The Department of Health and Human Services announced today that they are going to move ahead with a new mandate requiring most employers to to cover contraception for female employees free of charge as part of their health plans. The mandate does not have an exemption for religious institutions like Catholic hospitals – which has left the Catholic Church understandbly upset, but also baffled.

NY Archbishop and Cardinal-Designate Timothy Dolan described the move as, “the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

Dolan, who is also the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, went on to say the move was “unconscionable” and that it “represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty.”

Dolan, and the Church, is calling for HHS to reverse their decision.

“The Obama administration has now drawn an unprecedented line in the sand,” he said. “The Catholic bishops are committed to working with our fellow Americans to reform the law and change this unjust regulation. We will continue to study all the implications of this troubling decision.”

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who happens to be a catholic, issued a statement today saying the department would continue to work closely with religious groups to discuss their concerns.

Update: Family Planning Advocates of NYS just sent out a note applauding the HHS decision, that included this excerpt below suggesting that most Catholic women are actually in favor of this effort.

The birth control coverage benefit is one of the most popular provisions in the Affordable Care Act. According to a Hart Research poll, 71 percent of American voters, including 77 percent of Catholic women voters, support the benefit that health plans cover prescription birth control at no cost. And a May 2011 Thomson Reuters-NPR Health poll found that 77 percent of Americans believe that private medical insurance should provide no-cost birth control.