Catholic Church Goes to War with White House Over Moral Issues

The Catholic Church has drawn a line in the sand and is gathering its troops together to fight President Obama’s recent compromise concerning birth control. In a political move on Friday, Obama changed the rules of the new law, and according to many catholic officials, it is still not acceptable.

Before the compromise was issued Friday, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan claimed the President had reneged on birth control mandates with respect to religious organizations. His initial response to Friday’s confirmed alteration of the new law was cautiously positive. Later the same evening the Cardinal-designate made a public statement that “further examination of the adjusted Bill found it still had severe problems and that the church could not endorse it.”

Under the old policy, all employers — except churches and other establishments of worship — were required to provide free contraception to employees as part of their health insurance.

Under the compromised plan, religious employers including church-affiliated hospitals, clinics, charities and schools will not be required to offer birth control products or abortion-inducing drugs, and have no legal responsibility to refer employees to providers. Instead, employers’ insurance companies must provide birth control free, in a separate agreement with employees that want it.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops agreed with the sentiment of Cardinal-designate Dolan, saying they still held “severe moral concerns” over the compromised plan, and that it contained no provisions for self-insured religious employers. There are underlying fears that by forcing insurance companies to offer free birth control the cost will be absorbed by all policyholders, driving the cost of health care even higher.

On Feb. 9, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed a lawsuit on behalf of EWTN in the U.S District Court of Birmingham, Ala., naming HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and other involved government agencies as the defendants. President and CEO Michael Warsaw of the religion-based network said he had no choice, since the new law would force the network to provide employees contraception and abortion-inducing drugs or face no coverage at all. After Obama’s announcement on Friday, Warsaw made a public statement that the lawsuit would continue, stating the compromise did nothing to exempt the religious network.

Birth control legislation is not the only beef the Catholic Church has with the current administration. Monsignor Rino Fisichella blasted the White House for easing regulations on stem-cell research, saying the decision was probably influenced by drug companies and economic interests rather than moral objectivity. The U.S Bishops’ Conference also condemned the move while the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano newspaper ran an article upholding the Church’s official position that embryos must be considered human beings.

White House officials have stated they will make no more changes to the new law to accommodate religious organizations. The official government stance is that they have been fair and reasonable in ascertaining all the relevant issues. With both sides resolute and on opposite ends of the moral versus legal spectrum, a politically charged battle is sure to be waged.

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