Home » Opinion » Catholics caught between bishops, Obama’s birth control mandate

Catholics caught between bishops, Obama’s birth control mandate


Mommy and Daddy are fighting, and the anguished children don’t know where to turn.

This is the state of the Roman Catholic Church in America today. A small group of very conservative bishops has hijacked the church, or at least the public voice of the church. They are playing the role of the authoritarian father. In case after case, their message to the Catholic faithful is “Do it because I say so.”

Last week, in an orchestrated political maneuver, 43 Catholic entities — including the Archdiocese of Washington — filed a dozen suits against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, saying that any mandate requiring religious organizations to provide contraceptive coverage to employees was a violation of religious liberty. So even though 82 percent of American Catholics believe that birth control is morally acceptable, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, called the lawsuits “a compelling display of the unity of the Church in defense of religious liberty.” (The USCCB is not a party to the suits.)

A much larger group of more moderate bishops has stayed mostly silent, fearful that to take a stand against their bishop brethren would be to lay bare intramural fissures. They play the role of the silent and frustrated mother.

The lawsuits are, in fact, very far from a “compelling display of unity.” There are 194 dioceses in the country; only about dozen joined the suits. There are more than 200 Catholic colleges and universities in the United States, and only a handful joined the suits. Notably missing from this so-called display of unity are the dioceses of Chicago and Los Angeles, both of which have prominent leadership and robust, vibrant Catholic communities. Also missing from the list of plaintiffs are some of the country’s most prominent Catholic educational institutions, notably Boston College and Georgetown University.

Only one brave bishop has so far explained his refusal to sign on with the authoritarian minority. Like a parent who prefers to work on marital disagreements in private, rather than expose the kids to disharmony and force them to choose sides, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., told America magazine Tuesday that he wanted the bishops to do more consensus building. If religious liberty is indeed the goal, then high-impact lawsuits with press releases aren’t the best way to achieve it. “I think there are different groups that are trying to co-opt this and make it into political issue, and that’s why we need to have a deeper discussion as bishops.”

In the middle, of course, are the kids, who love their parents and want them to get along – and hate, no matter where they stand on issues of sexual morality and religious liberty – to see their relatives in the headlines day after day. Some, like Hilary Mantel, the British author of “Wolf Hall” and, more lately, “Bring Up the Bodies,” simply leave the family and refuse to come back. “Nowadays,” she told the Telegraph, “the church is not an institution for respectable people.” [More]


The Washington Post



  1. Dr. Sarah A. Dolan says:

    Mr. Rice,I don’t think Mr. Nugent’s comments are nonsensical. Birth Control is not even a doctrine of the church. Look it up and find out what it is.

  2. Andrew Nugent says:

    Have you no sense of humor? Isn’t there something hilarious about this particular bunch of bishops posturing as freedom fighters? Who does religious liberty belong to – a minority of right-wing bishops, or the plain people? Is President Obama forcing anyone to use contraception or to have an abortion? He is merely trying to ensure that if a catholic uses his or her freedom to avail of a procedure that the bishops disapprove of, that person will not be penalised financially – precisely because of her or his religion.
    Some religions do not approve of blood transfusions. But we don’t hear their leaders insisting that their members will have to pay for transfusions themselves, to punish them for daring to disobey them – and that,in the name of religious freedom!

  3. Raymond J Rice says:

    What nonsense.Since when is Bishops Wuerl , Dolan and many others ” a small group of Conservative Bishops who have highjacked the Church”. These are world class leaders whose experience and education make Obama and his cohorts look like a kinder garden class. The extant issue of religous liberty is just one element of the fight for Human Rights which is at the center of Catholic Teaching. (Pope John Paul II called th Universal declaration o human rights “the finest statement of human conscience written”. This writers sophmoric approach to Catholic teaching would be improved if he would listen to Dolan.

    • David Tilly says:

      I don’t think so! Dolan is driving those who can think for themselves and form their own conscience away from the Church. Time will tell the story.


Leave a Comment