This week began with Monday’s news about lawsuits being filed by a group of Catholic dioceses, universities and others challenging HHS regulations that insurers cover contraception. Because of NETWORK’s long history of working on healthcare issues, our Executive Director, Sister Simone Campbell, was immediately asked to comment, and she appeared that evening on Hardball with Chris Matthews  to present her views.
Today, an op-ed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl  appeared in the Washington Post. In it, he claimed that the lawsuits are not about money or even about contraception. They are, he stated, about “religious freedom” and the Bill of Rights.
Are they really about religious freedom – or are they about something else? Many believe that politics and power are actually at the heart of this battle.
When the administration first proposed the insurance mandate regarding contraception a few months ago, NETWORK stood with other Catholic groups and individuals in opposition. The administration quickly proposed an accommodation  that would address some of the earlier problems regarding conscience protections. We then expressed our gratitude that “through thoughtful consideration of the competing needs of people of different faith perspectives the administration has found a way to honor faith-based conscience objections.” We have also continued to support ongoing negotiations as details are ironed out.
Why, then, were the lawsuits filed this week, many months before the regulation is even to take effect and while negotiations about the administration’s proposed accommodation are still going on? Why do so many conservative pundits stubbornly refuse to admit that this accommodation was even made – or that negotiations about its details continue to this day? Questions to ponder.
Also, we cannot ignore the fact that the Bishops are about to begin their highly financed, PR-driven “Fortnight for Freedom ” campaign next month. A little publicity this month regarding the lawsuits can’t hurt.
And it is no coincidence that this is an election year.
Commonweal’s recent editorial  about the Bishops’ campaign raises an important point: “This initiative is being launched during an election year in which one party has assumed the mantle of faith and charges the other with attacking religion. The bishops need to do much more to prevent their national campaign from becoming a not-very-covert rallying point for the Republican Party and its candid