September 24, 2013 ( – In a firmly worded letter to his fellow bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan vowed last week that the Catholic Church in the United States will not back down in its fight against the Obama administration’s HHS mandate. 

“As I’ve said before, this is a fight that we didn't ask for, and would rather not be in, but it’s certainly one that we won’t run from,” the cardinal, who is serving as the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote.

Any perceptions that the bishops are “flagging” in the fight are, he said, “dead wrong.” 

The cardinal criticized the Catholic Health Association (CHA) for potentially feeding that perception with their “hurried acceptance” of the final mandate, which he called “untimely and unhelpful.” 

“We highly value CHA’s great expertise in their ministry of healing,” Cardinal Dolan said, “but as they have been the first to say, they do not represent the Magisterium of the Church.” 

The CHA is headed up by Sister Carol Keehan, who famously received one of the pens with which President Obama signed the administration’s health reform law, in thanks for her and her organization’s efforts in support of the law. After the Obama administration released the final HHS Mandate this summer, the CHA released a statement saying that their original concerns about the mandate had been “eliminated.”

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Cardinal Dolan wrote last week's letter in the wake of a meeting of the USCCB’s Administrative Committee, which is tasked with formulating a response to the HHS mandate. The mandate requires that all employers, including many religious employers, pay for contraception, abortifacient drugs, and sterilizations, even if doing so violates their conscience. 

The cardinal said that the bishops on the Administrative Committee “were unanimous in their resolve to continue our struggle against the HHS Mandate.” 

He expressed frustration that, despite assurances from the Obama administration that they would listen to the Catholic Church’s concerns, those concerns were not addressed in the final version of the mandate. 

The final rule, Cardinal Dolan said, “still suffers from the same three basic problems”: 

  • “Its narrow definition of ‘religious employer’ reduces religious freedom to the freedom of worship by dividing our community between houses of worship and ministries of service”;
  • “Its second-class treatment of those great ministries – the so-called ‘accommodation’ – leaves them without adequate relief”; and
  • “Its failure to offer any relief to for-profit businesses run by so many of our faithful in the pews.” 

The cardinal said that at the recent meeting of the Administration Committee, the bishops took the opportunity to “vent” their frustration that valuable resources are being taken away from the Church’s ministry to the sick and the poor in order to fight the mandate. 

“Catholics – our parents and grandparents, religious sisters, brothers and priests – were among the first at the table to advance and provide health care, and now we are being burdened because of the same Catholic values that compel us into these ministries!” he said. “All this in a country that puts religious liberty first on the list of its most cherished freedoms.” 

The cardinal told his fellow bishops that efforts to analyze and respond to the final HHS Mandate “are proceeding apace, and as you know, include a careful legal and moral analysis of the final rule.” 

“We are united in our resolve to continue to defend our right to live by our faith, and our duty to serve the poor, heal the sick, keep our apostolates strong and faithful, and insure our people. I remain grateful for your continued unity in response to this matter of deep concern to us all. I’ll try my best to keep you posted,” he concluded.