In case anyone thinks that Catholic bishops have let go of the HHS mandate issue, Timothy Cardinal Dolan made clear last night that the USCCB remains engaged in fighting the Obama administration over its insistence that Catholic and other religious organizations have to facilitate and fund products and services that violate their religious conscience.  Dolan speaks with Bill O’Reilly on last night’s O’Reilly Factor and suggests that the Obama administration misled the bishops on their intent, and that they have been “shrewd” in their efforts to divide the faithful:

“You are right on target,” Dolan said, addressing that the church’s position on banning contraception is unpopular with large sections of the American public. “It’s a tough battle because of that, and our opponents are very shrewd because they have chosen an issue that they know we are not very popular on and that is why, Bill, we have to be vigorous in insisting that this is not about contraception — it’s about religion freedom. And I don’t want to judge people, but I think there would be a drift in the administration that this is a good issue and if we can divide the Catholic community (because it’s already divided) and if one can caricature the bishops as being hopelessly out of touch — these bullies who are trying to achieve judicially and legislatively what they’ve been unable to achieve because their moral integrity was compromised recently. There is the force out there trying to caricature us, alright? But we can’t back down from this fight because it’s about religion freedom — it’s close to the heart of the democratic enterprise what we know and love and the United States of America is all about.”Dolan dismissed the notion that there is a wall between church and state, saying that it isn’t the church itself that wants to be a force in American politics, but its members.

“The Catholic Church wants its people to be a player in the American politics. Twenty-eight percent of the population of the United States are Catholics, OK? And the Catholic Church, through them, you bet, wants to have a say in the direction of our beloved country,” he said. “To think that there is a Berlin Wall between one’s religious convictions and one’s political activity is crazy. It’s ludicrous. It’s not only non-Catholic, non-Christian, non-biblical, it’s also un-American.” …

“You know that every great movement in American history has been driven by people of religious conviction, and if we duct tape the churches — I’m just not talking about the Catholic Church — if we duct tape the role of religion and churches, and morally convince people in the marketplace, that is going to lead to a huge deficit, a huge void, and there are many people who want to fill it up, namely a new religion called secularism, OK, which would be as doctrinaire and would consider itself as infallible as they caricature the other religions doing. So, to see that morally-driven, religiously-convinced people want to exercise their political responsibility, I think that is not only the heart of biblical religion — it is at the heart of the American enterprise.”

Cardinal Dolan never quite makes the salient point that the bishops aren’t seeking a legal ban on contraception.  O’Reilly frames his question as though they are, but this isn’t a question of banning anything.  Access to contraception is so prevalent that the CDC found that 99% of all sexually-active women seeking to avoid pregnancy was able to use it in its long-term study from 2009.  The Catholic Church hasn’t proposed a ban at all, and neither have Republicans, conservatives, or anyone of any significance at all.

No one is even suggesting that the law ban employers or insurers from covering contraception, if they so choose.  What has been said is that employers, insurers, and colleges shouldn’t be forced to provide contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization for free.  First off, it’s not free at all; those costs have to get covered in some manner, most likely through premium hikes applied to everyone.  Second, the need for contraception is almost always elective, and doesn’t treat a health deficiency, since fertility isn’t a disease (and many insurers cover therapeutic use of hormone treatments already anyway). Finally, for people who want the church, employers, and the government to respect their sexual privacy, the mandate seems a strange way to accomplish that.  On top of that, the free exercise of religion has to include not being forced to violate one’s beliefs simply for entering into an employer relationship.

The bishops need to keep this issue out front, and need to make sure they remain clear on the real issues.