Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan says the church has been for universal health care for almost a century, but it can't support Obamacare as long as it forces Catholics to violate their conscience.

In an interview that aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Dolan said if it wasn't for the health care reform's mandate to provide contraceptives, the U.S. Catholic Bishops would be the Affordable Care Act's biggest "cheerleaders."

"We, the bishops of the United States, can you believe it, in 1919 came out for more affordable, more comprehensive, more universal healthcare. That's how far back we go in this battle, okay?” Dolan said, according to Politico.

“So we're not Johnny-come-latelies,” Dolan added. “We've been asking for reform in healthcare for a long time. So, we were kind of an early supporter in this. Where we started bristling and saying, ‘Uh-oh, first of all this isn't comprehensive, because it's excluding the undocumented immigrant and it's excluding the unborn baby,’ so we began to bristle at that.”

Secondly, “we said, ‘And wait a minute, we Catholics who are kind of among the pros when it comes to providing health care, do it because of our religious conviction, and because of the dictates of our conscience. And now we're being asked to violate some of those.’”

Several Catholic-affiliated schools and other organizations have sued the government over the mandate, claiming it violates their religious freedom.

But other Catholic organizations don't agree with the U.S. Bishops' stance on Obamacare. In June, the Catholic Health Association, which represents 620 Catholic hospitals and 1,400 nursing homes, said it can live with the birth control mandate.

On the topic gay marriage becoming legal now in 16 states, Dolan said the church has been "out-marketed" and "caricatured as being anti-gay."

"When you have forces like Hollywood, when you have forces like politicians, when you have forces like some opinion-molders that are behind it, it's a tough battle," said Dolan, according to Opposing Views.

The Associated Press reported that Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said the church supports traditional marriage and is not "anti-anybody."

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But Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, senior religion editor for the Huffington Post, wrote that no marketing or caricatures are needed to describe the Catholic church's well-known position against gay marriage.

"If you are against gay marriage you are against gay married people. In the future, if you want to know if your actions or words are anti-gay, try asking a gay person," Raushenbush wrote. "We'll be glad to let you know."


Twitter: @deseretbrown