Chicago Sun-Times

The cardinal vs. the president


Cardinal Francis George has come out swinging. In a letter earmarked to be read this weekend at all Catholic churches in the Archdioces­e of Chicago, Cardinal George is throwing the gauntlet down at the Obama administra­tion for denying Catholics religious liberty.

“We cannot— and will not— comply with this unjust law,” states the cardinal, who is vehemently opposed to the new Obama administra­tion rule requiring religious organizati­ons to include contracept­ive health insurance coverage.

“People of faith cannot be made secondclas­s citizens because of their religious beliefs. . . . Our parents and grandparen­ts did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastruc­ture and institutio­ns, enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights.”

In the letter to the Archdioces­e’s 2.3 million Roman Catholics, Cardinal George bristles at Catholic employers “being forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilizat­ion, abortion-inducing drugs, and contracept­ion.”

He also asks his “community of faith” to do two things: “prayer and fasting so that wisdom and justicemay prevail.”

Last week, bishops of every Catholic diocese throughout the U.S. were directed to write a letter stating their opposition to the Obama mandate, which they considered a violation of the First Amendment.

Sneed is told internal debates concerning the Obama contracept­ivemandate divided the White House’swestwing. Vice President Joe Biden and then White House chief of staff Bill Daley, both Catholics, warned the president to be cautious, because freedom of religion was the real issue at stake.

On the flip side, female kitchen cabinet members, including U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, stressed the contracept­ive side of the argument— not wanting an exception made for religious organizati­ons when it came to contracept­ives.

But it is not only the Catholic hierarchy incensed by the new mandate.

Republican presidenti­al candidates have been blasting Obama for his secular vision, and the U.S. Army got involved in a skirmish this week.

To wit: The U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains issued a directive asking the letter written by Military Services Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio NOT be read at military pulpits because it “could be misinterpr­eted as a call to civil disobedien­ce within our nation’s military ranks.”

The upshot: The issue was resolved when Archbishop Broglio agreed to remove the part of the letter Cardinal George included in his directive: “We cannot — we will not— comply with this unjust law.”

The backshot: Cardinal George is now in Rome reporting to the Pope on the state of his diocese— something each diocesan bishop does every five years. He will not return to Chicago until Feb. 17.

The buckshot: “The contracept­ivemandate imposed on health plans by the Department of Health and Human Services also violates freedom of conscience,” said a Catholic priest.

“Imagine the impact on a revered Chicago Catholic institutio­n like Misericord­ia, which is a home to the mentally disabled.”

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