It's about the Obama administration's decision to require as part of the new healthcare bill that religious institutions - colleges and universities, hospitals, charitable organizations - provide full insurance coverage for birth control, including IUDs and morning after pills in addition to those methods strictly defined as contraceptives.
The Catholic Church teaches that birth control and certainly methods like IUDs and morning-after pills, which they view as abortive, are morally wrong. Here they are here being required by law to pay for them; this is how the church sees it. And it is something the church believes it morally cannot do.
The conflict is between the right of the government to protect what it views as the public health and the right of a religion to practice its deepest moral beliefs in this free society, one in which the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom.
It is not about the right to birth control or the right even of abortion but, again, about the right of the Catholic Church or any religious organization to refuse to participate in it.
We are watching a real conflict here. It will be the duty of religious leaders to follow their consciences. It will be the work of politicians, the President on down, to do what they do: work this out.
There are millions of liberal Catholics who did not wish for this conflict but can see with powerful clarity its validity.
It's not about the number of Catholics who use birth control or the number of non-Catholics who attend Catholic colleges or universities or receive help from Catholic Charities. It's about what the Church itself teaches.
This regulation is telling it to do by law what it teaches should not be done. That's the issue. That's the conflict.