E.J. Dionne SAYS the American Catholic hierarchy would well to recognize that they’ve won a victory in their wrangle with the Obama administration over contraception coverage:
A little more than a year ago, the Obama administration set off a bitter and unnecessary clash with the Roman Catholic Church over rules mandating broad contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement of new regulationsis a clear statement that President Obama never wanted this fight.
The decision ought to be taken by the nation’s Catholic bishops as a victory, because it is. Many in their ranks, including some of the country’s most prominent prelates, are inclined to do just that — even if the most conservative bishops seem to want to keep the battle raging.
Under the new rules, employees who want it will be able to get stand-alone coverage from a third party. Some of the costs will be covered by small offsets in the fees insurers will have to pay to participate in the new exchanges where their policies will be on sale. It’s an elegant fix.
There are two reasons for hope here, particularly for Catholic progressives. First, the administration recognized the problem it had created and resolved it. Vice President Biden, among others, kept open lines of communication with the church.
Second, many bishops have come to realize that the appearance of a state of war with Obama not only troubled many of the faithful — Obama, after all, narrowly carried the Catholic vote — but also threatened to cast a church with strong commitments to immigrants, social justice and nonviolence as a partisan, even right-wing organization.
This war has been bad for everyone involved. Obama has moved to end it. Here’s a prayer that the bishops will also be instruments of peace.