When Pope Francis made his first official address this week, he called upon his followers to serve the “poorest, weakest” of the world. If the activities of the bishops in the United States are any indication, however, that call could go unanswered.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was asked yesterday by Today Show host Matt Lauer if women “have reason to be hopeful” now that Francis is in charge.
Dolan responded: “We all have reason to be hopeful with Pope Francis. My hope is on steroids.”
Dolan went on to explain that “women are pros when it comes to tender love” and he wouldn’t be surprised if women “had a more accented role in [Francis’] papacy.”
Meanwhile, however, Dolan’s lobbying team has been hard at work trying to repeal a U.S. law that is not only good for women, but everyone: the Obama administration’s mandate that requires most employers to offer health insurance plans that include free coverage for contraceptives.
CNS News, a right-wing news service, reported that the bishops are pressuring the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the birth control insurance mandate. In a March 8 letter sent to every House member, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, said the House should sneak the repeal measure into some sort of “must-pass” legislation such as a continuing resolution that would be necessary to keep the federal government funded for the next fiscal year. That way, the U.S. Senate and President Barack Obama would be forced to let it pass.
“Providers of health care, as well as those who offer or purchase insurance, should not face an unacceptable choice between preserving their religious and moral integrity or participating in our health care system,” O’Malley said in his letter
The House and Senate are both currently working to pass continuing resolutions to fund the federal government. An attempt to add the repeal language could take place this week.
But when House Republican leaders called an initial floor vote on their version of the continuing resolution, it did not include the language that Archbishop William E. Lori asked for back in February that would permanently repeal the birth control mandate, CNS reported.
There’s also another problem facing the bishops: House Republicans have tried and tried and tried to repeal part or all of the Obama administration’s new health care laws. They’ve tried 33 times, in fact. Thirty-three times those measures have died upon arrival in the U.S. Senate.
This all shows that the Catholic hierarchy will fight until the very end to limit the access Americans have to contraceptives, and now it’s apparent that leaders like Dolan have no problem presenting a misleading public relations campaign, saying the Catholic hierarchy may give women a more active role while simultaneously working to restrict women’s rights.
It would be wonderful if Pope Francis could help lead the Catholic hierarchy in a new direction on many issues, and it’s certainly possible that he will. But in the meantime, we must make sure that Dolan and his cohorts don’t succeed in passing legislation that harms the health care of women and indeed all Americans.