“That person should have the freedom to choose the health plan that does not violate his convictions. It doesn’t mean he will be able to find it, but the government shouldn’t have anything to say about it,” Doerflinger said Saturday.
In addition, religiously affiliated insurance companies are not exempt from the mandate. Friday’s announcement also left unresolved what a Catholic-affiliated organization that self-insures and objects to contraception would do, as there is no insurance company to provide coverage directly to employees.
Objections to the compromise came from quarters other than the bishops.
It drew a swift rebuke from Jim Towey, who headed President George W. Bush’s faith-based office and is now president of Ave Maria University, a conservative Catholic school near Naples, Fla.
“We subsidize these health plans, so the question is whether university resources are underwriting this,” Towey said.
“I still don’t think President Obama gets it,” Towey added. “This is a fig leaf of a political compromise that’s trying to have it both ways, to mollify women’s groups and so-called centrist Catholics. But I think, fundamentally, this is not the end of this debate. It’s just the beginning.”
He said the university board planned to meet Monday to discuss legal action against the new mandate.
Some Catholic organizations, however, appeared satisfied by Obama’s action. The head of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, Sister Carol Keehan, said the “framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed.
The administration official said that “we will start, in the coming days, by convening a series of meetings with faith community leaders to explore solutions.” He said the bishops will be invited.
Staff writers Peter Wallsten and N.C. Aizenman contributed to this report.