Discussing the HHS contraception/sterilization/abortion-mandate debate during an interview that partially aired on The O’Reilly Factor last night, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Catholic bishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said: “Our opponents are very shrewd because they have chosen an issue that they know we are not very popular on and that is why . . . we have to be very vigorous in insisting that this is not about contraception, it’s about religious freedom.
He went on to say:
And I don’t want to judge people, but I think there would be a drift in the administration that this is a good issue and if we can divide the Catholic community — because it’s already divided — and if one can caricature the bishops as being hopelessly out of touch – these bullies who are trying to achieve judicially and legislatively what they’ve been unable to achieve because their moral integrity has been compromised recently. There is that force out there trying to caricature us, all right? But we can’t back down from this fight because it’s about religious freedom, it’s close to the very heart of what the democratic enterprise what we know and love as the United States of America is all about.
Cardinal Dolan took on the mainstream worldview that insists the faithful be on the margins of civic life: “To think that there’s a Berlin wall between one’s religious convictions and one’s political activities is crazy; it’s ludicrous. It’s not only non-Catholic, non-Christian, non-Biblical, it’s also un-American.”
“Every great movement in American history has been driven by people of religious conviction,” Dolan said. “And if we duct-tape the churches – I’m just not talking about the Catholic Church — if we duct-tape the role of religion and the churches and morally convinced people in the marketplace, that’s going to lead to a huge deficit, a huge void. And there are many people who want to fill it up — namely, a new religion called secularism – which would be as doctrinaire and would consider itself as infallible as they caricature the other religions doing. So to see that morally driven, religiously convinced people want to exercise their political responsibility, I think that is not only at the heart of Biblical religion, it’s at the heart of the American enterprise.”
As a recent statement from the bishops made clear, they are in this fight for the very principle of religious freedom, not some kind of special privilege, or accommodation.