Over the past week, the media firestorm surrounding Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke and Rush Limbaugh has eclipsed the larger issue of religious liberty that stands at the forefront of the contraception mandate.
With the distracting debate raging, Fluke has received the majority of the media attention surrounding the subject. New developments in the faith world, unfortunately, have gone unnoticed. Of particular note is a public letter that was penned on March 2 by Cardinal Timothy Dolan (also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops).
The letter recaps a bizarre conversation U.S. Conference staff recently had with White House officials regarding the mandate. In fact, Dolan seems to allege that government officials lectured Catholic leaders about church teaching, writing:
At a recent meeting between staff of the bishops’ conference and the White House staff, our staff members asked directly whether the broader concerns of religious freedom—that is, revisiting the straight-jacketing mandates, or broadening the maligned exemption—are all off the table. They were informed that they are. So much for “working out the wrinkles.” Instead, they advised the bishops’ conference that we should listen to the “enlightened” voices of accommodation, such as the recent, hardly surprising yet terribly unfortunate editorial in America. The White House seems to think we bishops simply do not know or understand Catholic teaching and so, taking a cue from its own definition of religious freedom, now has nominated its own handpicked official Catholic teachers.
Dolan went on to explain that this situation is "hardly partisan" and that church officials will continue to meet with Republicans and Democrats, alike, to address the issue of religious freedom.
"But as we do so, we cannot rely on off the record promises of fixes without deadlines and without assurances of proposals that will concretely address the concerns in a manner that does not conflict with our principles and teaching," he continued.
In the letter, the archbishop of New York went on to say that opponents have changed the debate to focus on women's rights rather than religious freedom. "We will not let this deception stand," he proclaimed. Dolan mentions both Congress and the courts as possible avenues to both protect and restore religious freedom. Despite this "light" that could be at the end of the proverbial tunnel, he warns that Catholics should "prepare for tough times." He continues:
Brothers, we know so very well that religious freedom is our heritage, our legacy and our firm belief, both as loyal Catholics and Americans. There have been many threats to religious freedom over the decades and years, but these often came from without. This one sadly comes from within. As our ancestors did with previous threats, we will tirelessly defend the timeless and enduring truth of religious freedom.
Dolan concluded the letter by saying that he looks forward to opportunities in the near future to discuss the issue of religious freedom in more detail. You can read his letter in its entirety here.
(H/T: Life Site News)
This story has been updated.