What Did CHA's Carol Keehan Know and When Did She Know It?

WASHINGTON, DC, February 14, 2012— President Barack Obama on Feb. 10 confirmed that his administration was offering an “accommodation” to religious groups opposed to a controversial federal rule requiring private health plans to provide contraception and abortion services.

As reported in the media, church-affiliated employers would not have to directly cover those services; instead, their insurance plans would cover them.

The announcement prompted an expression of gratitude from Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, and a polite, but wary response from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which said they needed to study the proposed modification.

That evening, the bishops’ conference formally rejected the president’s “accommodation” as essentially meaningless.

For the rest of the weekend, amid a blur of news headlines and talking heads that offered conflicting judgments, the faithful in the pews struggled to determine what, if anything, had changed regarding the administration’s policy.

The contrasting responses from the CHA leader and the USCCB have left Catholics and the general public confused about who speaks for the Church on a matter of grave institutional concern and whether the Obama administration exploited a lack of clarity about that matter.

The dueling positions have fueled questions about the basis of Sister Carol’s endorsement: USCCB officials and health-care experts have since confirmed that the government has not issued any binding regulations that legally override the controversial contraception mandate finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services on Jan. 20.

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