The Administration is using raw political force to compel a small subset of schools, hospitals, charities and other religious institutions “to maintain in our policies practices which our Church has consistently taught are grave wrongs in which we cannot participate,” as Cardinal Dolan puts it.
He also relates a remarkable meeting that he says the White House convened with the bishops to “work out the wrinkles” of the mandate. Having accepted the invitation, the bishops asked if concrete policy changes like broadening the mandate’s exemptions were “all off the table. They were informed that they are.”
In other words, the White House’s solution is merely for the bishops to shut up about the wrinkles. Cardinal Dolan writes that “there was not even a nod to the deeper concerns about trespassing upon religious freedom.” White House staffers also cited some writings by vicars of the Catholic left in support of the mandate, in effect telling the bishops that they know less about church teachings than your average Washington Post columnist.
As a study in ideology and power, the anecdote is chilling, compounded by all the recent claims by Democrats and liberals that Catholics who actually abide by their faith are opposed to modernity. Such prejudice is supposedly defunct in contemporary America, except when it’s practiced against religion.
Cardinal Dolan touches on the way the mandate’s supporters are having a false debate about “access” to health care, which everyone supports, but he doesn’t say—though we can say—how cheap contraception is in most cases. Prescription birth control pills generally cost between $15 and $50 a month, and Wal-Mart and Target sell generic versions for as little as $9. The idea that college coeds are going broke from this small and predictable expense is ludicrous.
“Religious freedom is our heritage, our legacy and our firm belief,” Cardinal Dolan concludes. The sad reality is that his letter will not persuade the dominant wing of America’s governing political party from insisting that religion kneel before its secular will.
We can educate our fellow Americans, in our homes, over e-mail, on Facebook, by the watercooler, on the phone to our congressmen . . . this is an election year, after all. We do have some power still.