The Washington Post

Catholic leaders remain critical of Obama administration

Catholic Church leaders said Sunday that the institution’s dispute with the Obama administration over contraception policy continues, with Cardinal Timothy Dolan saying, “We didn’t ask for the fight, but we’re not going to back away from it.”

“You’ve got a dramatic, radical intrusion of a government bureaucracy into the internal life of the Church,” Dolan told Bob Schieffer of CBS News in an interview on “Face the Nation.” “Our problem is the government is intruding into the life of faith in the church that they shouldn’t be doing.”

On Meet the Press, Bishop William Lori, archbishop-designate of Baltimore, agreed. “What we’ve seen is an erosion of religious liberty,” Lori said. “Our teachings had been accommodated, but now they are not being accommodated.”

The role of religion in politics and public life was a leading issue on the Sunday talk shows amid Easter and Passover celebrations. Religious figures, including mega-church pastor Rick Warren and evangelist Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, were featured along with the Catholic leaders. All were critical of the Obama administration’s contraception policy, despite the president’s modification, which places the requirement to provide birth control on the insurance company and not the employer.

The Catholic Church opposes contraception, and Dolan said the new health care provision still puts the institution in “a very tough spot.” On the larger question of the role of religion in public life, he said the church should not be “too involved” in politics.

“I also don’t think the government and politics should be overly involved in the church,” Dolan said. “I think the public square is impoverished when people might be coerced to put a piece of duct tape over their mouth keeping them from bringing their deepest held convictions to the conversation.”

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and a Methodist pastor, defended the administration saying the president’s contraception policy is not tantamount to a war on religion, as it has been called by some conservatives.

“We’ve gone way too far with all of this, ‘the president has declared war on religion’,” Cleaver said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “That is absurd. The Chinese have declared war on religion. The Iranians have declared war on religion. And I think when we exaggerate things like that, it further polarizes the country.”

Warren, who prayed at Obama’s inauguration but has been harshly critical of administration policy, told ABC News’s Jake Tapper that the question is “do you have a right to decide what your faith practices?”

“Now I don’t have a problem with contraception,” Warren said. “I’m an evangelical. But I do support my Catholic brothers and sisters who believe what they want to believe.”

Tapper also asked Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church and author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” whether Mormonism should be viewed as a part of Christianity. Warren said “the issue of the Trinity” marks one of the biggest differences between evangelicals and Mormons.

“Orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, Protestant Christians, evangelical Christians and Pentecostal Christians all believe in the Trinity. That’s the historic doctrine of the church, that God is three-in-one. Not three gods. One God in Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” Warren said. “Mormonism denies that.”

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who was the only presidential candidate on any of the Sunday shows, reiterated his commitment to stay in the race despite his long odds. He got choked up while crediting his faith with helping continue his campaign.

“On Easter Sunday, it’s good to remember — if you can shadow, and if you can hide beneath the cross, there is nothing to be afraid of,” Gingrich said. “This is a great campaign. We have great experiences. Some things work, some things don’t work.”

Gingrich also acknowledged self-funding his campaign “a little bit” and said he was willing to support frontrunner Mitt Romney should he clinch the Republican nomination, despite their sometimes acrimonious relationship.

“I hit him as hard as I could, he hit me as hard as he could,” Gingrich said. “Turns out he had more things to hit with than I did. That’s part of the business.”

Krissah Thompson began writing for The Washington Post in 2001. She has been a business reporter, covered presidential campaigns and written about civil rights and race. More recently, she has covered the first lady's office, politics and culture.

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Republicans debate tonight. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
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