Catholic Leaders Celebrate Common-Ground Solution on Contraception, Debunk “War on Religion” Charges On Eve of Rep. Issa’s “Religious Liberty” Hearing UPDATE: Audio Available
Prominent Catholic leaders and a former Member of Congress spoke out this afternoon to affirm their support for the President’s revised regulations on contraception coverage, which uphold religious liberty and protect women’s access to health care services.
“It’s rare that good will and substance win over cheap political tricks, but that’s what we saw last week,” said Tom Perriello, former Democratic Member of Congress and current President of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “This is a common-ground solution that comes down on the side of working families while still protecting religious freedom.
Speakers on the call challenged the premise of tomorrow’s 9:30 a.m. House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on religious liberty, held by committee chairman Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) to investigate President Obama’s alleged “war on religion.” Rep. Issa plans to call a number of Catholic and university leaders who oppose the contraception accommodation. Catholic leaders on today’s call made clear that “war” imagery should never be associated with the faith community and that the White House has approached this issue in good faith and worked with diverse leaders to find a solution.
Many of the speakers did not support the initial religious exemption ruling were pleased to see the Obama adminstration engage with Catholic leaders and others to find a solution last week that assuaged religious liberty concerns voiced by a number of religious leaders.
Stephen Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America (whose president John Garvey will testify in opposition to the accommodation at tomorrow’s Oversight hearing), said Friday’s announcement of the revision to the regulation “by and large resolved the religious liberty concerns.”
“I am confident this accommodation creates mechanism to establish greater moral distance between Catholic institutions and contraception than we have had before,” said Schneck.
The ongoing controversy now hinges on demands by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and politically conservative religious voices for a policy to provide exemptions for any employer who wishes to deny contraception coverage to his or her employees, not just employers connected to religious institutions. The difference of opinion and interpretation is critical to understanding the current state of play with this debate.
“I believe in everything my church teaches,” said Nicholas Cafardi, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law at Duquesne University. “This is not a question of dogma, it’s a question of how we apply dogma in the real world.”
Other speakers raised the tension within Catholicism with engaging in society and working across faith lines towards shared goals with following and abiding by church teaching.
“Catholics have always thought that we need to balance the good that can be achieved in cooperation, like providing health care to the most vulnerable, with the need to refrain from getting too close to sinful behavior,” said Cathleen Kaveny, John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law and Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.
Last week, prominent Catholic leaders (including several speakers on today’s call) released a statement supporting the accommodation, and major Catholic institutions like Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Health Association also came out in support. The revised contraception regulation allows religious institutions to opt out of providing contraception coverage for employers, and enables employees to instead obtain contraception directly from insurance providers.
“There has been a good will effort to resolve this, and we will continue to stay in dialogue,” said Sr. Anne Curtis with the Institute Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.
The Catholic organizations in support represent a broad cross-section of the Catholic community and the biggest providers of social services:
- Catholic Health Association, the largest group of nonprofit health providers in the nation with over 600 hospitals and 1,400 long-term care and other health facilities in all 50 states
- Catholic Charities USA, the second largest social-service provider in the United States, surpassed only by the federal government
- Prominent Catholic theologians and professors as well as evangelical and mainline Protestant leaders
- University of Notre Dame
- Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
- Catholics United
- NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
- Sisters of Mercy
- Leadership Conference of Women Religious