March 8, 2012 ( White House staff members have told U.S. bishops that the administration will not consider further revision of the mandate forcing religious employers to pay for birth control, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs, and that the religious leaders should listen to “enlightened” Catholics who accept the president’s terms, reports Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

In a letter sent to fellow Bishops last week, the New York archbishop revealed some of what had transpired in a recent meeting involving staff members from the White House and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“Our staff members asked directly whether the broader concerns of religious freedom – that is, revisiting the strait-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemption – are all off the table. They were informed that they are,” wrote the cardinal, who is the current president of the USCCB.

According to the letter, White House staff also exhorted the USCCB to “listen to the ‘enlightened’ voices of accommodation,” and cited a recent editorial in the liberal Catholic publication America which lauded Obama’s revised mandate.

The March 5th editorial had claimed that the “compromise,” which has been rejected by Church officials as insufficient, “fundamentally did what Catholic social teaching expects government to do.”

Dolan lambasted the White House’s mention of the editorial, accusing the Administration of “nominat[ing] its own handpicked official Catholic teachers.”

With the President refusing to budge, the cardinal indicated that Church officials would be looking in the direction of legislative and judicial remedies. And while an attempt to nullify the mandate by adding a conscience protection amendment to the federal health care law was recently defeated in the Senate, Dolan said that the bishops’ commitment to a legislative remedy “remains strong.”

However, he added, the courts may “offer the most light.” The letter cited the recent Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court ruling which held that churches were exempt from employee discrimination laws when choosing their religious leaders, a ruling Dolan called “a dramatic rebuff to the administration.”

“Our bishops’ conference, many individual religious entities, and other people of good will are working with some top-notch law firms who feel so strongly about this that they will represent us pro-bono. In the upcoming days, you will hear much more about this encouraging and welcome development,” the cardinal wrote.

“Some, like America magazine, want us to cave-in and stop fighting, saying this is simply a policy issue,” he said, adding that the Bishops were committed to “tirelessly defend the timeless and enduring truth of religious freedom.”


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