Not surprisingly, the American Catholic bishops have presented a nearly united front in opposition to the rule, scheduled to go into effect in 2013. The website CatholicVote.org lists 140 bishops, more than 70% of the 198 heads of U.S. Catholic dioceses, who have either issued or intend to issue statements opposing the mandate. Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York accused the Obama administration of treating pregnancy and women’s fertility “as a disease.”
What is surprising is that prominent liberal Catholics ”” people who don’t even agree with the church’s position on contraception ”” have joined their voices in protest. One of them was E.J. Dionne, a widely syndicated columnist for the Washington Post. Dionne, who has been an Obama enthusiast since well before the 2008 election, accused the president in a recent column of having “utterly botched” the issue of contraceptive services. Dionne admitted that he wished “the church would show more flexibility on this question,” but he also pointed out that the sweeping mandate “encroached upon the church’s legitimate prerogatives” to ensure that its employment policies reflected its moral values.
This represents a breakthrough in the long-simmering animosity between conservative and liberal Catholics over how much the church should have changed in the wake of Vatican II….