Left comes for the archbishop

President Obama promoted Obamacare with a relentlessly repeated set of misrepresentations regarding that 2,700-page bill: “If you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctors, you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.” He set some kind of an indoor record for falsity per word with these whoppers. Even so, the American people caught on to the game before long.

The misrepresentation and misdirection continue in the Obamacare campaign against Catholic institutions in the “preventive services” regulation compelling the provision of contraception, abortifacients and sterilization. We have followed the promulgation of the regulation and its announced revision. The administration has a modern liberal alchemy in the works; they are devising the provision of “free” services. Those true believers in science are working up some magic.

The story is difficult to understand through the mainstream media, acting as the public relations arm of the Obama administration. In this context, James Taranto’s weekend interview with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, demands attention. It makes a serious contribution to seeing through the administration’s theatrical stage management to the real thing.

In this case, as in just about everything else emanating from the administration’s Obamacare campaign, the real thing is a set of lies. Here the lies are face-to-face, made by the president to Archbishop Dolan in his official capacity as a representative of the Church. Archbishop Dolan recounts:

“I said, ‘I’ve heard you say, first of all, that you have immense regard for the work of the Catholic Church in the United States in health care, education and charity. . . . I have heard you say that you are not going to let the administration do anything to impede that work and . . . that you take the protection of the rights of conscience with the utmost seriousness. . . . Does that accurately sum up our conversation?’ [Mr. Obama] said, ‘You bet it does.'”

The archbishop asked for permission to relay the message to the other bishops. “You don’t have my permission, you’ve got my request,” the president replied.

“So you can imagine the chagrin,” Archbishop Dolan continues, “when he called me at the end of January to say that the mandates remain in place and that there would be no substantive change, and that the only thing that he could offer me was that we would have until August. . . . I said, ‘Mr. President, I appreciate the call. Are you saying now that we have until August to introduce to you continual concerns that might trigger a substantive mitigation in these mandates?’ He said, ‘No, the mandates remain. We’re more or less giving you this time to find out how you’re going to be able to comply.’ I said, ‘Well, sir, we don’t need the [extra time]. I can tell you now we’re unable to comply.'”

When the Church found that pill impossible to swallow and the public backlash ensued, it went back to the drawing to call on the magic that would produce free services:

The archbishop got another call from the president on Feb. 10. “He said, ‘You will be happy to hear religious institutions do not have to pay for this, that the burden will be on insurers.'” Archbishop Dolan asked if the president was seeking his input and was told the modified policy was a fait accompli. The call came at 9:30 a.m. The president announced the purported accommodation at 12:15 p.m.

So what’s wrong with that?

Archbishop Dolan explains that the “accommodation” solves nothing, since most church-affiliated organizations either are self-insured or purchase coverage from Catholic insurance companies like Christian Brothers Investment Services and Catholic Mutual Group, which also see the mandate as “morally toxic.” He argues that the mandate also infringes on the religious liberty of nonministerial organizations like the Knights of Columbus and Catholic-oriented businesses such as publishing houses, not to mention individuals, Catholic or not, who conscientiously object.

“We’ve grown hoarse saying this is not about contraception, this is about religious freedom,” he says. What rankles him the most is the government’s narrow definition of a religious institution. Your local Catholic parish, for instance, is exempt from the birth-control mandate. Not exempt are institutions such as hospitals, grade schools, universities and soup kitchens that employ or serve significant numbers of people from other faiths and whose main purpose is something other than proselytization.

“We find it completely unswallowable, both as Catholics and mostly as Americans, that a bureau of the American government would take it upon itself to define ‘ministry,'” Archbishop Dolan says. “We would find that to be—we’ve used the words ‘radical,’ ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatically intrusive.'”

Alluding to the narrow scope of the “religious exemption” to the preventive services regulation, Archbishop Dolan adds:

It also amounts to penalizing the church for not discriminating in its good works: “We don’t ask people for their baptismal certificate, nor do we ask people for their U.S. passport, before we can serve them, OK? . . . We don’t serve people because they’re Catholic, we serve them because we are, and it’s a moral imperative for us to do so.”

And Taranto relays this quotable quote from Archbishop Dolan: “This is a strange turn of the table, that here a Catholic cardinal is defending religious freedom, the great proposition of the American republic, and the president of the United States seems to be saying that this is a less-than-important issue.” Left comes for the archbishop.

Taranto’s column is newsworthy, but it will not get the coverage it deserves. It will be ignored in part because it provides an extremely unflattering close-up of the president, and in part because it graphically illustrates the tyrannical nature of the Obamacare project.

Notice: All comments are subject to moderation. Our comments are intended to be a forum for civil discourse bearing on the subject under discussion. Commenters who stray beyond the bounds of civility or employ what we deem gratuitous vulgarity in a comment — including, but not limited to, “s***,” “f***,” “a*******,” or one of their many variants — will be banned without further notice in the sole discretion of the site moderator.