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.
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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 question is which church should we allow to govern our country?
How is allowing the Catholic Church to decide on its own teachings and believes = to them running the country. The argument on this Obama decision is that it forces the Catholic Church to break their own beliefs and practices. The status quo prior to last week wasn't that the Catholic Church's beliefs run the country (abortion and contraceptives were prevalent then and now), but that the Catholic Church did not have to support those practices that they are against.
It's the same reason that the church of FLDS is not allowed to follow their own teachings and beliefs. The same reason that extremist Islam is not allowed to follow their own teachings and beliefs. The US shouldn't be following any religious moral code.
John is correct – the Catholic Church is not asking that it have its own laws as suggested by Michael, only that it be allowed to operate as required by the First Amendment – without the government telling it what it can and cannot believe. people forget that that is exactly what happened with the Church of England. You would hear the same outcry if Obama suddenly told Jews they couldn't eat kosher, or Mulims they couldn't face East when praying. This is an attack on individual freedoms.
@Nick, 1st, your examples have NOTHING to do with what is being discussed, no one is forcing individuals to do anything, it's businesses.
2nd, somebody please explain this to me, your medical coverage is an EXTENSION of your compensation from your company, correct? So what you do with that coverage shouldn't be up to anyone else, meaning a company shouldn't tell you procedures that you're NOT allowed to have, which is exactly what this bill is for. For all of the people saying that people can still get birth control, they just have to pay for it themselves, WHERE DOES THAT MONEY COME FROM??? The same company that pays into your medical. So either way, money you get from your employer goes to getting birth control, does it really matter if it is included in your coverage that you ALREADY pay money into or out of your pocket, which also comes from the employer?????
His loss of the Catholic vote should not be based on medical care but should be based on the fact that the President is a Muslim by birth and upbringing and that should be the reason for his loss of the Catholic Church. He may claim to be a Christian at this late age but it is what it is and he is and was brought up a Muslim!
Sounds to me like you are a couple of bricks shy of a load.
Hey toothless trailer park lunatic pig; try something else.
Get this through your trailer park bone head; NO Muslim would have his children baptized as a Christian in any church on earth. Only dead brain, primitive, backward, uneducated, idiotic lunatic like you makes these lies up as your daily fixes. For sure; either your silly white pillow is too tight or have NO holes in them to enable you to see.
Get over your anti-catholic bias! this is about the government going to where it does not belong!!! Today the church, tomorrow ? Does anyone remember a guy named HItler?
Take your meds, and tone down the hyperbole if you want to be taken seriously.
Hitler was a Catholic and was the Champion of the Catholic Church in prosecuting the "Final Solution" against the "Christ-Killers" also known as "Jews".
The Vatican fully supported the Hitler regime, the extermination of Jews, and ministered openly to the Nazi troops throughout the war. Catholic bishops were invited to Nazi celebrations and they went and had a great time with their fellow Catholics and the Lutherans who were being "useful" in agreeing that "Christ-Killing Jews" should be wiped out.
The Holocaust was a Catholic and Lutheran campaign against the Jews. They shoved their religious views into public policy and ended up murdering millions of innocent men, women, and children...even babies! Babies!
And all because Jews were viewed as being a "cursed race before God and Man" thanks to Martin Luther's anti-Jew propaganda, his Catholic views of Jews, and the racist views of an ignorant and devoutly religious German people.
When you bring Hitler into this, just remember the Nazi war machine was a religious war machine and make your arguments accordingly. It was a blend of religion, racism, nationalism, and greed.
Amazingly similar to the GOP, too.
"Take your meds" sez Chrissie the dim. You must be joking, dearie. You're the idiot who can't cite any sources for your assertions.
Take your own advice, dumb a s s.
Sadly I think you failed history. Yes Hitler was Catholic by birth, but he rejected his faith and the Church. He was held disdain for religion, especially the Church. Perhaps you could read what happened to the Bishops of the Netherlands after they fought against him from every pulpit in the country. Perhaps you could learn about the thousands of priests and nuns he sent to the camps. Perhaps one could look far enough back in history to realize that the notion that the Catholic Church was in league with Hitler is a modern construction, largely discredited by most historians. Hitler, like Stalin rejected religion and attempted to create a society devoid of God and centered on themselves and their governments
It's particularly interesting that he outlawed atheist and freethought groups in 1933, yet you are an apologist and will deny all the truths in the history books.
You really don't like the fact that he was a Champion of the Catholic Church, do you?
"Oh, he wasn't really a Catholic" is just utter bullshlt.
I'd say you fail the smell test.
What are they SO afraid of. Just because BC is "available" does not mean the Catokis have to make use of it. Are the bishops afraid even MORE women will disobey them ?
inconvenient, the problem isn't women having access to birth control, but asking employers, and religious employers, to pay for it.
Michael, you meet the smell test, and you do. The Church was opposed to Hitler, and you are a liar.
To begin with, birth control is not a medical condition and should be covered by insurance anyway. It's just another liberal scheme to have someone else pay for your own mistakes. You play, you pay!!!
We just need to get religion out of politice, period!
No Tom, We need to get politics out of our religions.
It is in the best interest of insurance companies to cover birth control. The medical costs of pregnancy, birth, raising a child are much larger than birth control. It also keeps overall medical costs down.
Michael, birth is not a disease.
Here's one proud Catholic that will gladly and with clear conscience vote for Obama – and will tolerate the ill-conceived politicking by the Church until there's a (desperately needed) changing of the guard.
For every 10 Catholics that are good members of the religion there is always one that stray from the flock. Go ahead and vote for this Muslim, you are the stray. I am also Catholic and if I were you I would rethink this decision. NEVER vote for a non Christian!
Sure, "Ed", prove that you're a Christian – you sound like a closet atheist to me.
(1) What do you understand by "Give to Caesar, what is Caesar's – and give to God what is God's"?
(2) Who said it?
(3) What does it have to say about the separation of Church and State, and why is it in direct conflict with your exhortations?
Tell me again how that makes you a Christian?
FYI Chris: under your definition Churches could never advocate for anything in society. Perhaps that would work in your world, but I am one who is glad that Churches are willing to fight for justice, whether for the poor, the oppressed, the immigrant, for peace, etc.... Last time I checked fighting for those things were not a matter of politics, but of justice and truth and the last time I checked Jesus was for those too.
Obviously lacking a well formed conscience. Abortion is inherently evil.
Glad you can proclaim this to world!
Blessed are those who spoke the TRUTH and TRUTHFUL to the Lord, God!
99% of you are absolute fools who show absolutely no critical thinking ability.
It takes a FOOL to know!
Birth control must be widespread, and I believe in any system that gets it out there. Thank you President Obama.
Why don't we mandate that it be dispersed in our drinking water then?
OK, so Obama is your religion.
To Gene Church: Prez. Obama is a person and human being in fresh.
Religion is a ghostly induced faith.
How can a full grown person be this dumb, silly and stupid in this 21st century? Even a 2-yr. old in Kabul has a higher IQ than an uneducated american idiot like you. Take you meds. You’re making Pres. Obama's job extremely difficult due to your lack of basic education. Whew! Some silly idiot. Take your meds will ya?
Don't Catholic affiliated hospitals get government sponsored Medicare and Medicaid payments? Once the Affordable Health Care dollars start flowing in, I'm sure they're be happily gobbling at the trough. If they don't want to dispense artificial birth control, then don't give them any government health funds either. Separation of church and state completely. Besides, 98% of Catholic women have used artificial birth control at some point in their lives. Hypocrites.
Great point. I suppose by your logic anyone who receives welfare or government assistance must also surrender their consciences or is it that one only has to surrender their conscience if they don't agree with you.
Supporting a single individual who needs help to survive does not require them to violate their religious "conscience" in order to receive the funds.
This is another "choice" freedom for you. If you want to follow the rules and they give you a choice on something, the choice doesn't disappear but Catholics are pretending that the choice disappears. They don't have to use services they don't agree with – they have that choice. The choice does not disappear.
Like with legal abortion – it is legal and you still have a choice on whether you want it or not. You still have freedom of religion, dumb-ass. Nobody is forcing anyone to get an abortion. It is a choice. Just like other health decisions. It is your body.
If you want to treat your own body according to your own religion, you are still free to do so...it is your CHOICE and you are free to make it.
What you do NOT have is the power to take that choice away from other people. This is about freedom of choice.
If you'd rather have your choices made for you, go see your priest and ask him what you should cook for dinner on Friday.
Actually Michael it is much different than abortion. As you can imagine I do believe abortion should be illegal and all human life protected. But there is a big difference here. There is something called material cooperation. There is a difference between my son deciding to use drugs and me giving him the money and driving him to pick them up. When you force someone to pay for or provide something they hold to be wrong you are forcing them to participate in the act, that is something much different. This is not a matter of making birth control illegal, I think it should be legal so you can exercise your conscience and decide. However, I do not think anyone or any organization should be forced to participate in the act that violates their teachings. If I ever met you and you asked me for money to buy a pack of smokes I would say no, as I will not participate in you hurting yourself. I would not however say you have no right to buy them.
No surely you will say "what about abortion then?" What makes abortion different is you have no involved a second person, the baby and answered for them. You will say but you are answering for the woman, to which I will say "the right to live trumps all others."
"You heard that I said to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you ' If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." John 14:28 .....woops. There goes the, (co-equal, co-eternal) Trinity. Jeebus should have just learned to keep his mouth shut.
Whatever. Make some sense, or if you have nothing to say, say nothing.
This is the belief blog. Too bad you know NOTHING about religion.
When a church is running a business and hires people from all faiths or a lack thereof, then they are just like any other employer and should follow the same rules.
Great point! Once one enlists the help of others and reaches out to assist people in need all manner of a conscience must be surrendered. We must surrender to the altar of nothingness and submit to the great conscience which is guided in Washington, D.C.
Exactly, and no employer should be required to pay for abortions for their employees.
Andrew, when you hire a non-Catholic, or are hired by a non-Catholic, you still retain your religious freedom where your own body is concerned. You still have a choice. The choice does not disappear with this legislation.
It is about personal freedom of religious expression to allow you to choose how you want your personal health decisions made. If you were banned from having a choice, THAT would be infringing on your rights.
This legislation keeps your freedom of choice in your hands. You are not required to run a business, you make the choice to run a business. Nobody is forcing you to run a business to pay health insurance. That is your choice to make.
But just like you cannot dump toxic waste into the street in front of your business, you cannot violate the other laws of this country.
What if your religion said to dump toxic waste into the street? Should we let you do it?
I'm Catholic and voting for Obama if Ron Paul isn't an option, but I really don't care too much what the official church position is on much of anything I can make up my own mind.
What makes you Catholic if you disagree with all the Church teachings? In order to be Catholic, you must believe in certain dogma. For example, one can't rationally say "I'm Catholic, but I don't believe in this Jesus fellow they keep talking about."
Catholics Unite ! We are being attacked in our very own essence!
No one is talking about your essence here, (the pedophile ring).
Inconvenient, your essence is surrounded with your ignorance.
I know more about your church than you do. It's why I bid it farewell. The BEST thing I ever did.
inconvenient, if you left the Church, you either know less than I do, or have wilfully turned your back on Christ.
President Obama is not losing this Catholic's vote. And, I know plenty of others who will be voting for him in November, too.
Absolutely. Count me in. And many others.
President Obama will not get the support of practicing Catholics. He will get the support of many "Catholics" who don't attend Church or practice its teachings.
When you are ready to join the Church, follow the Catechism, and we will look forward to having you back.
Gene, can you quote "chapter and verse" where the catechism tell you who to vote for ?
Yes Inconvenient, Section 2273.
Again, your false premise. Obama is not "the state". (Also 2273 is a good reason why you should allow same se'x marriage). And last but not least, why would I need a book to do my thinking for me ?
inconvenient, you ask the question, I give you the answer. Yes, Obama is the state, passing laws making abortion legal. And it is intrinsically evil. And no, it does nothing to support gay marriage.
He's lost my vote.
The planet is already over taxed by human population. Let's welcome any type of birth control!
Let's start with you. Go ahead and pull out that gun or use those pills you have in the cabinet. Me? I kinda like it here.
Southern Gentleman was educated in Mississippi. He doesn't get the difference between suicide and prevention. (And the fact that he can spell, means he was the Valedictorian).
We are underpopulated, not overpopulated. The entire population of the world would fit in Texas with 2,000 square feet each.
More like 1200 square feet each. And are you gonna feed them, and give them all water ?
It's not about land or space to live, Gene Church, it's about diminishing resources... We are absolutely NOT "underpopulated" by ANY standard, considering that, at our current rate of growth, our world-wide population doubles every 57 years... At that current rate of growth, our Earth's resources will not be able to sustain us as a species beyond a few more generations... For you to believe that we are "underpopulated" is absolutely preposterous!
We aren't breeding like rabbits, we just aren't dying like flies.
Rank and file Catholics have been on the pill and using rubbers for decades, and don't much care about this. This whole thing is wishful thinking on the Bishops' part, hoping that the influence they once wielded will be shored up by this perceived external threat. Not likely.
We'll see. Even liberal Catholics are disturbed by this.
I doubt that Obama is going to lose votes because of 'birth control'.
It is all about the economy.
It is the ECONOMY, stupid:)
The point of the article is not "the economy stupid," it is about Obama not winning re-election due to ticking off (and rightly so) 37.8 million of his Catholic supporters. Do not underestimate the Catholic vote. Regardless of the economy he needs the Catholic vote. That is the point of the article. This is a major political misstep politically and one that will inevitably become fodder for the Republicans during the general election. This is Obama's "oops" moment, to quote Perry. I voted for Obama last time but I firmly believe he will be a one-term president. And quite honestly, I hope he becomes one. He just lost this Catholic family's vote.
I am born and raised catholic who live in strong catholic community, and I know I can speak for my friends when I say Obama will not receive our vote with his policies that legalize murder, NEVER.
Then support the use of BIRTH CONTROL!!
Christ, you people are somethilg else. Preventing conception is not "murder." And neither is aborting a fetus.
So then you HAVE NOT VOTED for the last 5 presidents?? They ALL kept abortion legal!!
I'm Catholic too but I also live in the real world and no matter who is president abortions will continue, like if McCain won abortions would be outlawed? Get your head out of the clouds if you think that!
You wouldn't have voted for him anyway.This article is about catholics who voted for him in 2008 and may not vote for him in the coming election.
Aborting a fetus is murder, no matter how much you've deluded yourself. But that's a whole other topic....
I agree with you 100%. Obama has lost 1000's of votes just in Manchester, NH in the past few days. I truly do not think he understands the magnitude of this decision. It will cost him severely.
Well, please consult with the Light of God and explain to me why a Republican president (Dubya) and a Republican Congress didn't reverse the legalization of abortion when they had the chance.
Too bad you never took a Civics class. "Murder" is a legal definition, (and "taking a life" is not "murder" unless the law defines it so). When does life begin ?
Love how you call it 'taking a life' but its not murder and I rarely look to the government to define what is wrong and what is right. Morality would switch with each new president if that were the case. You should take an embryology class and drop the Civics notes.
I know ALL about Embryology, which is why I baited you with the question. When EXACTLY does life begin...fertilization, implantation of the zygote ...when ?
And BTW, by your logic, they should be prosecuting any soldier who kills anyone.
The Catholic Church teaches that abortion is inherently evil. And the Obama Administration will require employers, including religious employers, to pay for contraception and abortifacients.
To God is the Light,
I also am a Catholic and will not vote for Obama in this election. He would never approve legislation against Jewish teaching but I feel he does not care about Catholic teaching. I personally agree with the Catholic Church on this issue and pray that Catholics do not vote for him. He has been a big disappointment for this country and this is one of the reasons why
Well what's the real problem here? Catholic schools and churches normally employ other Catholics – if they are following the church, they shouldn't be buying contraceptives anyway, then their health plans aren't paying for it. No one is infringing on the rights of the church or their followers. . What they are really saying is, we know there are Catholics that are already using contraceptives and we don't want to pay for it.
Nancy you got that 100 percent right.
first off, churches are exempt. Second, catholic hospitals and universities employ many, many non-Catholics. You really need to brush up on facts before you post things.
MH,..you said "catholic hospitals and universities employ many, many non-Catholics."...
Yes,...they do,....which is exactly why those folks should have access to the birth-control they desire/require through their health-care providers, regardless of religious doctrine... It's no business of their emplyer what they do with the health-care they receive, especially when contraceptive drugs have health uses above and beyond merely preventing pregnancy...
And by the way,...a sperm or an egg is no more "life" than any other living cell in your body... And there are killing diseases, like cancer, that can be treated by the taking of certain prescription contraceptives... Who are you to want to deny a woman the right to see to her own body's needs, including whether or not she wants her eggs to be receptive to another man's sperm?
Jad, the womean can determine if her body is receptive to the sperm by saying no, or buying birth control herself. Don't ask me or the Church to pay for it.
Jad, the sperm and the egg UNITED create life. Do I have to break it down for you in more simple terms? By themselves they do not create life but once joined together its starts a growth process that extends way beyond birth. So, yea, life begins at conception. Don't try and make it harder for yourself. Btw, those employers can still get birth control just not covered under health insurance through a Catholic employer. GO WORK SOMEWHERE ELSE if you want your birth control covered.
A Catholic hospital is not a church and to be unwilling to service its patients medically is ridiculous. Employers should not be deciding what type of medical care their employees should be able to receive.
In a free society, you don't get to impose your religious beliefs on others.
Leslie, you are imposing your religious beliefs on me by requiring me to pay for abortions for my employees. This is new and unprecedented. If you want contraception or abortion services, they are available, without your employer, or the Catholic Church, paying for them.
And contraception is not healthcare.
Let them go to a Protestant or Jewish hospital where they will perform any procedure they want. The Catholic Church has to stand up to their principles!
You said " If you want contraception or abortion services, they are available, without your employer, or the Catholic Church, paying for them." So if someone works for a catholic hospital or school, that is who pays their wages. So if they take that money they get from their employer and buy birth control, isn't the employer, in essence, still paying for the services? Please tell me what the difference is? If part of your compensation goes to your medical insurance, it is still part of your compensation from your employer, just like your paycheck. And don't forget, employees pay into their healthcare coverage also, so how do you know the money for the birth control isn't the money they paid in themselves????
There is a reason for separation of church and state. Laws shouldn't pander to any religion. If a law is what is truly best for the country as a whole then it should be passed. The US isn't about to make murder legal so that a few extremists are allowed to practice there religion freely. If a religious organization doesn't want to pay for this kind of insurance (which doesn't actually force Catholics to use contraception) then they shouldn't be using religion to make money. It's not in line with what Jesus taught.
The argument is non sensical. These organizations are not making money. Catholic Charities? The largest charitable provider in the world. And clearly not for profit.
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.