My friend John Grogan, a Democrat and Catholic lawyer in Philadelphia, writes (and I quote this with his permission):
As an openly pro-Obama Catholic in 2008, allow me to express OUTRAGE at the recent HHS regulations on insurance coverage. Today’s NYT piece explains the situation and despite its avowedly anti-Catholic tone — more on that in a minute — it makes abundantly clear that Obama has not a leg to stand on. All right-wing hyperbole to one side, this is an attack on religious liberty, and a naked one.
Politically, I do not understand the thinking here. In an election year in which your health care plan will be the central plank of your opponent’s case, you decide to give a large middle finger to Catholics (last time I heard an important demographic in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania). Note that the bishops want to be, and should be, the prime supporters of universal health coverage. But Obama, to placate the abortion lobby, has decided to not merely ignore Catholic concerns as he already did, but now to affirmatively attack them. It is unimaginable that he could be this politically stupid. He now provides evidence that makes ME ( largely a liberal Democrat) wonder if this administration and elements in the Democratic Party are not in fact pursuing a wider agenda to reduce religious voice and presence in the public square. Until now, I had left that kind of theorizing to the conservative talk shows — but what else explains this move?
As [my wife] pointed out, for too long Catholic institutions — colleges, hospitals and the like — have dimmed their Catholic identity to such an extent that students and employees are surprised and offended when they find that their health insurance does not cover certain items and procedures. Hello! You chose to go to Fordham Law School. If you want a different health plan, go to NYU. I encourage reading the piece despite its angina-inducing bias.
On bias, this is the worst I have seen in a long time. Note how the piece ends with the claim that student questions were censored at a Fordham event. The moderator declined to pose certain questions to Archbishop Dolan because they were too pointed. The piece never tells us what the questions were or how they were phrased. I think it likely that the questions were of a “have you stopped beating your wife?” quality. But we are left with the image of the censorious Catholic institution protecting the bishop. Anyone who knows Fordham, let alone its Law School, knows that is one of the last places Dolan would get a free ride.
John, by the way, graduated from
Fordham Law School Fordham with his bachelor’s degree. He got his law degree from Penn.
As I’ve said before, the heart of this issue is not whether or not you agree with the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception. The heart of this issue is religious liberty. And please, readers, in your commentary, don’t bring up the canard that if Catholic institutions take Caesar’s money, they have to play by Caesar’s rules. This HHS rule applies to all employers offering health insurance, not just those who take government funding.
This is a culture war that Barack Obama declared upon the Catholic Church. HHS could give the Church an exemption. But Obama has drawn the line in the sand here. Again, as John — a liberal Democrat who openly backed Obama — writes:
He now provides evidence that makes ME ( largely a liberal Democrat) wonder if this administration and elements in the Democratic party are not in fact pursuing a wider agenda to reduce religious voice and presence in the public square. Until now, I had left that kind of theorizing to the conservative talk shows, but what else explains this move?
UPDATE: E.J. Dionne, another Catholic Democrat, slams Obama over this. Excerpt:
Speaking as a Catholic, I wish the Church would be more open on the contraception question. But speaking as an American liberal who believes that religious pluralism imposes certain obligations on government, I think the Church’s leaders had a right to ask for broader relief from a contraception mandate that would require it to act against its own teachings. The administration should have done more to balance the competing liberty interests here.