Proving how difficult it is for a Catholic university to reclaim its identity after decades of rot, staff and faculty at Xavier University are protesting Fr. Michael Graham’s decision to bring the school’s health insurance policies in line with Church teaching, i.e., by excluding coverage for birth control, sterilization, and abortifacients. We posted about this topic earlier in the week. You’ve got to love that the Enquirer‘s reporter had to insert a parenthetical “Father” into a quote from a faculty member about Graham.

Is it legal for Xavier University to cut off employees’ insurance coverage for birth control? Did the unilateral decision flout the institution’s own rules? And why was the change made so quickly?

Those are among the questions that Shannon Byrne, faculty committee chair, is posing in the wake of XU President Michael J. Graham’s announcement Monday that Xavier employees’ health insurance coverage would exclude birth control and sterilization effective July 1.

In an email provided to The Enquirer on Tuesday, Byrne invites faculty to meet April 12 to discuss the situation. The email includes two attachments: Graham’s announcement of his decision and a letter Byrne sent to Graham on behalf of the nine faculty committee members who are elected to represent their peers’ interests.

“From a benefits standpoint, does anyone, including the President of Xavier, have a right to make changes to the university health coverage plan in the middle of the year?” Byrne asked in the email. “We would like to see if insurance law permits an employer to change benefits after six months that employees are expecting for the entire year.”

Byrne’s email also questions the timing of Graham’s decision, suggesting that the university should have instead adopted a “wait-and-see” stance, as some other Catholic Jesuit institutions have done, while the national debate over health care and contraception coverage continues.

“A legal mandate seems likely if the Supreme Court upholds the Affordable Health Care Act, and the constitutional issue of religious freedom that (Father) Graham references in his letter is far from settled,” wrote Byrne. …

Catholic World News picks up the story.