The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, Jr., is not a completely reliable Catholic intellectual, but I think we ought to pay attention to today’s opinion piece, “Obama’s breach of faith over contraceptive ruling.” I don’t agree with all that Dionne posits, but it would be incorrect to dismiss the whole piece because he does have a point for us Catholics to pay close attention to.

One of Barack Obama’s great attractions as a
presidential candidate was his sensitivity to the feelings and intellectual
concerns of religious believers. That is why it is so remarkable that he
utterly botched the admittedly difficult question of how contraceptive services
should be treated under the new health care law.

His administration mishandled
this decision not once but twice. In the process, Obama threw his progressive
Catholic allies under the bus and strengthened the hand of those inside the
Church who had originally sought to derail the health care law.

This might not
be so surprising if Obama had presented himself as a conventional secular
liberal. But he has always held himself to a more inclusive standard.

deservedly celebrated 2006 speech on religion and
American public life
was a deeply sophisticated and carefully
balanced effort to defend the rights of both believers and nonbelievers in a
pluralistic republic.

Obama’s speech at Notre Dame’s
graduation in 2009
was another tour de force. His visit to South
Bend was highly controversial among right-wing Catholics. Yet his address
temporarily silenced many of his critics because it showed an appreciation for
the Catholic Church’s contributions to American life — particularly through its
vast array of social-service and educational institutions — and an instinctive
feeling for Catholic sensibilities.