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Cardinal Timothy Dolan appears to be preparing an all-out election year battle with the Obama administration. Undaunted by the major political fallout suffered by the GOP over contraception in recent weeks, the Cardinal is intensifying his war of words.
In a letter quoted on LifeNews.com this week Dolan, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops, publicly released details of a private conversation he and other bishops had with top White House officials.
In the letter the Cardinal reveals that a top Obama Administration official asked to meet with the bishops to 'work out the wrinkles' of the administrations' mandate on access to contraception.
'They invited us to ‘work out the wrinkles,’ Dolan writes, in an increasingly sarcastic appraisal of the White House meeting. 'Unfortunately, this seems to be stalled: the White House Press Secretary, for instance, informed the nation that the mandates are a fait accompli.'
Dolan continues: 'Our staff members asked directly whether the broader concerns of religious freedom — that is, revisiting the straight-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemption — are all off the table. They were informed that they are. So much for 'working out the wrinkles.'
Scathingly, Dolan added: 'We have made it clear in no uncertain terms to the government that we are not at peace with its invasive attempt to curtail the religious freedom we cherish as Catholics and Americans. We did not ask for this fight, but we will not run from it.'
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Dolan said that he saw more support for his views on contraception from the Republican controlled Congress, writing: 'Congress might provide more hope, since thoughtful elected officials have proposed legislation to protect what should be so obvious: religious freedom.'
Dolan's critics claim that he is playing politics and deliberately mischaracterizing the issue. The Obama administration has stated that, if they fit certain criteria, religious employers will be required to provide their employees with health insurance that includes a menu of coverage including contraception and that is all.
Dolan knows, critics contend, that churches and other organizations that primarily employ their co-religionists will be exempt from the requirement, although Catholic universities and hospitals are not.
For Dolan the issue may come down to what he sees as subsidizing immoral services (contraception) or no longer offering insurance coverage at all, a road he says he does not wish to go down.
However they may yet go down it. The Catholic Church closed the Francis House homeless shelter in Sacramento, California last month when they learned its director Rev. Faith Whitmore supports same sex marriage and abortion rights. The funding was immediately pulled from the 42 year old organization that serves up to 25,000 people.
A clarification from Whitmore that she was speaking as an individual, and not on behalf of Francis House, went unheeded. So clearly the precedent has been set for a complete withdrawal from longstanding services - rather than compromising on church teachings.
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