Last week the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the statement United for Religious Freedom. The bishops note:
One particular religious freedom issue demands our immediate attention: the now-finalized rule of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would force virtually all private health plans nationwide to provide coverage of sterilization and contraception—including abortifacient drugs—subject to an exemption for “religious employers” that is arbitrarily narrow, and to an unspecified and dubious future “accommodation” for other religious organizations that are denied the exemption.
In their statement the bishops firmly express their unanimous opposition to the mandate. George Weigel explicates the meaning of the bishops’ statement at NRO here and here. According to Weigel, the USCCB statement “makes clear that [the council] will no longer participate in a charade that served one side’s political purposes.”
Mainstream media accounts of the issues involved always depict a split in Catholic opinion. Over the weekend, for example, the Washington Post reported over the weekend on the administration’s advance notice of proposed rule making: “Some, such as the Catholic Health Association and Catholic Charities, said it largely resolved their concerns, even as they awaited the clarification on how it would be applied to self-insuring employers that was offered Friday. Others, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, denounced the arrangement as little more than an accounting gimmick.” Given the authoritative of the bishops’ statement, however, I think it is fair to say that this account is highly misleading at best.