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Archbishop Dolan: Birth-control mandate ‘strangling’ church’s freedom

Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan on Monday defended the Catholic Church’s challenge to the White House birth-control mandate, saying that administration’s proposed accommodation on the ruling was still "strangling” religious freedom.

“The exemption given to the church is so strangling and so narrow and it’s also presumptuous that a bureau of the federal government is attempting to define for the church the extent of its ministry and ministers,” said Dolan on CBS's "This Morning."

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Dolan's comments come as prominent Catholic institutions, including the University of Notre Dame and Catholic University of America, filed suit against the healthcare law mandate requiring insurance plans to cover birth control for women without a co-pay.  

The groups' lawsuit, one of over 30 challenging the measure, says the ruling violates their religious freedom. 

The White House accommodation, which many Catholic groups have rebuffed, would exempt explicitly religious organizations, but not individual employers who personally object to birth control.

Dolan suggested that the accommodation was too narrow in its characterization of faith-based organizations.

"They tell us that if you're really going to be considered a church, that if you're going to be really exempt from these demands of the government, well, you have to propagate your Catholic faith and everything that you do, you can serve only Catholics, and you can employ only Catholics," said Dolan. "When did the government get in the business of defining for us the extent of our ministry?

“It’s almost like we’re being punished for the fact that we serve a lot of people,” he said.

Dolan also hit at Georgetown University for its decision to invite Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who helped formulate the ruling, to speak to graduates last week.

“I do think that's a problem. Georgetown is the oldest Catholic university in the country," said Dolan. 

"Part of Catholic identity is to be in union with the bishops. When they would invite someone who has used the word ‘war’ in describing the relationship between the government and Catholic Church and when they would invite someone that is so dramatically at odds with one of the central tenets of the faith, that does bother us," he added.

“We’re disappointed,” Dolan said of the decision.

Sebelius's address last Friday did not mention the controversy over the birth-control mandate.