The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, issued a letter [PDF] to his brother bishops on Friday in which he strongly hinted that the USCCB intends to file a legal challenge to the Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate:
[O]ur 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.
As with so many of the public statements issued by U.S. Bishops regarding the HHS Mandate, Cardinal Dolan did not mince words, calling the mandates, at various places, “choking,” “suffocating,” and “strait-jacketing.”
One thing I noticed while reading the letter is that every time Cardinal Dolan used the phrase “religious freedom” — 19 times throughout the three and a half page letter — it appeared in italics.
Make no mistake, His Eminence wants to remind his brother bishops, and everyone else, too, for that matter, that we must keep our focus on the fact that the HHS Mandate is first and foremost an assault on religious freedom, and that is how we need to frame this issue.
To underscore this point, Cardinal Dolan went on to say:
Meanwhile, in our recent debate in the senate, our opponents sought to obscure what is really a religious freedom issue by maintaining that abortion inducing drugs and the like are a “woman’s health issue.” We will not let this deception stand. Our commitment to seeking legislative remedies remains strong. And it is about remedies to the assault on religious freedom. Period.
Then, on Saturday, at a diocesan convocation on public policy, Cardinal Dolan was quoted by the New York Times as saying:
“It is a freedom of religion battle. It is not about contraception. It is not about women’s health.” He added: “We’re talking about an unwarranted, unprecedented, radical intrusion” into “a church’s ability to teach, serve and sanctify on its own.”
Clearly, Cardinal Dolan is hammering this point home, and we should do likewise.
Whenever we talk to people about the HHS Mandate — whether in person, by email, on Facebook, or wherever — we need to keep the focus where it belongs, and never tire of reminding our fellow citizens that above all, the HHS Mandate is an assault on religious freedom.