New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whose prodigious jowls the Gothamists mocks prodigiously, doesn't think that the contraception debate is about contraception at all — it's about the First Goddamn Amendment and he's willing to tap into all the Catholic Church's ill-gotten, dragon-guarded treasure hoards to prove it.
Employing an argument antebellum Southern politicians may have used to explain how their gripe with the Union wasn't about slavery at all but states' rights (as in, the right to own people), Dolan told Pix 11 that the executive branch of the government is trying to tell the Catholic Church what it can and can't do by insisting that religious employers provide contraception insurance coverage for employees. Harumph! Indeed! Dolan explained himself with a measured amount of scarlet-faced indignation:
The government, for the first time, is attempting to say what a church and and can't do. That bothers us. It's not about contraception, not about a Catholic issue. It's not about partisan politics. This is a radical violation of the First Amendment.
Dolan softened his criticism by recognizing that the Obama administration had tempered the mandate so that insurers, not church employers, would pay the baby-firewall money. However, since most churches subscribe to the sneaky self insurance scheme (which is really just a way to sidestep state laws about an employer's health insurance obligations), Dolan says that "we [the Church] would still be paying for something we consider morally illicit."
The phrase "morally illicit" when paired with "the Catholic Church" begs for all sorts of criticisms and tasteless jokes, but let's restrain ourselves for a minute and remind ourselves that Dolan — and the Church's — gripe with the mandate is really, truly about paying for contraception coverage for its employees. That's all. A First Amendment argument stands at the ready, but the Church's tiff with the White House originated with the "contraception mandate" and essentially revolves around this single issue. It's the innocuous states' rights argument all over again, which, if you've never run into a sanctimonious Civil War "buff" who begins each sentence about slavery's role in the war with "actually," goes something like this — the war wasn't about slavery per se, rather, it was about states maintaining a certain level of autonomy. That's a nice, tidy way to sweep the great sin of slavery under the rug of American history, but it's also complete bullshit because the North and South really went to war over whether or not new states would be slave states or not. As more states were incorporated into the Union, the balance of power shifted, imperiling the ability of the Southern states to hold onto their proud tradition of treating human beings like chattel.
Wow, that got out of hand fast. Anyway, Dolan performs the same polite rhetorical sidestep when he emphasizes a First Amendment violation and says that he and the Church are willing to take the issue in front of the Supreme Court if they have to. By ignoring or deemphasizing contraception, Dolan is trying to apply a veneer of political gloss to what many see as the Church's outmoded, anachronistic refusal to let people regulate their reproductive activities with modern medicine. Why doesn't the Church want this to happen? Because the Church is morally opposed to such things as preventing babies from happening (though it's certainly not AT ALL opposed to protecting priests who molest children, and that is not out of bounds or irrelevant, thank you very much).
If you're on board for one extra layer of cynicism, then consider that the Church — the very organization that once sold tickets to Heaven like a pimply teenage usher working the box office at St. Peter's Gate — doesn't really care about how immoral contraception is. Or at least the Church hierarchy doesn't really care. What it really cares about is money, the acquiring and hoarding thereof, and the only real reason it's opposed to the contraception mandate is because it doesn't want to shell out the extra money for what it sees as a totally unnecessary expense. Totally unnecessary because, just like a Southern slave owner who who was getting free labor, the Church doesn't think it should have to pay for something that it hasn't had to pay for ever before.