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.
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.
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
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.