Friday, February 10, 2012

"We Reserve Judgment": Bishops "Studying" Feds' Conscience Shift

Freshly arrived in the box, here below, the full statement of the US bishops on today's revised final rule from the Obama administration on contraceptive coverage in benefit plans:
New opportunity to dialogue with executive branch, obtain details Too soon to tell whether and how much improvement on core concerns Commitment to religious liberty for all means legislation still necessary

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sees initial opportunities in preserving the principle of religious freedom after President Obama’s announcement today. But the Conference continues to express concerns.

“While there may be an openness to respond to some of our concerns, we reserve judgment on the details until we have them,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The past three weeks have witnessed a remarkable unity of Americans from all religions or none at all worried about the erosion of religious freedom and governmental intrusion into issues of faith and morals,” he said.

“Today’s decision to revise how individuals obtain services that are morally objectionable to religious entities and people of faith is a first step in the right direction,” Cardinal-designate Dolan said. “We hope to work with the Administration to guarantee that Americans’ consciences and our religious freedom are not harmed by these regulations.”
In a piece this morning that tick-tocked the church's months of back-channel engagement with the White House on the thorny issue, the Beltway news outlet Politico said that President Obama "may have discovered his most effective political opponent of 2012" in the cardinal-to-be, adding that Dolan had shown himself adept at "messaging as masterfully as any Washington consultant."

To be read at this weekend's Masses, in a letter to his parishioners in the nation's second-largest diocese -- home to 2.5 million Catholics -- Dolan wrote the following:
Dear friends in the Lord:

Over the last three weeks, Americans of all religious creeds, and none at all, have united in remarkable concern over the restrictive and immoral mandates ordered by the federal government. This concern is warranted as the proposed rules would require a violation of conscience for so many, and a threat to religious freedom for all.

I thank so many of you, who have enthusiastically been part of this expression of concern, united with your bishops.

Friday’s announcement that the federal government seems to have softened the mandates, and is open to working with us in further progress, is a welcome first step. We must study it carefully.

However, we cannot let up in our concern for the protection of religious freedom and the reverence for conscience which are at the heart of American values.

Stay tuned, as we may need your help again.

Renewed gratitude and prayerful best wishes, I am,

Fraternally yours in Christ,

Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
SVILUPPO 2: Late Friday night, an internal briefing indicating a continued opposition despite the White House shift was circulated by USCCB leadership to the bishops.