The Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said the administration should compromise. Although liberal-leaning Catholics disagree with the bishops on gay marriage and other issues, these same Catholics would oppose anything that threatened the church's social service work with the poor, war refugees and other disadvantaged people.
"This is a situation where being a gracious victor is not only the right thing to do, it makes good political sense," Reese said.
Dolan, archbishop of New York, would not say whether bishops would disobey the mandate if the lawsuits fail or church leaders can't resolve their disagreements with Health and Human Services.
"It's still not doomsday yet," he said.
Separately, the bishops voted to shelve a statement on the economy that they'd been working on for months. The bishops voted overwhelmingly to draft the document last June, after objecting to social services cuts in the budget proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who was the Republican vice presidential nominee. This statement was intended as a brief message of concern and encouragement to Americans. But bishops meeting in Baltimore couldn't agree on the wording or emphasis and rejected the document.
Also, the bishops endorsed the effort by the Archdiocese of New York to seek sainthood for Dorothy Day, a social activist and writer who converted to Catholicism as an adult. She was a founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, which advocates for social justice and aids the poor.