Source: FOX News
ATLANTA -- US bishops gathering in Atlanta for their biannual meeting have a sense of urgency, as the deadline to comply with the controversial health care mandate is just weeks away.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said that, realistically, doomsday could come when none of the bishops' advocacy, dialogues or appeals to the courts work.
"If doomsday comes, what are we going to do? Are we going to disobey the government? Are we going to pay the fine? Are we going to go out of business? ... I hope we don't come to that, but we have to be realistic in anticipating it," Dolan said.
Adding to the unknowns is the fact that Dolan and President Barack Obama have not spoken since Feb. 10. There have been lower-level talks between the administration and the USCCB, but the two have not been in dialogue for several months. Dolan believes it is because the president is not ready to make a deal.
In the past few months, more than 40 Roman Catholic institutions and dioceses have filed a federal lawsuit against Health and Human Services and its health care mandate, which requires that all employers offer contraceptives and other benefits that bishops say violate Church teachings.
The Obama administration offered an accommodation that would make contraceptives free to the employee, and the insurer would then pick up the tab.
But many Roman Catholic institutions are self-insured, so the accommodation still put them back in the same situation. The Franciscan University of Steubenville, in Ohio, dropped its health insurance coverage for students this fall, rather than comply with the federal mandate to provide free birth control.
The other issue is how each side defines the conflict.
The Obama administration has defined it more narrowly, as being about contraceptives and reproductive rights.
The bishops, however, say it is about the much larger foundational issue of religious liberty and that the government cannot define for them what constitutes a church.
Depending on what poll is read, Roman Catholic support for Obama is either slipping or stable. But for his part, Dolan will not project what the political implications of this Catholic campaign could be, as the November presidential election looms on the not-so-distant horizon.
All of the bishops' plans could change dramatically, depending on how the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the health care law. Until the court announces its decision, the Church will proceed with its current agenda.