Andrew Sullivan Accuses Catholic Bishops of Politicizing Contraception Debate

Sunday's Fareed Zakaria GPS saw a ridiculing of the Catholic bishops and Republicans for their stances against contraception and the HHS mandate. The liberal panel was quite hostile to conservative Christians when the discussion came to religion and contraception.

The Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan ludicrously accused the Catholic bishops and other Christian leaders of using their opposition to contraception for political gain. "My concern is that the Church and the churches have become politicized," he quipped. He insisted that the bishops want to make Obama a "one-term president" in the wake of the HHS birth control mandate. 

Perhaps Sullivan could have listened to Cardinal Timothy Dolan's interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, where Dolan stated that "I would never myself say don't vote against or don't vote for a particular candidate." Cardinal Dolan is the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

But Sullivan added that the Obama administration's HHS birth control mandate is not violating the consciences of Catholics. "98 percent of them [Catholics] clearly don't have a conscience problem with contraception," Sullivan said citing the liberal Planned Parenthood statistic, and claimed that "their conscience isn't being violated whatsoever."

And he flippantly dismissed the Catholic bishops' defense of Church teaching, saying contraception is "such a trivial matter" and that the bishops should cut down on "seeking to control things like contraception" and focus instead on matters of faith.

[Video below the break. Audio here.]



Meanwhile, the Washington Post's liberal "On Faith" editor Sally Quinn smacked the bishops for deciding that women should not use contraceptives, and spouted the liberal line that Republicans have a "serious problem" with the woman vote because of their stance on contraception.

"This is about celibate men making a decision for millions and millions and millions of women," said Quinn of the Catholic bishops' defense of Church teaching, which states the practice of contraception is a grave evil.

The liberal Jon Meacham, executive vice president of Random House Publishing Group, said that conservatives are on the losing side of the HHS birth control mandate. "I think, ultimately, that conservatives are messing with the law at their peril," he said, opining that their "explicitly religious" handling of domestic policy rubs up against the separation of church and state in America.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on April 1 on Fareed Zakaria GPS at 1:15 p.m. EDT, is as follows:


FAREED ZAKARIA: Sally, in general it seems as though the argument goes, from a lot of liberal groups, that by bringing up this contraception issue, the Republicans have kind of waged a war on women, that every woman looks upon this and says why are these men telling us what we should do?

Do you think the feeling is as widespread that the Republicans now have a serious problem with the women – the woman vote, if there is such a thing?

QUINN: I definitely do. I think that they have made a terrible mistake and I don't know how they can rectify it. As I was saying earlier about the primary versus the general election, it may play well during the primary. I mean, look at after Rick Santorum started talking about women should basically stay at home and women should not be in combat and he was basically against contraception, his numbers starting going up and he started getting higher in the polls and winning elections. But I don't think that that will be true in a general election.

I think he – I think that the Republicans have really hurt themselves not just with Democratic women, but if you look at 98 percent of Catholic women use contraception and 99 percent of women use contraception, the idea of saying well, I would consider banning contraceptions – allowing states to ban contraception is just insane in terms of a political strategy.

I mean you've got half – over half the population is women and they're all using birth control. So I don't understand how they think this is going to be a winning argument.

ZAKARIA: But, Matthew, obviously, he must believe it. I mean it's – forget about the politics of it --

MATTHEW FRANCK, director of the Center on Religion and the Constitution, Witherspoon Institute: Yeah.

ZAKARIA: – this comes from a place of, you know –

FRANCK: Well, there isn't any war on women involved here and there isn't any war on access to contraception. And, you know, the premise of your question, Fareed, was interesting. It's not the Republicans who have brought up contraception. It's the Obama administration which has promulgated a very controversial HHS mandate that all insurers, including many religious institutions and employers, cover contraception with no deductibles and no co-pays.

And this is new. This is a new policy under Obamacare, and the Catholic Church and many other faith groups as well are objecting to this as a serious assault on religious liberty. And I – contrary to Sally's view, I think the religious liberty issue is going to help the Republicans in the fall.

ZAKARIA: What do you think?

JON MEACHAM, executive editor, executive vice president at Random House: I think, ultimately, that conservatives are messing with the law at their peril because the original metaphor came from Richard Hooker, the Anglican Divine. Roger Williams picked it up, the founder of Rhode Island. The initial idea of a wall of separation between church and state was not to protect the state from the church, but the church from the state.

And if every argument of domestic policy becomes explicitly religious, the American – I think, the American impulse is going to be to try to drive religion farther to the edges, producing then a counter reaction and a very unpleasant situation. Every argument does not have to have a theological component.

ANDREW SULLIVAN, blogger, The Daily Beast: My issue is what does contraception got to do really with religion? I mean it is such a trivial matter. If people were in the public square arguing how their faith in Jesus has saved them, if they were arguing about the necessity for daily prayer, if they were bearing witness to their actual faith, then I don't think anybody would be concerned about this.

That would be, in my view, a great thing. If I heard more Catholic bishops actually arguing for the truths of our faith as opposed to seeking to control things like contraception – and, let's face it, on that issue, it is not the Catholic Church, it's the Catholic hierarchy. Most Catholics disagree with the hierarchy on this and have long since disagreed with it. It is the Catholic hierarchy with the evangelical right. That's the weird thing.

Rick Santorum hasn't won Catholic votes. This is not about Catholics' conscience. 98 percent of them clearly don't have a conscience problem with contraception. They're not being – their conscience isn't being violated whatsoever.

My concern is that the Church and the churches have become politicized. They regard their primary – and if you've listened to the how the bishops prepared for this moment, how they strategized for it, how they attempt to want to bring Obama – make him a one-term president because of this. That is alienating a lot of ordinary Catholics who actually want to be Catholics. They don't want to be political operatives.

SALLY QUINN, reporter, Washington Post: Well, I mean, I think all we have to do is look at a picture of all of those guys testifying. This is about celibate men making a decision for millions and millions and millions of women. And I think that picture alone will make a huge difference.

You talk about it not being about – contraception not being about religion, but they equate it to abortion because they talk about the morning-after pill, which is, in effect, murder. And so once you get into abortion, which they consider some forms of contraception, then that becomes a whole different issue. So it then becomes a religious issue for them.

-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center