The Catholic Church isn’t exactly known for responding well to would-be reformers.  Does the name Martin Luther ring a bell?  How about Henry XIII?  Galileo was initially declared “vehemently suspect of heresy” by a Vatican court in 1633, and ended up under house arrest for the rest of his life because he claimed that the sun was the center of our universe.  He was ultimately acquitted– in 1992.  If you think the lines at the DMV are long, try getting in line for an acquittal at the Vatican.  The Church’s stubbornness means that it may be out of step for a few centuries here and there, but that’s really quite brief for an organization whose beliefs are tied to eternity.

What we are seeing now, with Notre Dame et al v. HHS and the eleven other lawsuits like it, is a rarity: The Catholic Church is starting to play offense.  It has come under attack from the organized Left in their search to create an election-year issue by drumming up a fight against a conservative group.  While the Church may look like an easy target (there’s nothing more conservative than sticking to your principles for a couple of millennia), the Left has made a huge tactical error: the Catholic Church has a strong track record of being right in the long run.

No one who understands Catholicism can seriously claim that its church is fighting a “War on Women.”  Catholics revere Mary; she is a part of every Mass, and Catholics pray to her over fifty times each time they pray the Rosary.  Catholics respect women so much that they even canonize them as saints.  Though women are not permitted to say the Mass, they’re allowed to do just about everything else, like being true nonprofit entrepreneurs and changing the lives of millions. “Mother Teresa’s 4,000 Missionaries of Charity alone maintain shelters for battered women, orphanages for girls and boys, and homes for destitute and dying women and men in 564 sites around the world.”

Mother Teresa’s ministry is not alone out there in the world:

Today there are more than 21.3 million women and girls being educated in Church-run institutions… The Church maintains 54,742 day-care centres caring for 2.3 million girls. The Church today also supports 100,231 health-care institutions worldwide.”

If you really want to fight for women’s rights, join the Catholics in the trenches.  If the Left was trying to help women, they must have taken a wrong turn on their way to the poor and the sick, because they wound up in plush Washington D.C. office buildings.

Catholic institutions are supporters of women’s health, even if keeping women healthy requires a birth control prescription.  The student insurance plans offered by both Notre Dame and Georgetown do cover birth control prescriptions so long as they are prescribed to treat a medical condition.  Some Catholic institutions have insurance plans that cover oral contraception, no questions asked, such as DePaul, University of Scranton, and Christian Brothers University.  In total, thirty-four Catholic-affiliated institutions have some kind of insurance coverage for contraception.  Many schools, Notre Dame and Georgetown included, allow students to opt out of the university insurance plan so long as they are covered by a different health insurance plan.

By ignoring the health care credibility of the Catholic Church, the media and the Left made a significant error, and the public caught it. Catholic institutions are global dispensers of health care to men and women alike; Catholics have never been in the business of sacrificing healthy women to birth control dogma.  The Church has also stood behind tenets of abstinence and marriage– abstinence being the most effective way of preventing pregnancy, and marriage of being the healthiest, strongest way to raise children.  The one time a woman became pregnant out of wedlock while remaining abstinent, they built a church around her and her son.

It didn’t take long for the public to catch on to all of this.  Now I imagine a day when the Obama campaign’s PR firm, SKDKnickerbocker, is no longer being paid to create a phony “war.”  In the meantime, the Church has stayed above the petty political fray by actually embracing their accusers, inviting them to share their ideas using forums provided by Catholic institutions.  All of this ties back to several Catholic tenets:  Love your enemy, turn the other cheek, and trust that the underlying truths will always come out.  It used to be that a big part of being American was being able to trust your government not to mess with your religious institution, and now we are seeing our religious institution retaliate.

The Left is beginning to lose the fight that it picked.  A recent Hill Poll found that President Obama trails Governor Romney by five percentage points among women voters.  Support for Romney has jumped 21 points among Republican women.  Among married women of all political persuasions, Obama trails Romney by 17 points.

While the Left wanted to fight about birth control, the Catholics want to discuss religious freedom.  Forty-three plaintiffs in Notre Dame v. HHS have now aligned to push back against the law which says they must provide birth control for non-pathological reasons.  This has never been about who uses birth control; this is about the First Amendment.  Any attempt by the press or SKDKnickerbocker to distract from this is just a distraction from the real issue at hand.  Distractions only last as long as polls and bankrolls support them.  Core beliefs last forever.

When the Catholic Church finally recognized that the sun was the center of the universe, it may have been too quick to act. It turns out the sun is not the center of the universe.  It is only the center of our solar system.  We now see a much more expansive vision of space, chock full of solar systems and galaxies, in which a present-day Galileo would be hard pressed to press his face against a telescope and find the center of anything.

Earth may not be the center of the cosmos, but it is certainly a place where freedom should still matter.  Those who are trying to take away the Church’s freedom are now going to see the Church slowly and patiently play offense to ensure said freedom.

Angela Morabito | Georgetown University | @_AngelaMorabito