This, at least, is the view of Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne: Here is a taste of his recent piece at Commonweal:
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, strengthened the very forces inside the church that sought to derail the health-care law, and created unnecessary problems for himself in the 2012 election.
This might not have mattered if Obama had presented himself as a pure secular liberal. Before he was elected and after, he held himself to a more inclusive standard, reassuring many religious moderates.
His deservedly celebrated 2006 speech on religion and American public life was a deeply sophisticated and carefully balanced effort to defend the rights of 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 conservative and right-wing Catholics. Yet the address he gave temporarily silenced many of his critics because it showed both an appreciation for the Catholic Church’s contributions to American life — particularly through its vast array of social-service and educational institutions — and a great instinctive feeling for Catholic sensibilities.
In the health-care law, Obama annoyed some in his liberal base by making sure that Catholic institutions do not have to perform or pay for abortions. Yet rather than praising him for this, the bishops and the Catholic right invented the idea that the health law does cover abortion. It doesn’t, as Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, insisted. In backing the administration’s view on this, she braved attacks and discipline from the bishops. That’s why it was unconscionable for Obama to leave her hanging out to dry.
At issue in the new controversy were regulations promulgated January 20 by the Department of Health and Human Services as to which medical services should be covered by insurance policies that will be supported under the Affordable Care Act.
Read the rest here.