Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Did the Catholic Organizations Have to Sue Over the Health Care Mandate?

By E.J. Dionne Jr.

NOTE: This op-ed was first published May 21, 2012, by the Washington Post.

The federal lawsuits filed Monday by Catholic institutions against the contraception mandate under the health care law are not surprising, but they are unfortunate. The Bishops’ Conference and many — though not all — Catholic organizations are acting as if the Obama Administration had never backed down from its original, broad mandate and had never offered to negotiate.

But the administration, responding to a broadly united Catholic community, did offer a compromise and has since shown a willingness to try to accommodate many of the concerns of Catholic and other religious institutions. Now the Catholic community is split because many of us who initially backed the bishops cannot understand why they did not respond to the administration’s olive branch. Many bishops seem to want this fight.

There is certainly a case to pushing the administration to rewrite the definition of religious organizations under the health care regulations, but no reason to treat President Obama as an enemy of religious freedom. The bishops’ “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign is looking more and more like a direct intervention in this fall’s elections.

As my friends at Commonweal, the progressive Catholic magazine, noted in an important editorial: “This initiative is being launched during an election year in which one party has assumed the mantle of faith and charges the other with attacking religion. The bishops need to do much more to prevent their national campaign from becoming a not-very-covert rallying point for the Republican Party and its candidates. If that happens, it is the church and the cause of religious freedom that will suffer.” Commonweal said there is something “hyperbolic” about how the bishops are framing their campaign, and I see this lawsuit as one aspect of that.

It’s worth noting that the Catholic Health Association, which backed Obama’s compromise, has not joined this suit. Michael Rodgers, the CHA’s senior vice president for public affairs and advocacy, said in an interview that the CHA “was not made aware that the lawsuits were being filed now.” He added that the group is working with the administration to “broaden the exemption by broadening the definition of what a religious institution is.” I wish the bishops and others involved in these lawsuits had given the path of negotiation more time before going to court.


  1. As a Catholic woman, I am absolutely appalled by this lawsuit and by the Bishops' blatant support of the Republican Party. This is outrageous! The Catholic Church is supposed to observe a Preferential Option for the Poor; instead, it panders to the very political party that has no compassion whatsoever for the poor. It is time for Catholics to stand up against this obvious political partisanship on the part of so many Bishops and priests in our Church. I am so tired of being told from the pulpit that President Obama is waging a "war on religion" and that voting for him could endanger my immortal soul! I proudly voted for President Obama in 2008 and I will proudly vote for him this November. He, and most Democrats, understand the needs of women and the needs of the poor. Every person in this country should have access to healthcare. The Catholic Church has a moral obligation to stand up for the right of every person in this country to have healthcare. Instead, they undermine this basic moral right (and, thus, violate Catholic social teaching) by opposing President Obama. This was a planned attack. It must not succeed! Catholics must speak up and voice our support for President Obama and for women's right to healthcare.

  2. Considering that most priests have affairs with adults and make girlfriends get abortions with church hoodwinking, it is criminal Munchausen by Proxy medical malpractice by the GOP-USCCB to deny all Americans accessible health care just to also criminally pamper pedophile priests with extra molestation victims at the expense of right to life and health of the victims' mothers. Moreover, no one would be Catholic if a president ever got the guts to release WWII archives on Cardinal Montini (Paul VI) deliberately funding the Nazi Ustashi genocide of 1 million Serb "heretics" to "fight abortion".

  3. Would someone please start mounting a case for withdrawing tax-exempt status of the Catholic Dioceses!
    It's only Money that moves 'em.

  4. What are progressive Catholics going to do in response to the Bishop's Fortnight for Freedom, a politically divisive endeavor?

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