[A]fter repeatedly drawing that line in the sand, a growing number of bishops have begun to push back, arguing that such hard-line rhetoric has put them in an untenable position. These bishops do not want to close Catholic institutions over a birth control policy -- and they say they actually can't do so in most cases.
In addition, they argue that there is no reason to try -- the exemptions and accommodations in the mandate are sufficient, some say, and the church's teaching that access to good, affordable health care is a basic right should outweigh any remaining reservations.
That's why those familiar with the deliberations in Baltimore note that the statement is carefully worded to acknowledge that each bishop can make his own arrangements on health insurance -- as some are doing -- and it begins to provide cover for the entire hierarchy as the prelates try to find an exit strategy.[Thanks to Perry Dane for the lead.]