You wouldn’t know if from picking up the newspaper, but the Catholic bishops have given a thorough thumbs down to President Obama’s “compromise” solution on forcing Catholic institutions to provide free birth control to their employees.
It’s so shocking to the mainstream media that the conservative press they despise – outlets like Fox News, The Daily Caller, the Washington Examiner and so forth – has sprouted up in the past decade or two. Well, if they’re wondering, this is exactly why.
As I wrote yesterday, Obama’s new approach STILL REQUIRES CATHOLIC INSTITUTIONS TO OFFER FREE BRITH CONTROL, it’s just that now the insurers are going to do it on their behalf.
The logic of this is so simple, even a caveman could do it, which is the type of people the White House apparently thinks we are.
What’s more, if a Catholic institution is self-insured, then the institution itself is still the one offering birth control coverage.
And read the fine print. The policy announced by Obama today, unlike the original regulation, must undergo a whole new rulemaking process, which will be subject to lobbying by powerful forces like the insurers and NARAL.
The bishops understand all this, as they made clear in a NOT WIDELY REPORTED All-Bishops Letter yesterday. Here are some of the concerns expressed in the letter, written by the leading Catholic bishops, which I found in the National Review, but not in the New York Times.
We remain fully committed to the defense of our religious liberty and we strongly protest the violation of our freedom of religion that has not been addressed. We continue to work for the repeal of the mandate . . .
- At this point it does not seem that a religiously affiliated health plan (e.g., one run by a Catholic health system) can be offered to the general public and exclude the objectionable services, since most of the public is supposed to have these services included by their insurers automatically.
- It remains unclear as to how insurers will be compensated for the cost of these items, with some commentators suggesting that such compensation will ultimately be derived from the premiums paid by the religious employer.
- We are presented with a serious dilemma regarding self-insured plans, where a religious organization is both employer and insurer, and regarding student health plans offered by religious colleges and universities. It appears that such plans will be required to offer the objectionable coverage.
- Our concern remains strong that the government is creating its own definitions of who is “religious enough” for full protection.
- It seems clear there is no exemption for Catholic and other individuals who work for secular employers; for such individuals who own or operate a business; or for employers who have a moral (not religious) objection to some procedures such as the abortifacient drug Ella.
- We may not know the final actual details of some aspects of the policy until well into the New Year.
Instead of emphasizing or even reporting this, many mainstream news sites have highlighted the approval of Obama’s new policy by Sister Carol Keehan of the Catholic Health Association – a liberal who lobbied for Obamacare and who was probably looking for just the type of fig leaf Obama provided – as well as the initial response Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who called Obama’s move a “step in the right direction” without actually endorsing it.
And Republicans are still objecting, which is duly noted in the stories, though often with a suggestion that runs along the lines of “The Catholics think it’s not too bad, but the Republicans are still throwing fits for their own political purposes.”
The storyline that may well emerge over the next few weeks is that Obama has done something basically acceptable, but that a few zealots remain unconvinced the Republicans want to use the issue to seize the presidency.
But the bishops have spoken unequivocally. It may yet interrupt the peaceful sleep of an issue the White House hopes it has put to rest.