By Adam Reilly
Feb. 8, 2012
BOSTON — The Catholic Church and the Obama Administration are squaring off over a rule that could force Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage for contraception.
"Our Catholic institutions that serve this nation well are being told: You who find these things offensive should pay for them. In fact you must pay for them," said Bishop Donald Wuehrl.
It’s an issue that raises questions about the limits of religious liberty – and it’s becoming a flashpoint in the presidential race, with Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich all speaking out against it.
Catholic doctrine condemns birth control. Critics said the new rule is a direct assault on religious liberty.
The Rev. J. Bryan Hehir is the Boston archdiocese's secretary for health care and social services and a former head of Catholic Charities USA. He told WGBH News that in order for religious nonprofits to work well, their core values need to be respected.
"How do you cooperate with a nonprofit that has defined value commitments, defined religious commitments? And the First Amendment style of the United States has been to provide space within which institutions can function and maintain their identity," he said. "The institutions need to be able to hold on to their identity or else they're not going to be able to play a major role."
But White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted the rule strikes an appropriate balance between the needs of religious believers and the needs of women.
"Churches, houses of worship are exempted from this policy. Those institutions where women of all faiths work need to have the same kind of coverage that other American women have," he said.
The White House also said it wouldwork to address religious groups' concerns before the rule takes effect next year.