By Eric Marrapodi and Brianna Keilar, CNN
(CNN)–After years of bridge building with the Catholic Church, the Obama administration may have damaged some of the good will it built up with the nation's 70 million Catholics, which could have steep consequences at the polls in November.
Some rank and file Catholics are beginning to express the same frustrations as clergy about a new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services policy requiring all employers, including religious ones, to pay for FDA-approved contraceptives, such as the birth control pill and Plan B, through health insurance plans. Churches are exempt but hospitals and schools with religious affiliations must comply. The new policy goes into effect August 1, 2012, but religious groups who oppose contraception have been given a yearlong extension to enforce the policy.
"What's offensive is that we're being told, our Catholic institutions which serve this nation well, are being told you who find these things offensive, you should pay for them, in fact you must pay for them," Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, told CNN.
Catholic teaching opposes the use of contraceptives. Wuerl acknowledged the clergy and the faithful have been at odds over the teachings on contraceptive use. But on this policy he said both are in lockstep over what is being perceived as a violation of religious liberties.
"This time around what people are seeing this isn't a question of one moral teaching or another, it's being able to teach at all. Our freedom, and everyone has a stake in freedom in this country, and I think that's why this resonates across the board," he said.
CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories
Wuerl is calling his congregants to action, asking them to call congress and the White House to express their displeasure.
"We're beginning to say to our people this is what the issue is, it's wrong, we've never experienced this in the history of our country before, this is a violation of the basic rights of conscience and religious liberty. So you need to know that and you need to speak up," he said.
The timing of the administration's announcement has drawn criticism for being tone deaf, coming just three days before tens of thousands of protesters, many of them Catholics who oppose abortion rights, came to Washington for the annual March for Life on the anniversary of Roe vs Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.
"In my estimation it's a huge misstep politically," said Stephen Schneck a political scientist from Catholic University who has consulted with the administration on Catholic issues. In 2009, Schneck also worked with pro-abortion rights Democrats in Congress on the president’s signature health care reform measure to find language that ensured government funds did not pay for abortions.
"The way in which the narrative is being developed is that the administration is at odds with the Catholic Church fundamentally. What I'm seeing in the pews is something of a waking up, a Catholic solidarity. That I think could very well carry over into their political activities" Schneck said. "There's nothing like having a sense of opposition to you to rally the troops and I suspect that's going to happen here."
Schneck pointed particularly to states with large Catholic populations where this new solidarity could have a far-reaching political impact.
"If you look at where those Catholics are, they're in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Florida, which are of course critical states for anyone who wants to become president of the United States," he said.
In 2008, President Obama won 54% of the Catholic vote, according to the Pew Research Center. Early on in his presidency, Obama reached out to Catholics. He appointed prominent Catholics to several cabinet positions and ambassadorships.
In May 2009, the president delivered the commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame, where he spoke of working together on abortion.
"Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women. Those are things we can do," the president said to rousing applause from the crowd in South Bend, Indiana.
In shaping the new Health and Human Services policy, the administration reached out to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who is the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the public policy arm of the church in the United States, and other Catholic leaders in November to seek their input in the process. Many of the same Catholic leaders received a heads up on January 20 several hours before the administration announced the policy.
"This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty. I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in the statement about the policy.
On Tuesday in the White House briefing room, Press Secretary Jay Carney again defended the administration's decision when pressed by reporters.
"After very careful consideration the administration believes that this strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventive services. We will continue to work closely with religious groups during this transitional period to discuss their concern," Carney said.
The administration is extremely concerned this will affect Catholic voters’ support.
As the opposition grew this week, the administration noted to reporters there were Catholics in and out of government who support the measure, as well as interfaith groups.
Late Wednesday night the White House launched the first part of an information campaign to spell out what the policy change does and does not do.
An administration official also pointed to nearly $2 billion in federal grants that have gone to Catholic-related charities since the beginning of the administration as a sign of the willingness to work together.
James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, which hasn't taken a position on the HHS policy, said there could be a silver lining for both Catholics and the administration on this issue. He said with more women able to access contraceptives there could be a reduction in abortions stemming from unplanned pregnancies as a result of the policy.
"More needs to be done on both sides. It's not just a question for the administration, it's a question for the pro-life community and the pro-choice community to put aside their heated rhetoric and find common ground," Salt said.
The leadership of the RCC already know that many of their members use Birth Control – they know it, and there is little they are going to do to stop this trend.
The RCC has NO power. The only power this religion truly has is what the sheep allow it to take.
Clearly that is what Obama thinks. We will learn soon enough if this is true. Both liberals and conservatives in the Church are uniting on this issue.
yes, almost like the sheep of athesitic socialism, the ones we saw well controlled in the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, even better than the sheep of the RCC :-) Better a live sheep than a zombie sheep :-)
Glad you can proclaim this to world since the Roman catholic church is really out of touch with its congregation.
Blessed are those who spoke the TRUTH and TRUTHFUL to the Lord, God!
So, when you say leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, you mean the Pope, Cardinals and Bishops.
It does not matter what "everyone else does". God is constant and does not change Himself to fit us. What I hear you saying is that man is sinful and inperfect. I agree. That isn't an excuse to quit trying.
Did you know that cnn commentors have an average intelligence half that of an average adult? Atheist cnn commentors are 1/3 of an adult.
What does that have to do with the Holy Catholic church? Grow up.
Haha morons. Apparently you need to grow up.
I wouldn't call it a matter of intelligence but more being half-baked and running on any whimsical hypothesis to explain away God :-), I laugh at the red queen hypothesis to explain the inefficiency of having two genders and the process of reporduction to bring forth offspring but to a whimsical atheist anything is possible (except God that is)
Try getting an atheist to explain the big bang – you will get another half baked hypothesis
I laugh at the red queen hypothesis to explain the inefficiency of having two genders and the process of reporduction to bring forth offspring but to a whimsical atheist anything is possible (except God that is)
Try getting an atheist to explain the big bang – you will get another half baked hypothesis
Wow. Sweeping generalizations about intelligence just to justify your invented ghost god. When I die, I will be dead. There is nothing more to it. Many European countries are losing religion because it's no longer necessary to explain things. It's ashame the U.S. is so backwards in believing in the Jesus cult.
Oh please, @Actuary, you sound like the world most adulterer, Newt Leroy Gingrich when you can't have your way. Shame on you! What's your IQ btw? That of a midget?
Churches are exempt. Hospitals and schools are not. Catholics could not run their hospitals and schools without employing non-Catholics. If they don't like paying for birth control then Catholics should just go isolate themselves from society and f*** off and leave the rest of us alone.
you are crude.
Perhaps the Catholic church should close their hospitals and schools and leave millions without health care available to people of any faith or no faith, like yours.
Not as crude as the Catholic Church, not by a long shot.
Totally agree with your point. Most Catholics today are "cafeteria" Catholics, picking and choosing what they want to believe in. Don't think he'll loose many votes, other than the Santorum type...and they probably aren't going to vote Dem anyway.
@SouthernGentleman – I'm sure we could pay for it if the public taxpayers could stop covering busing, textbooks, and special education services for Catholic Schools.
Hospitals aren't all Catholic hospitals. So you're a non-catholic. You interview for openings at 2 hosptials, one Catholic the other isn't. They explain their health plans and you choose the other hosptial because in your mind, it's a better plan because it will pay for you birth control. That isn't any different than someone choosing Google over the local IT shop because Google has a better health plan that fits your needs.
Aezel, Your idiocy even astounds me! The government does NOT pay for busing to Catholic schools, nor textbooks, nor special education services. Donations from Catholics and non-Catholics pay for those things. I pay property taxes like you do for public schools as well as $500 a month for my kids to go to Catholic schools. I NEVER asked for a handout to pay for anything for my kids. I freely paid the costs because I wanted them to learn in a disciplined school system and actually LEARN things.
Mary, you are right that there are many cafeteria Catholics. But both conservatives and liberals are outraged that the Government thinks they can force their beliefs on the Church. Hitler used that technique as well.
There wouldn't be enough atheists to want to take over the hospitals or want to do what the church has been doing, in many cases, for free :-)
This is another attack on the Roman Catholic Church. Would Jewish groups allow this to happen to them. I do not think Obama would dare do it as the Jewish Lobby would scream discrimination.
Liberals complain about those restrictions that conservatives favor, such as bans on gay marriage, restrictions on divorce, mandatory abstinence education, etc., yet they seem to have no problem in using compulsion to enforce their viewpoints on their opponents, as is the case with the issue of forcing Catholic hospitals to provide contraceptives. Both liberals and conservatives are at the core statists, the main difference being the classes and groups they want to suppress.
If Catholic Hospitals closed I think you would be complaining about the lack of hospital care. These ARE religious organizations working for the public good.
I am not a Catholic and will never be so here is my unbiased 2 cents.
You are free to get yourself treat at a county hospital, work at a place where you can do whatever you want. An organization has its own fundamental beliefs, if you don't believe in them then you're free to work any other place.
Catholic churches found Christ's teaching of taking care of people which they have done phenomenally around the world. They do not discriminate (almost negligible) on the basis of color, creed, race, financial situations, region, country. Their nuns have given up luxuries of this world to serve others. I commend them for their sacrifices.
They also follow other teachings of Christ as well which includes "Not to kill". Many of you might have done it in the same of choice, called "women's right to choose". I find it offending that they say that a woman has a right to kill. Come on, how about rights of those unborn babies?
What about freedom of speech?
This from a 73 year old "cafeteria" Catholic. (I do believe that we are in the majority when it comes to birth control)
I'm really trying to understand this.
Birth control pills PREVENT conception. The fact that the Church outlaws birth control pills flies in the face of what it does approve of.-... abstinence during possible fertilie days. Abstinence prevents conception - so does birth control! Difference?.... please????
We are NOT talking about abortion here.
As far as this "controversy" is concerned, making sure that all employees, (other than those directly employed by the Church or Catholic schools) , have birth control made available to them through their employment health insurance, makes perfect sense to me.
Not all employees of a Catholic hospital or a Catholic Church are Catholics. For argument sake, however, let's assume they are. Having the option to have birth control does NOT force anyone to get them, or to use them.
So, what's the problem? Are we now at a point where the determining point of personhood is no longer defined as conception, but at the egg?
Again, this is a situation where men, albeit in robes, are mandating a woman's role. Catholic women, many, many of them who disagree with their Church on this issue, should have the courage to speak up.
Separation of Church and State? If the clergy starts preaching politically from the pulpit against this lawful and thought out compromise, then, in my opinion, they should promptly lose their tax-exempt status..
Pro choice does not mean Pro – abortion it means Pro choice.
Pro-choice means anti-choice, for the baby, and now, for the employer who doesn't want to provide abortions.
Pro Choice- means everyone should have choices unless you disagree with their choices in which case your force them to violate their conscience, and faith so that they agree with you and do what you want anyway.
Pro-choice is a lie I once bought hook, line, and sinker.
Now ithey call abortion "birth control".
Many states still allow abortions when the woman is 8-9 months pregnant! It is simply a birth, and in Illinois Obama voted to deny the baby birthed in an abortion any care. When told by nurses these babies are alive and breathing and taken to die alone in a linen closet, he remained steadfast...provide no care. it would defeat the purpose he said.
prezhussein: Your comments are just not true: 80% of abortions in the USA are 10 weeks or less (3 months)... So long term abortions are absolutely not common. In fact only 0.01% of the abortions are 26 week or longer (6 months). I think 9 month term abortion is quite illegal...
A key question here is how one perceives employer-provided medical insurance. When I receive medical treatment,
a. Am I paying for it via the medical insurance portion of my total compensation package?
b. Is my employer paying for it?
Consider, for example: How would you feel if your employer told you that you could not use any portion of your salary to purchase the pill? Is it then right for the employer to restrict what can be covered in my health insurance which is part of his payment for my services?
Hands down the best comment on this article I have read thus far, and likely the reason there are no comments from the catholics. You are exactly right, you're benefits package is part of your compensation for the job you perform and should be spent on any medical procedures you deem necessary, including birth control.
Losing the Catholic vote? Nope, he already lost it. Why in the world would you dictate to a religious organization what they can and cannot do? I am a lukewarm Catholic but still see Obama and HHS as way overstepping the line.
Well it took less time than I thought for him to expose his inner thoughts. But the fruit does not fall far from the tree, or so the saying goes.
Obama cares about appearing sensitive to Muslims, blacks, and the left wing fringe.
Because that is the core of who he is.
Yeah, I can't wait until the Catholic priest are going to endorse a Mormon candidate... :-)?
Yes the whole nation should bow down to the phucking catholic church.
Please grow up. The Catholic church, despite its many problems, does a lot of good things in society. You may disagree with everything they represent, but you cannot deny the work of their many and varied charitable organizations.
i suggest YOU grow up. ONCE AGAIN, the good works of catholics DOESN'T PROVE CHRISTIANITY TRUE. secondaly, those charitable acts do not allow you to dictate law for everyone else.
This story is about the Catholic reaction to the health reform plan. There are other Christian religions that are against this same plan. There are plenty of Pharmacies in the bible belt that will not fill RXs for birth control because it's against the belief of the pharmacist. Why should he be able to choose which RXs he fills and which ones he won't?
HUGE logic fail...too many to count. The fact that SOME Catholics do good, does not mean that good would not be done if they were not Catholic. Good people do good things. The causation is not established. etc.,etc., etc.
Nope! Not me!
I bow to NO One than my Maker!
obama's failed presidency is over...
I laugh at these dumb comments from you folks. Obama gets re-elected, PERIOD. What's the alternative? Mitt the tax evader or Newt the disgraced? Wake UP!!!
Any pro-life choice beats an intrinsically evil one.
Every idiot of your irk is sadly born every second to an american household.
You're a disgrace to american education and a laughing idiotic stock to the World.
Your idiotic evil wish is NOT that of the Father who's in Heaven. Read your american fake Bible by Pat Roberts and Oral Puke Roberts and Billy Graham.
Tens of thousands at the pro-life march?...try HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS, mostly young adults. The media has been under reporting this event and this year non-reporting it as if it didn't happen. Five "occupiers" get together to whine and it's front page news everywhere. The future is coming, strong, educated, enthusiastic young people willing to fight for the dignity of all.
While I certainly respect the commitment of people who show up in Washington DC every January, the reason that it is "under reported" is not yet another liberal conspiracy, it the plain fact that it is no longer news. For 40 years, on roughly the same day, roughly the same amount of people march for the same reason and say and do roughly the same thing. The march is no longer notable, it is part of the everyday fabric of Washington. Sorry, but that's the way it is.
Furthermore, all schools that take high school kids there.... These kids just see a fun trip.... not so much protest out of believe. Believe me, I know...
I was raised Catholic and married in the Catholic Church and Obama has my vote.
May God bless you! Vote your conscience for sure. Do you mind if I vote against Obama?
May the Lord, God Bless you on this Day!
I don't like BIG government.
But I also do not like BIG religion, either.
If these churches want government out of their buildings, so be it.
But let this be known – the rest of us do not want to be forced to adhere to the religious teachings of every religion that is active in this country. That included the RCC.
I sincerely doubt if any Catholic is forcing you to adhere to any Catholic doctrine.
@ Southern Gentleman: They would if they could. They've done it before.
First of all, Catholics who voted for Obama, given his well-known stance on abortion, and his "I wouldn't want my young daughter punished with a baby" gaffe, were complete fools to begin with. But, as a Catholic, I can say that there's so little actual TEACHING that goes on within the church that such blindness to facts is not surprising.
So where is the Catholic outrage about the death penalty Republicans SO love? To me, contraception resolves so many other issues (poverty, abortions, overpopulation, etc). It's high time Catholics get with the program and allow priests to marry and back off the contraception ban. The Orthodox Church has allowed priests to marry for a very long time and they do not seem to have a shortage of priests.
Both Orthodox and Catholics allow men who are not priests to marry. Priests cannot marry in the Orthodox Church after they become priests.
Scott, with only 10-20% of Catholics attending mass, how could the majority possibly hear what is being taught. Try Catholic radio..and perhaps Allen Cresta if you want an update on what is actually going in the Catholic Church....As far as being a "Lukewarm Catholic" or a part timer lets say....there is no such thing. You either are an apostle of Jesus Christ and His Church on earth in this time of apostacy or you are not....I regularly attend mass Scott , and the message is being taught loud and clear.
Remember , harden not your heart, this to shall come to pass. The gates of hell will not prevail against His Church.
Actually, as a recovering catholic (30 years since the last mass pin), I think the church should stay out of politics. But hey, that's just me and 40 million other people who finally saw through the charade.
And they should not be tax exempt
You can be bitter. Just leave us non-bitter Catholics alone.
more uniformed dribble
Beginning to feel much like you do Steve. This whole controversy is a non-issue, being inflated by those who were never in the President's camp to begin with. I sincerely hope that the clergy remembers their restrictions as far as tax exempt status is concerned. It would be really terrible if the Church of Gold were called on politicizing.
The Catholic church has lots of credibility with me, considering how many decades, or more likely centuries, they harbored, protected, and supplied pedophiles! They need to shut the F... up! (I feel about that church kind of like leaders of some countries – the people within are mostly good, the leadership needs to be – well – not the leadership...)
And I would suggest the same to you.
From the mountain top, they hear ya! Loud and CLEAR!
The almighty Catholic church just wants the "good" Catholics to keep churning out Catholic babies... more financial supporters. They're even buying air time! So hypocritical, so typical.
Your ignorance is showing–two different ways.
Was, is now, and ever shall be..... agreed
Not overpopulated. Most countries aren't even replacing their population. We need 2.1 children just to stay level. How many children do you have?
@ Gene- you're really going to sit there and say (type) that there is not a MAJOR population problem in the world as a whole?!?! That is absolutely crazy. This is the problem with people like you, you are one of two things, either incredibly ignorant or a LIAR, and neither one is good for the country. Luckily, the majority of people with your beliefs are dying off and the next generation will hopefully take further steps to remove this nonsense from society, with nothing more than intelligence, not force.
To most Catholics in the U.S. birth control is not an issue. Move on to something that Americans care about CNN. This isn't the 1950's anymore.
They care about being forced to buy contraception for their employees.
What I find most interesting about the churches opposition to this is that these new policies don't require people who oppose contraception to use contraception. Furthermore, these religious affiliated hospitals and schools don't only serve people of those faiths. Schools such as Notre Dame and Georgetown accept people of all faiths and even those of no faith. In fact, they supposedly pride themselves as being open and accepting of all. So everyone complaining about these new found rights that work and/or go to school at these places can just prevent them from having to pay for them by standing by their beliefs and not using the new options in their health care plan.
They require those who do not believe in abortion or contraception to pay for it for others.
It's group insurance. Everyone is already paying for those who use their insurance more than themselves. Someone who gets Cancer pays the same amount as someone who never goes to the doctor. Same goes with every other reason to visit a Dr., have surgery etc.
No, not everyone is Catholic. But Catholic hospitals and help organizations (who help millions of NON Catholics every year) have the right to say, "We are living our faith here. If you do not agree with our faith beliefs, there are many other organziations who can provide what you need." And fellow Catholics, this is not just about contraception. It's aboout FREE contraception, FREE abortion drugs, FREE sterilization...while ALL (including NON Catholics) must pay full or co-pay for silly things like heart surgery and life-saving Cancer treatments. No one HAS to work for a Catholic organization, service organization or private hospital, nor does anyone HAVE to go to a private, Catholic hospital for their abortion fix.
Yes, this about contraception, not just the free type. The Catholic church will push it's agenda any way it can, as far as it can. It's just that the pendulim has finally started swinging the other way, and they're pushing against what most people believe is right, including the parishoners. If you were to be honest, what percentage of Catholics of child bearing age use contraception, and have to feel at least a little guilty because the peophiles – (oops, sorry) Priests tell them it's wrong! HA!
It's not really free. These people will be paying for their insurance plans. Also, these organizations go out there and try to recruit people of all faiths. So it is kind of hypocritical to say they want people of all faiths and that they respect their faiths and then say oh wait that doesn't apply to your health insurance which you pay for.
True, but if I am working at a "Catholic"hospital, and am not Catholic, I would be punished by not having generally available medical treatment and services that I may desire. while you may say, I should have considered that before I took a position in this facility, or my wife did, the reality is who would really check to see what birth control procedures they would not allow.
Locally a Catholic College invited a former Congresswoman, who is also pro choice, to come and speak to the students and women about politics and getting involved. She was not suppose to, and did not, speak about abortion. THe local Bishop asked the college to cancel their invitation and was upset when the school did not. Many people were upset a few years ago when they found out the nursing and premed students were learning about abortions at the same college. THe college noted that its religious stand and need to educate the students completely, transend the relm of what the Catholic church approved. I may not approve of something, but I hope my physicians, nurses, and everyone has enough
knowledge to understand about them.
I would hope any Catholic facility would have to obey the laws that everyone else does. On the other hand, should every religion and group have the right to decide what laws they will obey???
Bob, you aren't punished. You can buy birth control. You can't ask the Catholics to pay for it for you.
I don't smoke but I pay into a plan that covers smokers who get cancer. I don't drink and drive but if a co-workers decides to and gets injured my premium goes towards that. That's how group insurance works and once again, if a catholic organization chooses to accept federal money and use it's religion to garner any kind of subsidies, tax exemption etc. they should fall under the same rules as another business.
obama's over reach here is the issue.... and that is what will cost him..not only with religious people but many many more.
How did Obama over reach? THe Dept of Health and Health and Human Services are dealing with regulations that were not made by Obama. What would we think if he ordered these departments to do what he wishes, and not follow the regulations because he might offend some group, would we think more highly of him? I think not.
Bob, you are wrong. They are applying portions of Obamacare by using new HHS regulations under standardizing health care coverage.
Prez. Obama overreached? You realized you overreached the limits of your brains the moment you started whining about this policy. For Heaven's sake; he's the President of USA and not some President of some sinful faith. The last time the world checked; your religion turned human beings into slaves and sto*****le all their gold and diamonds to the vatican. When is your church going to return these to its rightful its owners.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.