Many moderate to liberal bishops across America are opposing the anti-Obama rhetoric they see from more conservative colleagues such as Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne is reporting.
Dolan yesterday lashed out at the Obama administration against claiming that President Obama’s health care policy is “strangling” religious freedom.
The Cardinal said: “I worry that members of [President Obama’s] administration might not particularly understand our horror at the restricted nature of the exemption that they’re giving us.
“For the first time we can remember, a bureau of the federal government seems to be radically intruding on what the term of a church is.”
However, bishops in California in particular are seeking a more moderate line on the issue of health care rights and seeking to forge a compromise with the Obama administration.
Dionne points out that only 13 of the 105 dioceses across the country joined the recent law suit against the Obama administration.
Many Catholic Bishops wanted a compromise, he stated.
“Until now, bishops who believed that their leadership was aligning the institutional church too closely with the political right had voiced their doubts internally.
“But in recent months, a series of events — among them the Vatican’s rebuke of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, encouraged by right-wing U.S. bishops — have angered more progressive Catholics and led to talk among the disgruntled faithful of the need for a “Catholic spring” to challenge the hierarchy’s shift to the right,” Dionne wrote.
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., has now taken on his more conservative colleagues, Dionne reported.
In an interview with America, the Jesuit magazine, Blaire stated that groups “very far to the right” are turning the controversy over the contraception rules into “an anti-Obama campaign”.
“I think there are different groups that are trying to co-opt this and make it into [a] political issue, and that’s why we need to have a deeper discussion as bishops,” he said.
“I think our rhetoric has to be that of bishops of the church who are seeking to be faithful to the Gospel, that our one concern is that we make sure the church is free to carry out her mission as given to her by Christ, and that remains our focus.”
Meanwhile, lawyers for California’s bishops said the lawsuits against the Obama administration would be “imprudent” and “ill-advised.”
Many moderate bishops have highlighted Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore as well as Dolan as being the key figures behind the anti Obama drive.
Dionne wrote that “Bishop Blaire believes discussions with the Obama administration toward a resolution of the dispute could be fruitful even as alternative remedies are explored.
Cardinal Dolan told CBS show “This Morning” that the compromise reached over the health plan policy earlier this year was insufficient because the exemptions being made for the Church are too restrictive.
He said, “They tell us if you're really going be considered a church, if you're going to be really exempt from these demands of the government, well, you have to propagate your Catholic faith and everything you do, you can serve only Catholics and employ only Catholics.
"We're like, wait a minute, when did the government get in the business of defining for us the extent of our ministry."
The Catholic institutions are suing in protest over the government’s requirement that most employers provide birth control coverage as part of employee’s health plans. After initial protest from Catholic establishments, Obama offered to soften this rule so the insurer would pay for the birth control, rather than the religious groups.
Dolan, the bishops, and the other Catholic groups suing the Obama administration, feel that this doesn’t go far enough.
Speaking to CBS, Dolan criticized Georgetown University’s decision to invite Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary, to speak to graduates last week.
He said, “Well, I do think that's a problem. Georgetown is the oldest Catholic university in the country. Part of Catholic identity is to be in union with the bishops.
"When they would invite someone that is so dramatically at odds with one of the central tenets of the faith, that does bother us."
Georgetown University President John DeGioia defended the university's decision to invite Sebelius as evidence that the university "is committed to the free exchange of ideas."
The New York Post commented that in 2008, Barack Obama had 54 percent of the Catholic vote. According to a Gallup poll last month, Catholics are now evenly split between Obama and the Republican hopeful Mitt Romney.
Here’s the CBS “This Morning” interview with the New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan: