Speaking on Long Island Saturday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan blasted the federal government's "intrusion into the church" on contraception coverage, saying President Barack Obama's compromise on the issue doesn't go far enough.
The federal mandate that insurance cover the cost of contraception for employees of church-affiliated institutions, Dolan said, is an affront to Roman Catholic beliefs and religious freedom.
"They haven't given a nod at all to the deeper philosophical question of the intrusion into the church," he told reporters after his speech.
Dolan, recently elevated to cardinal, delivered the keynote address before hundreds at the Diocese of Rockville Centre Public Policy Convocation. The event was held at Holy Trinity Diocesan High School in Hicksville.
During the address, titled "Catholic Witness in the Public Square," Dolan said Catholics should become more involved in politics and that doing so shouldn't mean compromising principles.
"We're gathering here in Hicksville, but we ain't political hicks," Dolan said. "For us, an informed, enlightened politics is a virtue of Catholic life."
After the Obama contraceptive initiative drew opposition from Catholic leaders, the president changed his proposal so that federal rules would not require churches to pay for contraception. Instead, private insurance companies used by the church would have to include it in employees' health plans.
But Dolan said that's still an intrusion.
"Most of us are self-insured, so when you pass on the expenses to the insurer, guess who's still paying?" he said.
Dolan, archbishop of New York and head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, drew applause when he rejected the notion that the church, by opposing contraception coverage, was imposing religion on employees of Catholic institutions.
"We're not trying to impose our teachings on anybody; we're simply saying, don't impose your teachings on us and make us do what as a church we find unconscionable."
Obama and other Democratic leaders say they are merely trying to provide basic health care to all.
The new regulations requiring contraceptive coverage take effect in August 2013 and would exempt institutions, such as churches and parishes, that are strictly religious, but not religiously affiliated companies, such as hospitals and colleges.
Dolan said the clash with the Obama administration is a symptom of a broader problem.
"We're in an era of entitlements, where everybody thinks the government exists to satisfy our urges," he said.
What's next, Dolan asked the audience.
"I suppose we could say there might be some doctor who would say to a man who was suffering some sexual dysfunction, 'You ought to start visiting a prostitute to help you, and I will write a prescription and hope the government will pay for it.' "
With Ted Phillips