Congratulations to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan on his elevation to Cardinal.
Now-Cardinal Dolan has received much media attention recently for speaking out against the current HHS mandate as president of the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). In response to the mandate, Cardinal Dolan wrote the following:
Americans are nothing if not fair.
We share with those who are down and out. We salute excellence and the honest effort to achieve it. And something in our character draws us to the underdog.
That’s why the new federal edict mandating sterilization and contraception coverage in all health care plans has set off alarm bells around the country. And for the record, the contraceptives mandated as “preventive services” will include abortifacients.
Critics charge that this is an attack on the cornerstone First Amendment freedom that is the very foundation of our democracy. It is. Others assert that it threatens a violation of conscience for millions of Americans. It does. And still others insist it will force an unprecedented choice for many employers to either subsidize what they believe to be immoral, or withdraw health care coverage for their own families and those of their employees. It will.
But the new Health and Human Services ruling is wrong for another reason.
It is egregiously unfair, and as such, it cuts against the grain of what it means to be American.
The great and historic 236-year American achievement has been built on a broadly accepted social understanding. Working Americans pay taxes on what they earn. In return, their government protects them from external dangers, and from threats to the rights that our Declaration of Independence held to be God-given.
In a word, Americans expect government to be fair in how it governs, with respect for the exercise of the liberties and rights guaranteed all citizens under the U.S. Constitution.
Indeed, this basic American notion of fairness, the principle of equality under the law, was the animating force behind the great Civil Rights movement and the expanded recognition of rights for women and minorities in this past century. Americans, when presented with all the facts, support what is fair.
Which is precisely why the Obama administration’s decision to force Catholic and other religious employers to violate their conscience will not stand. Americans will recognize it for the unconstitutional detour that it is, and urge their elected representatives to repeal it.
I believe the trigger for this will be a very simple question. Americans will ask themselves: If this, what next?
What other constitutionally protected freedoms might an increasingly powerful federal government revoke? What other mandated violations of conscience lie ahead for other groups of American citizens, in pursuit of what their government declares is in the common interest? For whom doth the bell toll next?
There are many reasons to decry this HHS mandate. But perhaps the most important reason is that it is simply un-American.