The War on Religion
Republicans have been quick to
characterize the dispute between the Obama administration and the Catholic
church as a "war on religion". In a conversation with journalist Charlie
Rose, Cardinal Timothy Dolan revealed that the dispute actually has nothing
to to with freedom of religion. Cardinal Dolan made clear that the crux of
the problem is neither contraception nor religious liberty as usually
understood, but the federal government's specification of criteria for what
entitles a religious organization to an automatic exemption from the HHS
contraception mandate. He characterized that as "attempting to define for
the church the extent of its ministry and its ministers."
Actually, the mandate already exempts churches and ministers. And the IRS has already defined the extent of ministerial activities in great detail. What the Catholic church wants is for religious organizations such as schools and hospitals to be defined as churches in order to qualify for the exemption. Since these organizations have filed as independent organizations in their applications for 501(c)3 status with the IRS, this might be somewhat difficult.
This also seems to be part of the conflict within the Catholic church itself. If these organizations are indeed churches, they fall under the governance of the bishops. As Father Dolan said, "Georgetown is the oldest Catholic university in the country. Part of Catholic identity is to be in union with the bishops". Obviously, Catholic organizations which are already offering birth control benefits as part of their employee health insurance are not following the dictates of the bishops. Defining these as churches would reaffirm the authority of the bishops to dictate policy.
As a bishop of the Universal Ministries, I am glad that I do not have the authority or the responsibility to dictate policy to our ministers. I believe you build a strong ministry from the ground up, not from the top down. That seemed to work well for Yeshua and the twelve. I believe it will work well for us as well.