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Cardinal Dolan: Obama promised to respect conscience

April 02, 2012

Cardinal Timothy Dolan reports that he thought President Obama had promised to respect the conscience rights of Catholic institutions, during a conversation earlier this year.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Cardinal Dolan reveals that at the close of his conversation with the President, he asked Obama whether he could assure the US bishops that the White House would not require Catholic institutions to cover contraceptives in their health-care policies. The cardinal reports that Obama replied: “You don’t have my permission [to give that report]; you’ve got my request.”

Cardinal Dolan—who is also president of the US bishops’ conference—noted that the contraceptive mandate, introduced shortly after that conversation, exempts only religious institutions that serve only members of their own faith. This approach, the cardinal observed, punishes Catholic institutions for non-discriminatory policies. “We don’t serve people because they're Catholic,” he said; “we serve them because we are, and it's a moral imperative for us to do so."

Speaking more generally about contraception, Cardinal Dolan conceded that the Catholic Church has “an internal catechetical challenge—a towering one—in convincing our own people of the moral beauty and coherence of what we teach.” He went on to say that the problem can be attributed to a failure of Church leaders to preach clearly about contraception. “We have gotten gun-shy,” he said.

The problem has been aggravated by the sex-abuse crisis, the cardinal said. He said the scandal “intensified our laryngitis over speaking about issues of chastity and sexual morality.”


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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Apr. 03, 2012 2:08 PM ET USA

    Never again must the clergy at all levels work harder to accomodate sin and the world than to save souls.

  • Posted by: unum - Apr. 03, 2012 8:01 AM ET USA

    Abp. Dolan is finally learning that the top-down organization of the USCCB is not effective. Our bishops are dabbling in politics instead of teaching and energizing the laity as Jesus did. The people of God can be a mighty force for good in the U.S. They have many God-given talents that can be used for the good of the Church and the country. But they must be taught and led by their bishops and priests who are now largely silent about the role of the laity in today's world.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 03, 2012 2:26 AM ET USA

    It is good to see that Cardinal Dolan finally realizes that he was deceived by the president. Now it is time for Cardinal Dolan and the rest of the Bishops to stop trying to play politics and start acting like Bishops. The Bishops must realize that they and the Church are under serious attack by a radical secular President and an administration which for all intents and purposes is diametrically opposed to basic Catholic dogma and tenets. Also that the Bishop’s current accommodation strategy is not working and that bit by bit they are losing the war including the battle for the minds and souls of their flock. It is the Bishop’s sacred duty as stewards of the Church to protect her, and if need be, to wage battle to defend her. They should be actively engaged and leading from the front lines including forcefully articulating the Church’s fundamental teachings and moral requisites, ESPECIALLY from the pulpit. The pulpit has been silenced by timidity and fear of offending for too long and because of this many Catholics are confused and adrift. It is time to bring the pulpit back and to let the Church once again speak out with one voice. With clarity, conviction, and (loving) steadfastness. Only then will the Church be able to regain the high ground and move forward to final victory.

  • Posted by: wsw33410 - Apr. 02, 2012 8:27 PM ET USA

    That is a really great self-evaluation (the US Bishops) of what/who CAUSED a downfall of the Catholic Church in the US ... so, we want to hear what is a solution! How to enforce a recovery plan? It is time to stop whining and crying about being naive and trusting Obama ... Dear Cardinal Dolan - lead the US Hierarchy to a battle; the war is here.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 02, 2012 7:06 PM ET USA

    How can anyone believe this president in anything he says?