Cardinal Dolan praises court's refusal to dismiss suit against contraception mandate

Maura Grunlund

Document Publication: Staten Island Advance - Staten Island, NY

Publication Date: December 13, 2012

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, took a swipe at the media while extending kudos to U.S. District Court Judge Brian Cogan, who last week declined to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Archdiocese of New York against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate in Brooklyn.

Cardinal Dolan lamented the lack of media coverage of the ruling, claiming that "there seems to have been virtually no mention of the decision -- in favor of the archdiocese, by the way -- in any local newspaper or on television" even though the Advance published an article with a comment from Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, and Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life in New Dorp. The article in which Father Pavone issued a battle cry, "Sue the hell out of the Obama Administration," generated 275 comments from readers.

The cardinal said that the New York Times didn't write about Judge Cogan's decision even though it "couldn't wait to publish an editorial this past October, admonishing the bishops, when a federal judge in Missouri found for the administration and dismissed a similar case brought by a private, for-profit, mining company. The Times also didn't have much to say last week, when the appeals court temporarily blocked the bad Missouri decision the Times had gushed over."

However, the cardinal had nothing but praise for Judge Cogan's ruling in the lawsuit brought by the archdiocese and also ArchCare, which is the agency coordinating healthcare in the archdiocese, and three plaintiffs from the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island. The Archdiocese and over 40 other Roman Catholic dioceses and institutions throughout the country filed law suits in May against the Obama Administration's stance on contraceptives.

'Bravo, Judge Cogan!' the cardinal said in his blog. "Of course, there is still a long way to go before these cases are final, and it would be our hope that the administration will be true to their word and amend the HHS mandate so that it does provide a real religious exemption and freedom of conscience protection. Until then, we will continue to seek justice in the courts. Thanks to last week's decision in Federal Court in Brooklyn, it looks like we will have that chance."

Father Pavone, whose Priests for Life also has a lawsuit pending in Brooklyn federal court, called  Judge Cogan's ruling "encouraging" and speculated that the U.S. Supreme Court would ultimately weigh in on the issue.

"I encourage other dioceses and ministries to jump into the fray," said Father Pavone, who never has been one to mince words. "Don't be afraid of the battle. We should sue the hell out of the Obama Administration," he said. 

In his decision, Judge Cogan said there was a possibility that the plaintiffs could "face future injuries stemming from their forced choice between incurring fines or acting in violation of their religious beliefs."

In response to the administration's contention that the suit should be dismissed because they were going to change the HHS mandate to address the concerns of religious employers, Judge Cogan wrote, "...the First Amendment does not require citizens to accept assurances from the government that, if the government later determines it has made a misstep, it will take ameliorative action. There is no, 'Trust us, changes are coming' clause in the Constitution."

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