I am pleasantly surprised by Father Michael Graham’s decision to end Xavier University’s coverage of birth control for its employees.  On its merits the decision is, simply put, the right thing to do.  If it is the first step in an effort by Xavier to “reclaim its [Catholic] identity,” as Rich suggested, then the decision could be the first step in a very important process–a process that could lead to Xavier living up to its incredible potential.

But a phrase in Father Graham’s letter announcing the decision gives me pause.  He writes that “As a Catholic priest and as president of a Catholic university, I have concluded that, absent a legal mandate, it is inconsistent for a Catholic university to cover those drugs and procedures the Church opposes.”

“…absent a legal mandate…”

Read literally, Father Graham’s statement suggests that, if the HHS mandate were currently in place, it may not be “inconsistent” for a Catholic university to provide contraceptive and sterilization coverage.  Does this mean that, once the HHS mandate is in place, Xavier will knuckle under and comply?

I don’t know the answer to that question.  I certainly hope the question is unnecessary and that Father Graham will be as courageous once the HHS mandate goes into effect as he is now.  The “absent a legal mandate” phrase may have been inserted without thought to the possible interpretation I have offered.

Setting that one concern aside, I am proud of Father Graham and encourage readers to actively support him. As Rich already pointed out, opposition is already growing.

A petition in support of Father Graham is available at this link.  I encourage all readers to sign it.  Father Graham deserves–and, I think, will need–our support.