Kudos to CNN "State of the Union" host Candy Crowley for bringing up on Sunday the undercovered story of the recent Obamacare-related decision to force Catholic employers to insure sterilizations, abortifacients, and contraceptives. When she mentioned "real outrage within the Catholic community" -- and bishops' letters opposed Obama were again read in parishes across America at Mass on Sunday -- liberal Gov. Martin O'Malley blew off the bishops: "most of those in the hierarchy are also Republicans." Is that why Obama's violating their religious freedom?
O'Malley also claimed that this is not a big deal because "these same rules apply in countries like Italy which have overwhelming numbers of Catholics, and yet we did not see the reaction in those countries to these sorts of things." This might be because while 97 percent of Italians think of themselves as Catholic, church attendance is very low (from 15 to 30 percent). They go to church on an Obama schedule. (Fore!)
Or course, alleged Catholic O'Malley is presently putting all of his prestige behind legalizing "gay marriage" in Maryland, so he's not exactly on a church wavelength. Here's how the exchange unfolded:
CANDY CROWLEY: And this week what we've seen is some real outrage within the Catholic community about the president's decision to require Catholic entities, charities, churches and schools to provide contraception and other things within their health insurance plans.
E.J. Dionne, who is no raving Republican here, had this to say in his column, "it is so remarkable that Obama 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 and strengthened the hand of those inside the church who had originally sought to derail the health care law." And I want to quickly play for you something that Newt Gingrich said last night about this same issue.
NEWT GINGRICH [clip]: The Obama administration has declared war on religious freedom in this country and people need to understand that. This is a decision so totally outrageous, and the illustration of such radical secular ideology that I believe the entire hierarchy will oppose it every inch of the way.
CROWLEY: So, my question to you in the final 90 seconds we have, has President Obama damaged the Catholic vote as far as Democrats are concerned? And you, as I understand it, are Catholic.
O'MALLEY: I am Catholic. And I think, Candy, there has been a little bit too much hyperventilating over this issue. It's one of those issues that they want to use...
CROWLEY: Well, it came from Catholics themselves in the hierarchy.
O'MALLEY: Well, some, and most of those members of that hierarchy are also Republicans. And if you look at 28 states, Candy, this is not about abortion, it's about covering contraception as part of the health care coverage, mandatory basic coverage. Twenty-eight states already require this, and in Europe countries that are...
CROWLEY: But you're not thinking about the state, the federal government, telling a religion what it must cover in a health care policy.
O'MALLEY: Well, there is an exemption for churches themselves. The exemption does not necessarily extend to institutions like hospitals or universities that employ people of all faiths. But these same rules apply in countries like Italy which have overwhelming numbers of Catholics, and yet we did not see the reaction in those countries to these sorts of things.
Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, also a Catholic, predicted this would make Catholic voters look more favorably at Romney:
CROWLEY: Well, and I'm going to give the last word to you, Governor McDonnell. Is there an opening for Republicans to seize in the Catholic vote sector, which is very large as you know, in some very important states, Ohio, Pennsylvania, et cetera?
MCDONNELL: Absolutely. As a pro-life Catholic, I think the answer is yes. Besides the health care bill being unconstitutional and a great expansion of federal government, I think if it does not respect people's individual religious views and makes groups or individuals do things that are contrary to their deeply held beliefs, there is going to be a visceral negative reaction. And I think the Catholic voters will look very favorably upon Mitt Romney this year.