like it:"The following letter was signed by former Vatican Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, Princeton Prof. Robert George, Notre Dame Law Prof. Carter Snead, Catholic University of America President John Garvey, and EPPC Fellow Yuval Levin."See: http://www.catholicvote.org/discuss/index.php?p=26523

Why would insurers agree to provide contraception services for free? Because, actuarially, it makes financial sense. The average pregnancy costs roughly $12,000. Enrollees who use contraception are cheaper to cover.If that's the case, why was any mandate ever seen as necessary? Forget free: insurance companies would have all been huge discounts for employers who buy the "contraceptive included" package, and all employers who don't have moral/religious objections would have responded accordingly. If the theory behind a law is that we need to force big insurance companies to save themselves money, because they just aren't being greedy enough, you should probably recheck your calculations.

Wow -- CFFC takes a harder line on contraception than *Planned Parenthood*I guess we Catholics have the whole spectrum covered...

Bill Donahue doesn't like itSee: http://www.catholicleague.org/obamas-ploy-adds-insult-to-injury/He's scheduled to appear on CNN this afternoon and on two Fox News programs tonight.

I think the theory behind the law is to get more people health coverage.

Um, whatever, but if the theory is that not enough people have this "health" coverage because greedy insurance companies have been missing a money-making opportunity lying right under their noses, then again, you might want to check your calculations.

Shell Game AlertInsurance companies do not provide anything for free; no company does. It is simpl enough for anyone to understand; the premiums paid by the employer pay for the coverage provided by the insurer; nothing more and nothing less.And so in these cases the insurance company will up the premium enough to cover the BC pills (or whatever), and they will pretend to not offer coverage to the Church, and instead will cover the ills free to women on that policy who want them.The insurance company will be lying to the church and the Church will be lying to itself, all so that some women do not have to pay for BC pills.Lie after lie after lie, and everyone is supposed to be happy with that? Will this sort of lying help, does lying in general help anyone? In considering matters this personal and this important, we ought to be more honest with ourselves and with each other.If the government so much wants women to have free BC pills and the like, why does the federal government not just pony up the dinero for this and be done with it? Seems to me the ones paying the bill ought to have a say in the matter.No - This will not work.

Whatever indeed.

What you said in the post implies that you are able to spot a money-making opportunity in the insurance market that insurance companies have somehow missed, despite their greater knowledge and incentive to spot such cost-savings. You obviously have no answer to that point.

Studebaker,Almost all insurance does already provide coverage of contraception. Nobody is saying health insurance that covers contraception is much cheaper than health insurance that does not. It's that adding contraception coverage is revenue-neutralit raises costs in some areas and lowers them in others. I doubt if there is a major insurance company that doesn't offer policies covering contraception. The mandate was not on insurance companies. It was on employers providing insurance to their workers.

It's about compromise, Stuart. It's not the point of the whole health care law. This won't harm the insurance companies in the long run. And it shouldn't cost enrollees extra.I can see you have found something to obsess over. Have at it. I'm not interested in dancing to another of your obnoxious tunes.

Faith-based (aka Voodoo) economics makes a comeback. Washington thrives when the credulous believe in the latest version of a free lunch.

And the lying goes on . . . .

I've never found argument revolving around the fungibility of money, or that Catholics must contribute to this pool of money, which under certain circumstances, could be used to pay for X, terribly compelling. We all pay taxes; the government does things almost everybody doesn't like. We learn to live with it. We still need to oppose things that are wrong, but if our cooperation is limited to adding money to a pool of money that helps pay for something else, that's life.What was most important to me was that Catholic employers would not have to say to its employees, "here's your contraceptive benefit" in some way. It seems to me this agreement means they don't have to do that, which is why I'm OK with it.I would prefer if *nobody* had to supply such a benefit, but converting that into policy will require convincing more people of basic teachings, and that will require more than howls of outrage.

Megan McArdle ( non-Catholic, if I'm not mistaken) at the Atlantic doesn't see this as much of a compromise since the "no cost" arrangement means the insurance companies will pass the bill on to the Church."Update: Commenters point out that I've misread it--the insurers have to provide it "at no cost". Which of course means the Church will still be paying for it. So the question is, how do the Catholics take it? Not well, from what I can see." http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/02/administration-backt...

Couple of responses to questions above:- note that Dolan is in Rome right now so convening and gathering bishops via Dolan is probably difficult and time consuming- Wonder if the next step on the catholic side is to again see the division between Sr. Carol and the CHA and the USCCB and more vocal bishops. Remember, USCCB never did approve the PPACA which Sr. Carol blessed. But, as Grant says above, the bishops will only weaken their current position if they press back harder and with more questionable grounds.Here is an interesting added piece that talks about the fact that the structure of this decision has actually been in place and repeatedly upheld by the courts since 2000:http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/controversial-obama-birth-contro... really does show that none of the current Rep. candidates; many talking heads; or even the USCCB lawyers know a whole lot.

Mr. Karlson and some others here seem to enjoy the straw man. Opponents of the President's illegal mandate have said from the beginning, that constitutional and federal law require universal exemptions for any kind of religious objector from any kind of objectionable activity. Karlson responds, so you only object to charities directly paying--well the President just called his plan "charities not directly paying"--now you're moving the target. No, you're arbitrarily redefining the target that was universally stated all along as necessary for compliance with the federal RFRA statute (and other laws). You can't omit religious individuals or religious people running businesses. You can't force self-insured religious organizations to cover this stuff. You can't claim that the employer's provision of a plan that lets the employee access objectionable items from the insurer is not an objectionable participation. And you can't change the subject to Bush or whatever, or claim that religious freedom advocates didn't ask for a universal conscience protection from the get-go. The bills pending to provide a universal fix for this have been introduced for two congresses in a row now.

"Which really does show that none of the current Rep. candidates; many talking heads; or even the USCCB lawyers know a whole lot."Wow - Commonweal, America, NCR (for God's sake), Jonathan Chait, EJ Dionne - none of these people know a whole lot.

Certain posters at dotC will not be happy until the President and his supporters are drawn, quartered and relegated to the dung pile of history.It ain't gonna happen. If anything, those who feel that have been done in by "the church" will find ways to fight back.If "the church" doesn't treat this compromise with good grace, the negative feedback will be as bad as they have gotten on their obfuscation on the sexual abuse mess - possibly even worse.I'll remind people here that a regular contributor, JAK, has taught us more than once that "the church" is much more than the bishops and their lackeys. The 99% is more powerful than the 1% when given the right incentive.Bishops, be careful. Be very, very careful! The loyal and those of us in the disloyal opposition are not finished by a long shot.

The initial HHS mandate would, more than likely, have be found unconstitutional so how can a compromise be reached on a mandate that was illegal in the first place. This is typical of a command and control regime, two steps forward, one step back again and again. The Bishops would be fools to agree to this 'compromise" and follow the old saying "fool me once, shame on on you, fool me twice, shame on me." This whole charade has nothing to do with condoms or contraceptives, it has everything to do with forcing religious and non-governmental charities to submit to the Federal government rules, regulations and mandates or be forced out of providing charitable services.

All this back and forth seems to take some aspects of this issue as resolved that don't seem to be so in my judgment.Freedom from the institution of state religion doesn't not speak to freedom of conscience any more than an all volunteer military intentionally selects out who will die in time of conflict.The prudence of birth control, in an age of declining middle class prosperity and increases in the cost of health care that annually outpaces inflation by 5-6:1, is not an issue that most American's are willing to concede should be tossed on a fire of retrograde ideological indignation. It is embarrassing to read all this talk about fine points of for-profit insurance when we as a nation of church-going people are routinely willing to toss off millions of person years of life expectancy among those born - as a premium for denying universal health care that virtually every modern nation has long taken as some we all deserve much as we deserve clean water.

Anitra Williams "Mr. Karlson and some others here seem to enjoy the straw man. Opponents of the Presidents illegal mandate have said from the beginning, that constitutional and federal law require universal exemptions for any kind of religious objector from any kind of objectionable activity"Tell that to the soldiers who have been working for selective conscience objection in the military. In other words, you are wrong. Try again.

Ken, As I understand the deal, if Catholic Healthcare West (now Dignity) buys health insurance without contraceptive coverage for its 55,000 employees, it will pay some insurance company about $500 million a year for that insurance.There will be a certain number of pregnancies each year depending on how many of the employees buy contraceptives at their own expense. Each of those pregnancies costs the insurance company a lot of money. If the insurance company gives free contraceptives to the employees, that will reduce the number of pregnancies and the insurance company will spend less money than if it paid for those pregnancies. It's in its financial interest to drive down the number of pregnancies by spending its own money to provide the free contraceptives - wihout receiving any additional payment from the company beyond the original $500 million. Therefore, the employer isn't paying for the contraceptives. That's the theory, anyway. I have no knowledge of what the actual numbers are.

Increased availability of contraception most likely will decrease the incidence of abortion.Isn't that a goal that Catholics want?If you think that no available contraception will somehow be a good thing, think again.

When you repeatedly make comments about this mandate, like saying opponents have moved the ball, and then refuse to defend those but instead respond to questions by talking only and exclusively about the military or Bush or immigration, it just shows that your only comments about this mandate are not defensible.

My view is that this is good news and we should be pleased with the development.Under the now-obsolete plan, Catholic institutions would have had to sign contracts with 3rd party providers, one of whose line items would have been to subsidize contraception. This is no longer the case. It's a tiny contract change, but morally it makes a difference.Under the now-obsolete plan, the government was mandating that Catholic institutions subsidize contraception against their will. This is no longer the case.Those are two very good developments.It is not a given that the insurers will somehow pass the cost along to the Catholic institutions. Pricing can be creative and even morally ambiguous. Suppose, for the sake of discussion, that an insurance company charges a Catholic institution a flat fee per employee covered. We know the pricing will change at the beginning of the new enrollment period - perhaps in part because of this new regulation, and perhaps for a hundred other reasons as well. I think the cooperation is pretty remote.The whole point of religious freedom, istm, is that we are free to proclaim the Good News to our fellow citizens, without any government interference. Because of this change, Catholic institutions can stand up in the public square and say, "See? We're witnessing to our faith - we're not subsidizing what we think is evil." That's a very good thing. And Catholic institutions and indivuals are free to make our case - to try to make persuasive arguments about marriage, family, the worth of children - all of the values that swirl around contraception.

"And you cant change the subject to Bush or whatever, or claim that religious freedom advocates didnt ask for a universal conscience protection from the get-go."Right, one can't point they made one demand and then changed it when they saw they were getting that demand. It's not fallacious to point out the shifting demands because it points to dishonesty in the process of dialogue. "We didn't really mean that, now this." And then what? "Sorry, that's not good enough, now this." And then there are other questions such as differing religious traditions with different moral claims. What if one's personal religious belief is that everyone should pay for insurance with contraception - does the lack of that requirement mean their religious liberty has been violated? That is a part of the process which is being neglected -- there are, at times, religious beliefs which makes demands opposite other religious traditions; one side is going to find their freedom limited. What then? Yes, we know, some people change their demands for one reason: so they can continue to demonize their opposition. In doing this, they show they have no real standard, they are nihilistic to the core -- if they held to a consistent demand, one could see principle, when they demand something then act like those giving in to the demands are evil for their compromise, one get sense that one is dealing with a would be tyrant or bandit.

AnitraWhen your concern is only about Obama, the mandate, and not consistency, one can see that your objection is not based upon religious liberty but on the man who you detest. That is the problem. Complaining that I point out to the full extent of the religious liberty concern shows you are not concerned with the problem. You say one should be free to object for anything; but then when shown that is not allowed, nor has been allowed, you say 'how dare you point out that fact.' Seriously?

Anitra: I have another declaration for you: You are wrong.Jim P., well said. It's quite touching to see conservative critics of the revised mandate so deeply concerned about the finances of insurance companies, when they are earning record profits. The health-care reform law will provide them with plenty more in 2014. While the long-term costs are neutral at worst (from the point of view of the insurer), the short-term costs can be eaten as a concession to the government that handed them all these new customers.Soon enough I'll have a response to critics who think this is nothing more than an accounting gimmick. The "accounting gimmicks" in the new HHS ruling are way less gimmicky than the ones required by the Hyde Amendment. which requires states to segregate federal dollars from state Medicaid funds that go toward elective abortions.

"Under the now-obsolete plan, Catholic institutions would have had to sign contracts with 3rd party providers, one of whose line items would have been to subsidize contraception. This is no longer the case. Its a tiny contract change, but morally it makes a difference."So simply removing a line-item on the bill labelled "contraceptive services" and lumping into some generic category (but still charging the employer for the coverage) makes that much of a difference morally? I fail to see that logic or moral significance of an accounting gimmick.

Isn't it a little weird that this one particular type of drug is being singled out as a no copay, mandatory component of everyone's insurance coverage?

I hope he is wrong. The bishops are at risk of destroying their credibility."a source at the U.S.C.C.B., worried that there could be some [bishops] who still want to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, said, Theyve framed this as a fight over religious liberty; they cant pivot over to contraception.http://americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&entry_id=4917

"So simply removing a line-item on the bill labelled contraceptive services and lumping into some generic category (but still charging the employer for the coverage) makes that much of a difference morally? "Jeff, I know you're an attorney, so I'm approaching this with suitable trepidation :-), but istm that charging the Catholic employer for the contraception, whether it's broken out into a separate line item or buried in some generic category, is in violation of federal law (or will be when the new regulations take effect). As presented here, the insurance company is supposed to be providing the subsidy. Charging the Catholic institution through some bald "special services" line item would seem to mean that the Catholic institution is subsidizing it. That doesn't mean that insurance companies won't do it, but *morally*, they'll be in the position of flim-flamming the Little Sisters of the Poor. I'd like to think that God has special punishments saved up for people like that.

It has occurred to me that most likely the reason the last several 24-hour news cycles have been obsessing on this confrontation over contraception is that the economy is improving and the righties would be deprived of any readily available cudgel to pound on the President."We have no serious policy proposals to present to the electorate ... No driving ideas to capture peoples' imagination ... We're just an intellectually spent force." Bill Crystal is pulling what's left of his hair out.So I guess, for the Republicans it is back to the culture wars, all the way back to arguments about contraception that were decided nearly 50 years ago. The next things in the pipeline most likely will be gay-bashing and guns. Then there is always birtherism and immigrants.[The recent Ninth Circuit decision, decided as "sui generis" to California alone, striking down Proposition 8/same-sex marriage offers the SCOTUS the opportunity to pass on even taking the case. At a discussion at Bolt Hall School of Law (UCB) this week there seemed to be a majority opinion that Justice Kennedy would like to avoid if at all possible to dis-sing his fellow Republicans on the court again. We'll see, but it would deprive the right of another wedge issue.]Never have been able to understand the Republican mind, but I would presume that this whole anti-contraception frenzy is designed and timed to help Santorum gain traction - the hierarchs' dream Opus Dei presidential candidate. Could you imagine the police state we would become under a "Santorum Administration?" Kiss the Bill of Rights goodbye.I know, that is hyperbolic. But in the bizarro-world of rightwing politics, we may be seeing the shotgun marriage of Mitt and Santorum at either end of the top of the Republican ticket? [I'm only speaking metaphorically...I'm not suggesting any same-sex unions for the Republican candidates - although there is a certain deliciousness to the thought.]

With regard to the comment about Catholic institutions that self-insure, many of those self-insured in order to escape state laws that required commercial insurance policies to include contraceptive coverage. By self-insuring they bought themselves under federal law (ERISA) and could ignore the state requirements. As Bishop Morlino found in Madison, self-insuring may be more expensive and riskier than buying commercial insurance. This will be an opportunity for Catholic institutions that self-insured only to avoid providing contraception coverage to go back to commercial insurance. For the few Catholic institutions that are so large that self-insuring might actually be cheaper, they will have to weigh the savings against the greater distancing from contraception that commercial insurance can provide.

If I had an ongoing, expensive health issue (other than endometriosis) I would be feeling pretty upset right now about my copay.

In my 5:26 comment: "a source at the U.S.C.C.B., worried that there could be some [bishops] who still want to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, said, Theyve framed this as a fight over religious liberty; they cant pivot over to contraception.I guess Bishop Slattery is one of them. He's posted his response to today's announcement:"the Constitution of the United States does not merely guarantee the freedom of religion to institutions, but to every American.This includes every businessman or woman who willingly provides health insurance to his or her employees. It includes every single mother, every married couple, and every individual who does not wish to cooperate in this sin. No one should be required to betray their religious and moral beliefs or violate their conscience.I want to encourage people not to be afraid of the sacrifices which are required to love one another with a genuine, faithful and life-giving love. Through these we are made holy and are formed more fully into what God wants us to be. Thank you.http://www.dioceseoftulsa.org/article.asp?nID=4484

If the insurance company gives free contraceptives to the employees, that will reduce the number of pregnancies and the insurance company will spend less money than if it paid for those pregnancies. Its in its financial interest to drive down the number of pregnancies by spending its own money to provide the free contraceptives wihout receiving any additional payment from the company beyond the original $500 million.John Hayes -- Grant is irritated at being asked this while having no answer, but perhaps you'll think of something: If what you say about costs is true, why aren't insurance companies already clamoring not just to offer free contraception, but to pay people to take it? Why aren't employers doing the same?

"why arent insurance companies already clamoring not just to offer free contraception, but to pay people to take it?"Because they know we'll all pay them to cover it and they like to take our money?

Bishop Slattery's comments on video: http://youtu.be/JLWnl1P4slgCardinal Wuerl's comments (before the White House press conference): http://video.msnbc.msn.com/morning-joe/46341040#null

This theory that insurance companies (and hence employers) need to be forced to do something that would save them all money is very interesting. I await the equally brilliant explanations as to why we should have federal mandates that: 1) children eat ice cream when offered to them; 2) individuals agree when offered 10% yearly raises for doing the same job; 3) lottery winners accept their lottery payments; and 4) everyone accept a free work holiday on their birthday each year. After all, without a federal mandate, how would anyone remember to make decisions that benefit themselves?

John Hayes - pretty sure that Morlino opted to buy an "off the shelf" insurance plan (95% of these include contraceptives). To go self-insured and build his own diocesan benefit plan without contraceptive coverage, would have cost the diocese more money. Standard large insurance company plans usually compete in the marketplace for market share and their pricing is lower.Self-insured is usually the route used by the Fortune 500 who can and want to design their own benefit plans in order to meet the needs of an older but more experienced workforce; want to maintain the benefits they have usually been offering over time so they can keep experienced workers and attract highly desired recruits. Many small and mid-market companies opt for the standard plans because of cost, because it takes an internal staff to administer your own benefit plan; pay for claims, etc.Bishop Slattery - like his tendency to celebrate the TLM in Cappa Magna; not sure I would view him as a moral authority much less an authority about the complex world of contraception, etc.

Studebaker - you ignore reams of studies that have proven that health and wellness do require some type of requirements; incentives, and explanations - folks are notorious to freely choose poor health but it costs the US billions. Compare the past five years of studies done by the WHO in terms of best care; longest lifes; most accessible and cheapest medical care; death rates; infant mortality rates. The US spends the highest amount of medical dollars and yet we rank lower than 10-15 on each of these health markers.You cite a few examples - so, let's cite a few more: smoking; weight issues resulting in heart problems, diabetes, disability. This impacts the US economy to the tunes of billions every year in lost productivity; increased costs of care; etc. We know the US has a diabetes epidemic - caused by our poor diets; processed foods; eating out to much; alcohol consumption. And yes, over time the states and the federal government has intervened and used incentives (taxes; outlawing smoking in restraurants, smoke free buidlings/aircraft/trains/buses; changes to school lunch menus; FDA regulation of what food companies can say and market; etc.)That is the whole point of the PPACA - US medical care needs to move from reactive treatment to prevention and wellness. Your argument defends a proven failed medical paradigm. And yes, without those state/federal interventions, folks would not make decision to benefit themselves.Your argument is silly.

Your argument is not only silly but completely unresponsive.You're right, of course, that individuals in their own private lives often make decisions based more on short-term pleasure (smoking, eating the wrong foods, getting drunk and driving) than on long-term consequences. That is completely irrelevant to what is being claimed here: that insurance companies and employers with dollars at stake are passing up a great chance to save or make money, and even when told about it, they will refuse to act in their own self-interest. Hence, they need to be forced to do it. What's the cognitive bias or short-term pleasure (akin to smoking, etc.) that you think is driving insurance companies and.or employers to willfully turn down more money?

That is completely irrelevant to what is being claimed here: that insurance companies and employers with dollars at stake are passing up a great chance to save or make money, and even when told about it, they will refuse to act in their own self-interest. Hence, they need to be forced to do it.Studebaker,Actually, what is being claimed is that adding contraceptive coverage is revenue neutral, not that it is a big money-saver. Also, most employer-provided insurance already covers contraception. Finally, we know you are opposed to the mandate, but what's under discussion here is whether there is still a significant issue of religious freedom. It doesn't appear to me that there is. You are still making the same arguments you made before today's announcement. You would still be making the same arguments if Obama had broadened the exemption to include all groups that could even remotely be considered religious.

The bishops argued "we won't pay for such coverage on grounds of religious liberty." Obama said, "Great. You don't have to pay for it." Insurance companies get lots of new clients under the ACA, and, if contraceptive coverage actually saves them money, they'll be laughing all the way to the bank. A change in tune by the bishops now to reject this compromise will look like (and, I'd say, will be seen for what it is,) crass politicking with women's health care the battleground. (See http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/playing-with-womens-private-lives...) It would do my heart good if several bishops would stand up and say "The administration has met my concerns about religious liberty in a way appropriate in a pluralist society." My fear is that many will think this, but only the opponents will continue to speak. The compromise puts the bishops in "remote, remote, remote" material cooperation, no closer than they are in any number of objectionable public policies about which they raise nary a peep. If they object to this, they are objecting to participating in a pluralist democratic republic. In other words, they will be declaring themselves a sect. A smaller, purer sect, perhaps, but a sect regardless.

Why would anybody think that insurance complanies have not tried to make money by offering contraception? Someone has said 95% of plans offer coverage. By charging less for plans that cover contraception, insurers are in effect paying people to take it. If they charge the same, they are taking profits from it. If they are charging more -- well it appears there are people out there who think more coverage should cost more rather than less. (see comments by Bender, Studebaker and others above.) Any of these rates could probably be justified by actuarial tables. (I suspect that another factor is that planned pregnancies have fewer complications than unplanned, though I do not know.)The Affardable Care Act has as a principal purpose lowering health care costs. It was envisioned that this would be done by promoting preventive care, which is why a range of preventive services like contraception are covered. There is a government mandate for preventive care because free marketa have relentlessly driven up costs and that rise in prices threatens our society.

A fabulous victory for Cardinal Timothy Dolan! He should be grateful to Commonweal for their support. While Obama caves, the Cardinal speaks like a true leader: "While there may be an openness to respond to some of our concerns, we reserve judgment on the details until we have them," said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Within hours of Obama's announcement, the political and cultural fissures within the American Catholic community were again visible. Over the past 10 days, it was shocking to read almost identical editorials in Commonweal and The National Catholic Register! That won't last for long!Today President Garvey of Catholic U. joined Prof. Robert George, et. al, in denouncing the "Obama compromise." When will we hear from President Jenkins of Notre Dame? It will not be surprising if the leadership of Catholic universities/colleges will be less willing than the leadership of Catholic health care systems and Catholic social service organizations to take public positions that differ from the local bishop. Normalcy has returned!Joe F.

Garbey's public statement (coming from a professional academic) is frightening in its ignorance of legal precedence concerning religious liberty; history of catholic moral principles, and the history and current practice of medical coverage in the US.Does this suggest why he was the "lay" choice for CUA? Any reasonable masters student can see through his statement and the gaps in that statement.

The bishops have already declared themselves a sect by their behavior in this case. Contraception was included because it was recognized as something that should be included in all health insurance. This reflects a consensus expressed through the election of the President.If the bishops were capable of persuading the people in their pews on contraception, this consensus would not exist, and the mandate might not be included as a neccesary part of health insurance. By failing to persuade, and then demanding religious liberty to opt out, they declare themselves a minority on the fringes of society.

The USCCB has issued a followup press release: http://www.usccb.org/news/2012/12-026.cfmThe headline: "Bishops Renew Call to Legislative Action on Religious Liberty"Excerpt:"These changes require careful moral analysis, and moreover, appear subject to some measure of change. But we note at the outset that the lack of clear protection for key stakeholdersfor self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individualsis unacceptable and must be corrected. And in the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer's plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This, too, raises serious moral concerns."Final paragraph:"We will therefore continuewith no less vigor, no less sense of urgencyour efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government. For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. And we renew our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all."

Kathy, here is a listed of mandated covered services, and ones that have no copay are asterisked:http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2010/07/preventive-services-li... to say, they are many and varied.

Fr. O'Leary,The really impressive moment came at the end of the press conference, when all the reporters asked the departing president whether he had spoken to Archbishop Dolan.

The righties are saying /implying that Dolan had a promise from the president of no mandate at their Nov. meeting. Watching the weasel wording I have concluded that the president did NOT give Dolan a promise of NO mandate. why did they tear out Nixon's tape recorder? ... maybe it's been reinstalled..

Thank you, David. Very helpful information.Women sure do get more things covered than men.

Studebaker wrote "John Hayes Grant is irritated at being asked this while having no answer, but perhaps youll think of something: If what you say about costs is true, why arent insurance companies already clamoring not just to offer free contraception, but to pay people to take it? Why arent employers doing the same?"Picarello (the USCCB lawyer) said that 90% of employees get insurance that includes contraception. It was his lead-in to saying that anyone who didn't like working at a Catholic hospital without contraception coverage could just go get job somewhere else. So, the employers of that 90% are already taking the savings. For the other 10%, maybe those people who decided not to provide contraception insurance wouldn't be happy if their insurance company gave it to their employees free - "do that and we'll find a new insurance company next year."

Kathy, for those who didn't see the press conference, I'll add that the president left as soon as he finished his speech - he didn't take any questions.

Kathy: Indeed!

One thing is certain: the bishops will have a grand campaign now on the basis of Humanae Vitae. They will present contraception as, like abortion, an anti-life and evil thing, which should never be covered in insurance policies. This will be a glorious campaign, it will pay and pay, and give the bishops a moral grandeur that they have not been successful in projecting in recent decades.

"First, he has decided to retain HHS's nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients. This is both unsupported in the law and remains a grave moral concern. We cannot fail to reiterate this, even as so many would focus exclusively on the question of religious liberty."The issue is not religious liberty any longer. It is the right of women to use contraceptives. In the bishops' eyes there cannot be any right to evil acts.

Think Progress writes that Catholic Bishops Demand All Businesses Be Given The Right To Deny Women Contraception Coverage and GOP Ups The Ante, Introduces Legislation To Allow Any Employer To Deny Any Preventive Health ServiceThe bishops and the republicans apparently won't be satisfied until America is a conservative theocracy. I'm beginning to truly despise both the bishops and the GOP.

Regarding he quote from the USCCB in j. Random's 9:11 pm comment, it's interesting hat they are not pushing for Sen. Marco Rubio's recent bill that deals just with contraceptives but for the "Respect for Rights of Conscience Act" which was filed in the House on last St. Patrick's day, was assigned o a committee and hasn't been heard of since.That bill is much broader than Rubio's and essentially says that no Health Plan (aka insurance policy) under the ACA can be required to include any item or service "contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan."That covers everyone, not just religious-related institutions. Rubio's bill was unlikely to get enough votes in the Senate even before today's compromise - this one seems even less likely to get through. There are other provisions. See http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.1179:The USCCB statement reads like a staff paper, possibly by Richard Doerflinger, and may not have had input from many bishops.

John Hayes: I don't think this is just a staff paper. Rocco Palmo leaks an internal letter from Dolan, diNardio Wuerl, et. al. to the biships that is consistent: http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2012/02/our-understanding-of-rul... like doubling down, to me.

Re: Wuerl's interview on MSNBC this morning at http://video.msnbc.msn.com/morning-joe/46341040#null Wuerl pulled a slick, dishonest (IMO) move on the tape at 2:40 in response to a reporter noting that if the church wants to be free of mandates, don't take federal monies. Wuerl had just said news broadcasters would not want to be told to air certain views on certain days, as an analogy to being free of government interference. The reporter questioned the analogy, saying broadcasters do not accept federal money.Whereupon Wuerl said the pastoral center where he held a recent press conference has not one cent of government money in its construction or operation, with the same holding for financial support of his ministry. That stopped the reporter cold.What Wuerl darn well knows (at least one hopes he knows) is that, for example, Catholic Charities USA gets 65% of its budget from the federal government. I assume there are significant government monies involved in the running of Catholic hospitals and universities. Perhaps Jim Jenkins or Bill deHaas has more detail on that.So, for Wuerl to cite only an archdiocesan building that gets "not one cent" is evasive manipulation of the relevant facts. I have the impression the bishops may be secretly thrilled to beat the self-righteous drum of religious liberty.O'Leary is right: "This will be a glorious campaign, it will pay and pay, and give the bishops a moral grandeur that they have not been successful in projecting in recent decades."The Mother Jones piece exposes the background: "Most of Obama's "Controversial" Birth Control Rule Was Law During Bush YearsThe right has freaked out over an Obama administration rule requiring employers to offer birth control to their employees. Most companies already had to do that...DePaul University, the largest Roman Catholic university in America, added birth control coverage to its plans after receiving an EEOC complaint several years ago. (DePaul officials did not respond to a request for comment.)"Has anyone been hoodwinked here? The theological and constitutional ethers have been well stirred, but the realities of women's lives and consciences feel shortchanged.

Rocco has the "bishops-only" briefing from the "Group of Five" tonight to brother bishops.http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/"Delivered to the bench via its "bishops-only website," the letter is a heavily bulked-up version of a second public response issued this evening renewing the bishops' call for "legislative action" to oppose the measure. In the body's name, the statement judges that President Obama "has decided to retain HHS's nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients."We cannot fail to reiterate this," the public message added."Nein, apparently.

From the NYTimes (Laurie Goodstein and Helene Cooper)"WASHINGTON For the White House, the decision announced Friday to soften a rule requiring religious-affiliated organizations to pay for insurance plans that offer free birth control was never really driven by a desire to mollify Roman Catholic bishops, who were strongly opposed to the plan.Rather, the fight was for Sister Carol Keehan head of an influential Catholic hospital group, who had supported President Obamas health care law and Catholic allies of the White House seen as the religious left. Sister Keehan had told the White House that the new rule, part of the health care law, went too far.I felt like he had made a really bad decision, and I told him that, Sister Keehan said of the president. I told his staff that. I felt like they had made a bad decision on principle, and politically it was a bad decision. For me another key thing was that it had the potential to threaten the future of health reform....In announcing the shift on Friday, Mr. Obama sought to quell the brewing rebellion. Not unexpectedly, the Catholic bishops issued a statement renewing their call for legislative action on religious liberty, and calling rescission of the mandate the only complete solution. And Speaker John A. Boehners spokesman on Friday promised that House Republicans will continue to work toward a legislative solution...".Meanwhile, Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a group founded by nuns decades ago to lobby on social justice issues, warned White House officials that nearly 500 Catholic activists would be in Washington this weekend for a conference, and that if no compromise had been reached by then, all of them would return to their parishes fired up about the contraception mandate.We were getting killed, one administration official said Friday. The White House picked the deputy chief of staff Nancy-Ann DeParle to talk to Sister Keehan about ways the rule could be made palatable. Meanwhile, administration officials were hearing from womens rights organizations, particularly Planned Parenthood, who warned that they would oppose any compromise that made employees pick up the tab.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/11/health/policy/obama-to-offer-accommoda...

J Random, thanks or the link to the article on "Whispers.". My reaction is that It's a lot softer in tone thn the one on the USCCB website. From. If fervent arrival on "Whispers", here's the letter to be read in all churches in the New Yok Archdiocese this weekend. It's a lot more restrained than ome of the other bihops' letters I've read today:"Dear friends in the Lord:Over the last three weeks, Americans of all religious creeds, and none at all, have united in remarkable concern over the restrictive and immoral mandates ordered by the federal government. This concern is warranted as the proposed rules would require a violation of conscience for so many, and a threat to religious freedom for all.I thank so many of you, who have enthusiastically been part of this expression of concern, united with your bishops.Fridays announcement that the federal government seems to have softened the mandates, and is open to working with us in further progress, is a welcome first step. We must study it carefully.However, we cannot let up in our concern for the protection of religious freedom and the reverence for conscience which are at the heart of American values.Stay tuned, as we may need your help again.Renewed gratitude and prayerful best wishes, I am,Fraternally yours in Christ,Cardinal-designate Timothy M. DolanArchbishop of New York

Rocco's post, linked above by J Random, is must-read. Two points I'd like to highlight:* The bishops have concerns, but they have not out-and-out rejected or condemned what the President offered today. They seem to recognize, rightly I believe, that this is complicated stuff and requires some study, thought and analysis.* Based on their initial understanding of what is proposed, the bishops' "Gang of 5" lists six sets of concerns. I'm pasting them here from Rocco's post (I hope that's ok). In my opinion, they all have merit.[Begin excerpted portion]At present our understanding of the new final rule, at least part of which is expected to appear in the Federal Register next week, is as follows.1. The Administration has indicated it is retaining the narrow, four-pronged exemption for religious employers such as churches and houses of worship. There is a serious concern that the four-pronged exemption would become a precedent for other regulations. However, it will also offer a new policy covering non-exempt religious organizations such as charities and hospitals. Our concern remains strong that the government is creating its own definitions of who is religious enough for full protection. Secular employers must provide coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion inducing drugs.2. Non-exempt religious organizations that object to these services may offer a health plan without them that is, they do not list the services in their plan and they do not pay directly for them. But the insurance issuer selling this plan must offer to add these services for each of the organizations employees free of charge (that is, no additional premium and no co-pay or out-of-pocket expenses). We are told that this is not to be seen as a rider rather, these items will simply be covered, but without the employer endorsing or directly providing them. However, it remains unclear as to how insurers will be compensated for the cost of these items, with some commentators suggesting that such compensation will ultimately be derived from the premiums paid by the religious employer. This lack of clarity is a grave concern. 3. These latter (religious but non-exempt) employers will have a year (up to August 2013) to work out final details of this, with a further rule to be issued by the Administration before the end of that period. The advantage is that we can take part in this dialogue; the down side is that we may not know the final actual details of some aspects of the policy until well into the New Year.4. All insurers without exception are covered by the mandate to provide these services without charge. At this point it does not seem that a religiously affiliated health plan (e.g., one run by a Catholic health system) can be offered to the general public and exclude the objectionable services, since most of the public is supposed to have these services included by their insurers automatically.5. We are presented with a serious dilemma regarding self-insured plans, where a religious organization is both employer and insurer, and regarding student health plans offered by religious colleges and universities. It appears that such plans will be required to offer the objectionable coverage.6. It seems clear there is no exemption for Catholic and other individuals who work for secular employers; for such individuals who own or operate a business; or for employers who have a moral (not religious) objection to some procedures such as the abortifacient drug Ella. This presents a grave moral problem that must be addressed, and it is unclear whether this combination of policies creates a mandate for contraception, sterilization and abortion inducing drugs covering more of the U.S. population than originally proposed.[End excerpted portion]

Sorry, having auto-complete problems on my iPad. The beginning of the second graf should read: "From a different article on "Whispers"...."You can probably decipher the others.

One more comment: the President, I think, has responded in good faith to what he perceived to be the bishops', and Catholic institutions', main complaint. I know that the NY Times had a story today or yesterday that the bishops had been gearing up for this battle for months; but if that's true, the relative paucity of materials that the bishops have made available is somewhat surprising. By contrast, they had some fairly in-depth position papers and backgrounders during the controversy over ACA. In the present controversy, the materials that the USCCB had provided on its website have focused almost solely on the religious liberty issue for Catholic institutions not covered by the new regulations' narrow definition of religious organization, and that is what the President has now addressed.The letter that Rocco printed, from which I quoted above, is the most substantive thing, by far, that I've seen from the bishops so far on this controversy. It seems that, as the bishops are doing their homework, consulting their experts and discussing this among themselves, they are realizing that there are more dimensions to this than religious freedom.

NYT -- "the decision announced Friday . . . was never really driven by a desire to mollify Roman Catholic bishops . . . Rather, the fight was for Sister Carol Keehan . . . and Catholic allies of the White House seen as the religious left"How does it feel to be considered and treated like nothing more than a political tool? A tool as part of a concerted political effort to drive a wedge between Catholics, to divide the Church?

Over at First Things R.R. Reno employs logic - rather than the sophistry of many bloggers here - to look at this question:"Hum. Religious organizations will not be required to subsidize the cost of contraceptionand women will get the coverage FREE OF CHARGE. Is that because contraceptives and a system for delivering them and processing insurance paperwork COST NOTHING?This is a charade. Insurance companies will obvious raise overall premiums to provide adequate income for the free contraceptives. So religious organizations that pay the premiums will indeed be subsidizing the cost of contraceptives.I find myself exasperated. Why is the Left so committed to the goal of free contraceptives for women?"

Also, the utilitarian and pseudo-science of Obama and the left really is breath-taking:Is pregnancy a punishment? Is it a disease to be prevented as the president insists?Cold, calculating "cost comparison" to determine that chemical contraception foisted on the population via propaganda and government fiat is less "expensive" than pregnancy? Really?? Tell that to Europe or Russia or Japan or any other dying western society with negative population growth that has substituted reason and faith for a the sterile doctrine of liberal materialism and pseudo-science...

In a bold new initiative Obamacare will require all insurance plans to distribute to each enrolled person an apple every day. Recent research by the actuaries of the Apple Growers Benevolent Society has demonstrated that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, thus saving untold billions in health care and demonstrating to the insurance industry new sources of profit hitherto unimagined. Preliminary research also indicates that two apples a day will keep two doctors away, with the additional savings allowing the distribution In early November of $1,000 to every registered voter. Administration officials are cautiously optimistic that with the flourishing of a subsidized apple industry vast numbers will live as long as Methusaleh and will be as rich as Croesus.

Ann Olivier 02/10/2012 - 12:38 pm subscriberWhew! That was a close one. Well see if all the bishops accept it.Good for Obama for reacting decisively and avoiding what could have been a brutal constitutional war.He didnt say in so many words, I made a mistake, but actions speak louder than words. The compromise is a fine one.

Ann, if you glance through all these comments, you'll notice that with this proposal, Obama may have created a far bigger mess than he'll be able to clean up quickly. He may still be floundering come November.That won't make me happy. I was hoping for a much better outcome. Obama started this off shamefully, then made it worse. Tone deaf, apparently - thought he could just ignore the fat old white guys in funny hats.

Continuing Patrick Molloy's press release: The Obama "two apples in every pot" program has been savaged by members of the religious right. "Here again we see the administration's lack of understanding of the truth of sacred scripture. If he read the Book, he'd see that it was BECAUSE OF EATING FRUIT (which tradition has linked to apples,) that humanity fell in the Garden of Eden. Some so-called "scientists" might see a health benefit in eating fruits and vegetables, but we will never condone the imposition of apple-coverage on mere grounds of health. Who knows what dire fate might befall mankind if we eat apples as cavalierly as Adam and Eve did in 4004 b.c., when the world was created? All Americans must kowtow to our reading of the Bible, and oppose mandatory apples to respect our religious freedom." Immediately, the Obama administration boldly backed off. "We will require insurers to provide apples free, so that no religious institution will be forced to pay for them. No one is forced to actually eat the apples, but this guarantees access for all. After all, fruits are an important part of the Food Pyramid, and are regarded by medical science as good for people." "Aha!," spokesmen for the right rejoined. "Pyramids! An ancient Egyptian OCCULT religious symbol! We knew the President was against Christian values."

"I find myself exasperated. Why is the Left so committed to the goal of free contraceptives for women?Brett --You are not going to understand until you can imaginatively put yourself in the places of women who are stressed out, in bad health, exhausted, needing to put off having a child, have too many kids already, etc. Yes, there are some women who just don't want kids ever, and I just don't understand them either. But I do understand the others because I can imagine what it is like to be under one or more or many of those sorts of pressures. If you can't imagine their lives, you will never understand why they want contraceptives so much. What this really means is that you seem to have no idea of how much energy, patience, health, time, money and personal sacrifice it takes for a woman to raise a child. And the amounts go up as the number of children gets larger. You can say that these days men share parenting equally with their wives, but I'm sorry, every study I've ever seen says such men are the exceptions. And nowadays women also typically work full-time jobs. As for unmarried women, also try to understand where they're coming from, and you'll see why contraceptives are important to them. You don't agree with their morality, but most of them think their sexual morality is just fine. So don't judge them on that score. All I'm saying is: if you really want to *understand*, try to imagine their actual lives and all the pressures they undergo. And it will take some imagining in detail. Wish I could recommend some novels and stories that would tell you more. Maybe Jean Raber could recommend some contemporary ones.It is not just the radical feminists who think this is important. Don't fool yourself. I don't doubt that those conservative Catholic mothers also understand the temptations very, very well.

Its quite touching to see conservative critics of the revised mandate so deeply concerned about the finances of insurance companies, when they are earning record profits.

Grant, don't you see any problem with the President of the United States being able to tell a company - any company - to suck up the cost of a program he's just thought up? Isn't that just a little overreaching? If a company, why not a person, or a class of people? And this isn't even a law - just a regulation, like thousands of regulations government agencies are making all the time. Don't we maybe have an unfortunate precedent here?

David S. --Ever the cynic, aren't you, when it comes to the motives of people you disagree with. Sorry, I find that a very unreliable assumption. Yes, there are some terrible hypocrites on this earth -- I've known a champion one, but I have to think that Barack Obama is not one of them. For starters, when he graduated from Harvard Law School with a brilliant record (first editor of the Law Review) the sky was the limit for him finantially had he chosen to use his legal skills in a first-class law firm. But he chose to work with the poor - he didn't even make a nice little pot of money and then go help the poor. No, he went straight to the Chicago ghettos. Sorry, this is not the action of hypocrite. And I don't find any substantial reason since to think that he has changed. I think he has made a few bad judgments, but all in all considering how many people make him a scapegoat for the failure of previous administrations and, especially, the financial and housing industries, he is doing remarkably well.

"All Im saying is: if you really want to *understand*, try to imagine their actual lives and all the pressures they undergo. And it will take some imagining in detail. Wish I could recommend some novels and stories that would tell you more. Maybe Jean Raber could recommend some contemporary ones."Ann, I understand; however, can you understand the nature of this federal mandate? The scope, the size, the message that it sends?There is more than one way to plan a family - conservative catholics are using NFP...why do you support a method that pumps women full of artificial hormones and chemicals promoted by the major pharma companies (in cooperation with the federal government).You have not seen your generation affected by the pill like I have - the STD rates, the depression, the hook up culture on college. This is not about what is healthy for women - this is about pushing a materialistic and reductionistic view of women and human sexuality. I understand, do you?

Ann Olivier 02/11/2012 - 1:04 am subscriberI find myself exasperated. Why is the Left so committed to the goal of free contraceptives for women?Brett You are not going to understand until you can imaginatively put yourself in the places of women who are stressed out, in bad health, exhausted, needing to put off having a child, have too many kids already, etc.

Oh, Ann, there's a great distance between recognizing unhappiness and "curing" it. Free gifts from politicians just buy elections, no more. Happiness is fleeting, and it never has the same cause twice. I can't imagine that giving out free contraceptives will make anybody happy, can you? It might remove a few causes of possible unhappiness but it will likely add at least a few more. What new need next? How about free antidepressants? Call it Soma. That's a nice name.

Brett --I neglected to say that it is best that it be free because, as you possibly will have noticed, men rarely pay for the contraceptives even as they are just as responsible for the consequences of their acts. If they have to pay somewhat higher premiums for their insurance because of the "free" contraceptives, that will be a plus. Also, consider that women still typically do not get equal pay for equal work. So it's fairer that women not bear the cost of the contraceptives. Yes, this is shuffling costs around in not a totally fair way, but it's not as unfair as the other way.

Sorry, Ann, if that was a bit heated...this topic gets the emotions going. I am a witness to the "healthcare" and culture promoted by the pill; I participated in it...it is dehumanizing for all involved. It is more than about the science and ecnomic and politics, it is about such technology affects human behavior and attitudes and I will tell you that it is not pretty. Go to any college campus and you can see the true cost of chemical contraception and a reductionalist/utilitarian view of sexuality.

Another press release:The same mathematicians who calculated the number of jobs "saved or created" by the enormously successful Obama stimulus have now revised their projections: to take care of additional patients more doctors will be needed in the early years and the projected savings from the apple a day program will not materialize until the mid- to late-22nd century. However, an important if esoteric mathematical proof has shown that if we tax the rich in sufficient amounts, even taking into account the simultaneous subsidy of the much needed free contraceptive usage by the rich, the program as a whole may pay for itself. Each dollar spent will yield benefits in the range $0.99 - $1.01, say administration actuaries.These numbers have been verified by E.J. Dionne and Sr. Carol Keehan and they approve this message.

"Ann, I understand; however, can you understand the nature of this federal mandate? The scope, the size, the message that it sends?"Brett -- Yes, the scope, size and message are very large. But it just reflects the morality of most Americans. Why would it reflect anything else? Why *should* it reflect anything else?You also say: "Free gifts from politicians just buy elections, no more."This is not free nor a gift. See my comments on the latest thread. But it is true -- women will pay less for what they are given -- but they deserve to pay less.Also: "Happiness is fleeting, and it never has the same cause twice."Yes, sometimes it does. And there is nothing new about the need for sex, love, and insurance you don't pay for yourself :-)Is sex Soma for Americans? Yes, I think in many cases it is, and that needs to be changed. But let's get at why sex is over-valued as a cause of happiness in this culture. But that is a HUGE question with many, many, many causes.

Brett --I agree that the hook-up culture is de-humanizing especially for the women. Did you see the latest statistics that show that women are generally *less* happy now than they were pre- sexual revolution? I don't doubt that it's partly because women have in too many cases been dehumanized by it. They have mainly been confirmed as sex objects by the "liberated" culture. Oh, what irony, what irony!. Sure, there are many good things about that revolution, but some terrible ones too. The fact remains that young women -- and men -- these days are severely tempted to be sexually active and most think that it's OK. But you're not going to prevail on them to drop out of the hook=up culture unless you can offer them something better, and they won't even start to listen to you unless you begin with a better understanding of where they're coming from.

Jean Raber (if you're reading this thread) --Brett needs the names of a few authors of novels and stories who write about young women's struggles to meet their challenges in this brave new world since the 60s. Can you recommend any?

Ann: "The fact remains that young women and men these days are severely tempted to be sexually active and most think that its OK."We are on the same page here, Ann; however, this mandate is something that will *encourage* this very culture that you and I lament and there is no obvious logic (beyond promoting a specific liberal sexual ideology) to offer free chemical contraceptives to the public. I am not calling for a ban on contraceptives, I am simply calling for the government not to promote them as an unquestioned good (which they are not) or force them on the entire population at the expense of religious liberty and other costs.

I will stick with Huxley's Brave New World ;-) That seems to describe the utilitarian motives and scientism of the current liberal establishment.

I can't bear the sarcasm and callousness of some male contributors here. I agree with Carolyn Disco and having watched Wuerl's performance I am nothing less than horrified. Cardinal Wuerl is a radically arrogant man, overflowing with charming smiles as he relishes his political victory. A Catholic President like Kennedy would have put him and Dolan in their place, just as our Irish pm allowed the legalization of contraceptives and sat patiently through a dressing-down straight from the lips of Paul VI. Catholic politicians know very well and despise thoroughly the games bishops play.What games do I mean?1. Construct a foolproof logical system -- that is one that can pass as foolproof in a monologal discourse.2. Use it to oppose any openings to modernity, anything that smells of permissiveness or liberalism or freedom.3. Launch a high-profile obstructionist campaign against some chosen piece of legislation.4. Demonizes its proponents as traitors.5. Stir up panic among the people by slippery slope arguments.6. Appeal to the grandeur and wisdom of millennial catholic tradition whose humble servant you pose as.7. Faced with practical objections face down the critics with "hard cases make bad law" ripostes.8. Silence critics wherever possible --- if they are in the employ of the church this is easy.9. Refuse dialogue with those affected.Wuerl's dialogue on Morning Joe is actually rather rare, I think, and shows the supreme confidence of the bishops at this moment.Shockingly dishonest was his reply to the question about the 14% of employees who will need contraceptives for non-contraceptive purposes -- his answer: well, they are not as expensive as is sometimes said! That was a deeply inhuman reply.He says that many, many Catholics are basically guilty about contraception and will rally to the Church knowing that the Church is right. After all many Catholics go to jail for doing other evil things. The bishops have found a marvelous method of moral blackmail -- its efficiency is seen even in the support they've found in Commonweal. Who would ever have thought Humanae Vitae has such a kick in it!But as one of the interviewers cannily remarks -- "I think we're going to see more movement on this story and I hope you'll be willing to come back."Yes, would the Cardinal be ready to face (the rage of) those who have not yet spoken: Catholic women. (Bishops scoff at them and see the whole contraceptive issue as a revolt of the wives and daughters, who must be taught their place.)

When I see things like point 6 above, one of the questions I ask is: are the bishops telling Catholics who have insurance now to get rid of it if the policy includes contraceptives? Or if the company has policies which include them?

"NYT the decision announced Friday . . . was never really driven by a desire to mollify Roman Catholic bishops . . . Rather, the fight was for Sister Carol Keehan . . . and Catholic allies of the White House seen as the religious leftI think that makes sense; for me the religious sisters are the voice of integrity in the "official" part of our Church. What they think carries a lot of weight with me; I was happy with the compromise to start with, and since this is at heart a women's issue, that feeling is strengthened knowing that Catholic women leaders support it as well.

Re: President Obamas fix for the contraception mandate, see The Bishops Take on the Accommodation http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2012/02/our-understanding-of-rul...

"When I see things like point 6 above, one of the questions I ask is: are the bishops telling Catholics who have insurance now to get rid of it if the policy includes contraceptives? Or if the company has policies which include them?"If so, maybe the covered Catholics could just make a charitable contribution equal to the $ value of the benefit to programs serving needy women and children. That would be a win-win all around.

For those interested, see also Obama Accommodation Reactionshttp://www.patheos.com/blogs/theanchoress/2012/02/10/obama-accommodation...

Here's a quick comment I wrote on VN, going through my full thoughts on the matter though in a quick (and so rough) form:I hate to say it, but I do think there are a couple people who have taken power in the USCCB which is misdirecting the USCCB by offering incomplete analysis to promote political instead of religious goals. We saw this with the health care debate, we see it here now.Let me go through my full thoughts on the matter.First, should contraceptives, as contraceptives, be paid for by insurance companies? No. Now if someone needed the pill to regulate menstrual cycles, I think it is legitimate medicine and should be included.Second, before the bad HHS policy decision, what exactly was the lay of the land? Most people bought insurance with policies that already included contraceptives or from companies which do and still help pay for it that way.Third, in many states, the Church had already found themselves required to meet similar demands. The Church objected but, in the end, understood that its moral laws allowed such remote material cooperation so they didnt go all out in civil disobedience (which it would do if it found the cooperation is too much, as we can be seen with the way the Church continues to support illegal immigrants).Fourth, there are SEVERAL questions which have been raised: 1) the evil of contraceptive use 2) religious liberty 3) funding something you dont agree with morally. However, the other relevant question has not been asked, and without it being asked, makes it impossible to engage the issue properly and that is: proportionality and material cooperation with evil and how it applies here. To keep saying this is wrong is one thing, but that is not the whole of the question or the debate. Many people in the US, in the world, engage in a world where the system makes you complicit through remote material cooperation with things you thought wrong. This is where the way the Church has dealt with state mandates is important and the reason why people point them out: from what we already saw, the Church accepted (however much it didnt want to) that such remote material cooperation with contraception via insurance is _possible_. As long as that is ignored, the whole discussion is distorted.Fifth: once again, we must not look at this as if the HHS/Obama administration is suggesting something new which has not been seen before at some level. The way it is being treated, however, is it is new, and it is all at the hands of Obama. This is where it looks like political partisanship. When it is all about Obama and not about the whole, about what has happened in the past, about saying we wont cooperate with Obama while not telling Catholics to not cooperate with insurance companies which already do this. If it became across board and suggested that Catholics who already have such insurances should now object and it became a universal rejection of insurance policies, I would say the argument is stronger. When this is not going on, again, it makes it seem (and I think right) that some in the USCCB are purposefully choosing a battle against Obama while not really interested in the questions they raised. A tool for a fight, not an interest in religious liberty, contraception, etc.The bishops, I believe, are interested in the principles. However,. they are also letting people at the USCCB guide the conversation. They are hiding a major part of the conversation is a problem, and causing our bishops to look like tools. That is what I really object to!

Michael KellySadly, what it looks like is "We hate Obama" by so many people.

Bishop Cupich has a thoughtful article in "America""4. A return to civility will be needed for us to fully seize the opportunities this newest development offers us. While the outrage to the HHS decision was understandable, in the long run threats and condemnations have a limited impact. Leaders especially have a responsibility in this regard. They should always be leery of letting a situation escalate to an undesirable degree, particularly if it has the potential of bringing lasting harm to both the church and the nation, and even worse, disproportionately impact the least among us.5. We should never stop talking to one another. Though the assurances given on Friday that the administrations plan all along was for government and church to work together to resolve conflicts on the HHS mandate, the impression was that the government door was shut and it was up to the church to fix a problem it did not create. If that was a misperception, conversations could have at least clarified it.6. Likewise, the church should make every attempt to clarify the misrepresentations about its intentions. For obvious reasons the church will object to being forced to directly participate in activities that violate important core religious teachings, especially when proven alternative pathways already exist. However, in doing so the church is not trying to impose its will on others. Commenting on the place of Catholic social doctrine in public debate Pope Benedict XVI unambiguously stated in his first encyclical, God is Love: It has no intention of giving the church power over the state. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just.Read the rest: http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13263

The problem is, once again, the HHS policy as far as I know, never required direct participation with contraceptives. Telling people to buy policies from a third party which include the possibility of using things which are evil is not the same thing as making one directly use such evil. That is, again, a part of the problem of the rhetoric -- the equivocation of degrees of cooperation with evil going on.

It may be interesting to reflect on the different scopes of interest at play among Catholic leaders. Sr. Carol Keehan and Fr. John Jenkins, to name a couple of prominent Catholic leaders who have weighed in publicly on this controversy, seem to be faithful and committed Catholic persons. We may expect them, as Catholic individuals, to share some of the multifaceted concerns that the bishops are now raising. At the same time, each has very specific professional obligations, and a moral duty to discharge them. I'd suggest that when Sr. Keehan speaks positively of this development, she is doing so as the leader of an association of Catholic hospitals and health care providers, from whom a moral burden has just been lifted. (And as I wrote above, I agree with that point of view).The bishops' scope is much broader. Their lookout encompasses, not only Catholic health care providers and Catholic universities, but the whole of the church as it exists in the world - a sweeping expanse. Thus, they raise the issue of problems that this new compromise raises for Catholic health care insurers and Catholic institutions that self insure. Those problems may turn out to be real. But I don't fault Sr. Keehan for not raising them, as, in her professional capacity, she may not feel it is within her scope to raise them. But neither are the bishops wrong to do so, because it does fall within their much broader scope as bishops.I mention this because, if we think of it in this light, we may conclude that the seemingly-contrasting statements coming from Sr. Keehan and from some bishops may not be evidence of a split within Catholic leadership. It may just be instances of the same church, which is incredibly vast and complex, speaking simultaneously from different points of view.

Another reason for the seemingly-contrasting statements coming from Sr. Keehan and from some bishops is that Sr. Keehan has not spent her life operating as a prince in an autocracy and the bishops have.

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