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.
I'm not Catholic, not even religious, voted for Obama and still think this is out of line. No one is being forced not to take contraceptives, but forcing religiously affiliated organizations who are opposed to them to provide them is bad policy. Obama may be in the winning column vs the GOP right now, but every stupid decision between now and then threatens to edge the GOP closer to bumping Obama out of the White House.
Heated rhetoric and common ground hmm I think I have been there once or twice. What works for me is to stop listening and start doing. seems this country has come to a stand still and most of us can not take it any longer. Greed based societies have only one direction.
Why? – Well said. Great post.
ajgorm – Your statement says it all. American has some of the nicest, most generous natured people in the world but you are being dragged down by this administration. My heart goes out to you. God Bless the REAL America [not this shoddy imitation]
Okay. i get it that you are making a judgement based only on the connecting article. Please do some other reading & more extensive research and then come back tomorrow and comment again. I am making a wager. You may just change your opinion. Thanks, M
How does a conservative expect to finish their job in liberals are always complaining ?
You can not prune a tree by calling moma to come cut it for you liberally speaking you will need more than a pair of scissors to cut the tree down ! Religion and tree's work well together , hey all. Next time call a plumber not a handy man get the drift.
In a single word – GOOD. In a few more – about da–ed time. Obama has required the Catholic church to go against it's principles and allow murder of unborn children in the name of healthcare.
Since when was abortion required? If Catholics, Christians, whoever do not like abortion then don't get one. It's as simple as that.
As a state Senator, Obama voted against providing survival care to aborted children born alive. Need any better description of the Obama regime conscience compared to the Catholic conscience?
Mel Gibson is the spokesman for moderate Catholics everywhere.
Don't be too grouchy "Kat"! I too am against abortion, but I don't base my overall political standpoint on abortion alone. There are many other issues that need consideration as well. I do know that the Catholic Church are more forgiving of priests who molest children than they are with a president who has to govern a country with more than 300,000,000 individuals from all walks of life and religious beliefs.
The Catholic Church as well as all other religious organizations should stay out of politics unless they pay taxes. Non-Catholics do not want an organization that decries birth control yet protects child molesters to have any say in our government.
Then tell that to Rev. Sharpton and Jackson! Or doesn't it work that way?
I think the Catholic Church would be pleased to stay out of government, if the government would stop trying to control the Catholic church. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Who's next?
And, if paying taxes is a prerequisit for voting, more than half the people in this country could not vote!
ppedo, exactly. This isn't the Catholic Church meddling with government. This is government meddling with the Catholic Church.
I'm Catholic and I agree with you 100%.
If the Catholic Church does not want the governments to tell it what to do just don’t accept government tax money. Simple enough.........you can't have it both ways. Oh by the way......none of you self-righteous hypocrites bothered to respond to the child molestation remark.
The government is not making it so that Catholics cannot worship the way they want to.
Compare that to Catholics/Christians/Any Other Anti-Gay Religion who refuse to allow gays to marry. That is sticking your religion in my politics and other people's lives.
Perhaps because your baiting child molester comment wasn't worth responding to? It's clearly abhorrent.
Okay, why not feed some trolls? First, the pedo remark. Yep, some priests are sickos, just like lots of other categories of people are also sickos. Catholic priests are just more publicized because of the breach of trust and hypocrisy. So, unless we systematically start denying rights to all sorts of groups, can it. Second, it's not a matter of making someone unable to worship how they want, it's a matter of forcing relgiously aligned organizations to provide services that are contrary to their beliefs. If we can do that to religious organizations, why can't we also do that to gays? Also, it isn't the religious who are denying gays the right to marry (they may be against it), but it's the same government you insist should have the power to tell people what they have to or cannot do.
John – you really are the master of the sweeping statement aren't you????
 INDIVIDUALS within the Catholic church did dreadful things to children [they used their individual free will to do it – it was NOT required by the church]
 The people who covered it up were just a bad, if not worse, because they left other children in harm's way [they CHOSE to do it – it was their individual free will – not part of our Catholic ethos]
 The actions of these degenerates are works of Satan within the Church – they IN NO WAY alter the CATHOLIC FAITH.
Jesus said that anyone who harms children should have a millstone round his neck and thrown in the millpond. I am a practising Catholic and believe me NO Catholics I know have anything but repugnance for these people
The Romans during the time of the early church would capture Christians, and require them to deny Christ and worship Ceasar or the Roman Gods. Those that refused to break the commandment not to worship false Gods were crucified upside down, or fed to the lions, or tortured and killed. These were the early Martyrs of church. Now Obama wants to force all Christians, not just Catholics, to violate doctrines and beliefs that they hold sacred. Obama's war on religion, especially Christianity, and Spefically Catholics is entering a new phase of force and persecution. Christians in the U.S. must prepare to be Martyred by Obama if we are to defend our right to religious freedom. Fortunately, before we submit to Obama crucifying Christians upside down like the Roman Emperors in defense of the faith, we can still go to the polls in Nov and cast Obama and end the war on people of faith before it comes to real martydom. Who would have thought in a Nation protected by the 1st Amendment that we would be facing the persecuitions of Nero? Obama's America is a truly strange place?
"Christians in the U.S. must prepare to be Martyred by Obama" -if only that were true.
"persecuted" Christians in the US – what a fscking joke.
Peace be with you, valwayne. Come November, call THREE friends with FOUR reminders.
1. Remind them to vote.
2. Remind them to vote their religious convictions.
3. Ask them if they need a ride to the polls.
4. Ask them to call three friends to keep the chain movng.
Or you could come to your senses and realize there is 0 evidence to back up any of the supernatural claims of the catholic (or any other) religion. You could stop enabling the spread of these unsubstantiated ideas by no longer attending their worship gatherings and giving them money.
If you can, please give 1, just 1 way that President Obama (or anyone in the current government) has made it more difficult for YOU to practice your personal faith.
Force? Instead you want to force YOUR religious beliefs and practices on EVERYONE. That's a problem. If you, as an individual follow a religious tenet, that's your CHOICE. You want to take choice away from everyone else, and that stinks.
It is a strange place. I voted for Obama in 2008, I made a mistake. I though democrats were supposed to be the tolerant party, but looking at the anti catholic bigotry posted by Obama supporters here, I guess I was wrong. Seems Catholics arn't wanted in the democrat party these days.
Amen. Its amazing that these idiots cannot see what is coming because it coincides with their predjudices and it doesn't affect them. Yet!!!!
Respect to you for an excellent post.
If the chain saw and chain oil and gas are it tune the branches get cut easily. When the chain slips it is time for an adjustment. If all you know how to do is push buttons who will do the work ?
The church and catholics don't mind paying billions for arms to kill people. Didn't know the bible encouraged that? oh, and our taxes taxes pay for schools, even though some of us are single, freeways, even though some of us do not have cars, emergency room visits, even though some of us are not poor and don't use the services. ...
Don't be disingenuous. Catholics don't pay for "billions to kill" people any more than you do. Taxes from Catholics do pay for roads even though not all of them drive, or government-funded contraceptives and even government-funded abortion clinics, too, but that's not what this is about, so don't try to make a red herring out of it.
This is about the church directly, being forced to OFFER contraceptive methods, even some that are considered abortive (i.e.- plan "B"), it'd be a little bit like forcing you to use a road you pay for even though you don't drive. It's a direct assault on freedom, not an indirect "part of my taxes are used for X" type of complaint.
No, it's not, don't be innacurate. It's a law that requires Christian organizations to PAY for insurance to PAY for those things for their employees. No Catholic Church has to perform an abortion or issue contraceptives.
BRC, yes it is. There is a difference between directly paying, and indirectly subsidizing. The former is an affront on religious freedom by forcing Catholic organizations to use THEIR funds in a manner they deem innapropriate. The second is merely a function of government through the use of GOVERNMENT funds. Again, don't be disingenuous.
The debate for this is simple. What should be the issue is that birth control and the abortion inducing drugs should always be considered an elective medicine. If I want liposuction or a facelift, that is something that is not medically necessary and I am electing to do to it my body and my insurance will not pay for it. If I want to take birth control or have a medically induced abortion, that is something that is not medically necessary and I am electing to do that to my body. Insurance should not cover it. Devout Christians are just saying that if a women chooses to use birth control, it is not medically necessary and they should continue paying for it themselves. There will never be a shortage of availability of birth control, and not having it covered by insurance will not hinder anyone who wants birth control from getting it, even if they have to pay for it themselves.
This is not about Catholics and birth control. This is about government forcing its way into religious beliefs. If they can whack the Catholics now, will the Jews, Evangelicals, Baptists be far behind? Remember the Ten Commandments in public buildings? Big Brother marches on.
Big Brother likes the Muslims and the g a y s.
Your post is spot on. Good for you. However, looking at the C-in-Cs 20 years in the church of hate with Wright, I think it is most definitely aimed at Catholics.
How about equality at the workplace? How about equal and fair opportunities for all workers? What happened to the idea that the federal regulations are the equalizer that prevents an overzealous employers from forcing their will on weaker people? So, an atheist who gets a job at a Catholic sponsored PUBLIC workplace is just SOL, huh? Gee... what a great America you'd create. Where's the loyalty oath?
This moron is losing everyone
No great loss....
The Catholics I know all have more than 2 kids, unless they were unable to concive.
You should get out more. I am one of two sons from a Catholic marriage, and there are many, many more I know. Your comment only speaks as to how few people you know.
The ghetto trash I know all have more than three kids from three different farthers. Their Obama supporters!
If all the Catholics that use birth control decided not to attend mass, the churches would be pretty empty. It's 2012, not 1912.
Welcome to the people that want to have a Holy Roman Empire with the Pope as God's chosen leader. Maybe they should move to Vatican City until they decide they are Americans again.
We don't want H i t l e r in The White House.
Descarado – why don't you say what you really want? You want this "uppity black man to stay in his place – HOW DARE HE?" Don't deny it.
We don't want Reverend whoever in the White House either.
@ boocat Obama's race is irrelevant. The race card is worn out. Get over it. You're playing solitaire.
Descarado....hit a nerve, huh?
I do not believe that Obama is losing Catholic support. Look around. There are not that many women, Catholic or otherwise having 4,6,8 or more children these days. Since it is doubtful that abstinence is the reason, then it is because of birth control. Furthermore, studies show that somewhere between 27-30+% of abortions are performed on women who identify as Catholic. That is a lot of Catholic women AND men who will be pretty happy that they are not spending $30 or more per month!!!
Exactly. Most Catholics I know do not agree with the church; Catholic Church has bigger issues like credibility due to the priest's scandal; Most Catholics are going to vote based on other priorities with the exception of older generation who believes everything the Chruch says. The heading should read "Obama losing to older Catholics".
You forget that "Plan B" is considered abortive by the catholic church and most catholics. Even with that 30% that have had an abortion, that's still leaves close to 5 million votes he could lose. (and regarding catholic abortions how many had them before they were catholic, or how many regret it? but I digress).
Assuming that improving availability of contraception is enough to cause a Catholic to turn from Obama, would that same Catholic vote for a Mormon instead? What's worse in their mind?
ABO! ABO! Anyone BUT Obama! ABO! ABO!
Saying anybody but obama only shows how little you think. Go troll somewhere else.
ABO, huh? So, an unethical liar and a former corporate raider (who could give a damm about the middle class) are your choices? I'll stick with Obama. Nobody But Obama... NBO.
Most Catholics believe in contraception and don't believe in getting babies they cannot afford; This will affect only the older generation and very few dogmatic individuals.
If it is enough to push Catholics en masse away from the Democrats, they (those who believe having to subsidize contraception) certainly would go for Mitt over, say, Newt. I suspect Catholics, after being looked down upon for so long by a large portion of this country, are going to hold another Christian religion against Romney.
I can't type today.
*are not going to hold
It seems the Catholic block is being controlled by money now too. Welcome to a world full of fake faiths.
Man it's a good thing that all American Catholics respect the moral authority of the Vatican and none of them use birth control except for abstinence and rhythm method!
No sense arguing with these religious nuts. They are against all logical reasoning. It's probably why they are very religious in the first place. They're very angry about this bill and they doesn't even understand why. All they know is their church is against it, so they must be too. Someone who thinks like that, you can't reason with because they do not want to be reasoned with. They want to be told what to think and how to feel. They're completely dependent on religion to do their thinking for them. They do not want to think critically. After all, that is the easy thing to do.
*don't even understand why
They accuse Obama of trying to do what their religion already does....these morons don't even get the irony. I'd wager they wouldn't care if Obama was white but this "uppity black man must stay in his place." That's what I'm reading in between the lines.
Calling the Catholics "religious crazies"? Really? The vast, vast majority of Catholics in this country are normal people. There is nothing lunatic fringe about them. The problem is that a law attempting to force a religion to pay for something that they believe is wrong. The Catholics are right. This is bull.
An Atheist who grew up in a Catholic home
Catholics are not religious nuts. But some of them are (apparently) misguided by the propaganda that the GOP will be better.
*a law is attempting to force...
The Catholics have a right to their beliefs so long as it doesn't hurt anybody. Obviously you can't extend the same protection to the more vicious outcomes of sharia law, for example, but in the case of something like contraception it's very much their right to not go along with it.
Nick, I'm not calling all Catholics crazy. I'm referring to any religious person that wishes to dictate their religious beliefs on others. This would include those for banning gay marriage.
The fact is, there are non-Catholics who would fall under that health care. Should they be denied access to these preventative services?
Let's consider the facts here. 98% of Catholic women say they have used contraceptives. That means that the large majority of Catholics do not care what the church says about contraceptives. Who is paying to keep the church going? Oh that's right, donations from the members. Remember, it may be the church paying for it, but where does the churches money come from? It comes from their members. Why should those 98% be denied access because of the 2%?
JoeT, I am not saying that Catholic Church-funded operations should be exempt from providing healthcare benefits to their employees, regardless of that employee's faith or lack thereof. They simply shouldn't have to add the portion that also pays for something they, in theory, find ideologically wrong. In this case I do not believe it is a case of a religion forcing their beliefs on others. It is the opposite.
As for Catholic contraceptive use, I question your figure, but we're getting onto a different tangent altogether. I've known 'devout' Catholics who paid for abortions even. The Church makes a big deal about forgiveness. It's a silly, hypocritical little game they allow themselves to play when it is convenient. That doesn't mean the government should be allowed to meddle with their faith game.
Should the non-Catholics under the health care be denied contraceptives? There is a health issue here. Some women should not have kids because it might do their body great harm or could even die. Should they be denied coverage?
For instance, I was raised a Jehovah's Witness. Years ago they believed that vaccines were bad. Now let's say that the JW's sponsored a hospital and they had a health care plan. Should they be allowed to say that the vaccines shouldn't be covered under the health care? They are also against blood transfusions. Should they say that blood transfusions shouldn't be covered under the health care?
JoeT, yes, non-Catholics working for a Catholic-funded organization and benefiting from a health plan provided by that orginization should not be provided contraceptive through it. They should and are perfectly capable of purchasing the elective medicine on their own. Perhaps, in the situation where a pregnancy could cause significant harm or death there can be exceptions made, either with the healthcare provider or from a separate government-sponsored program.
In the case of your Jehovah's Witness example, I don't believe we're really comparing apples to apples. You've cited examples of outright bad medical practices. Contraception is in most cases an elective choice(again, allowing exceptions for the above scenario where a pregnancy is extremely risky to the woman). You can use it or you can take your chances. It is a generally for convenience. My personal opinion is that anyone not specifically looking a child should practice contraception at all times, too. I like the law in general. I just take issue with the provisions in it requiring a religious organization to go along with something they rather vociferously disagree with. As much as I disagree with organized religion, we shouldn't be forcing anything of this nature upon people of faith just like they shouldn't be forcing anything upon the rest of us.
@Nick: Instead of contraceptives, let's say this is 1985 and we're talking about treatments for AIDS that, at the time, was considered very much a "gay disease."
Does a religious organization ask for exemptions in that case, under the auspices of refusing to condone homosexual activity?
Nick, at the time that JW's were against them, vaccines were distrusted by many. The JW's opposed them on religious principle however. Many vaccines are given for diseases children might never get anyway. Contraceptives are certainly beneficial for health (they also help women who are suffering with hormone issues which can make life miserable).
I don't see how the JW's and Catholic's are any different. Both beliefs are based on religious principles they glean from the Bible. Both can protect against serious health risks.
SeanNJ, no. It is a severe medical condition and treatment (if there even was effective treatment in 1985) should be provided as part of the rest of their healthcare package. Again, this is sort of apples to oranges. We're comparing a medicine or medical apparatus that is elective and convenience-based to something life-threatening. If there is a significant chance someone might die or suffer significant harm without proper medical care, it absolutely should be provided.
Growing up surrounded by the Catholic faith and continuing this hypothetical, it is my opinion that you would find that they would have been very compassionate towards someone who'd contracted a "gay disease". The Church that I knew wasn't for condemning sick people to death. It was and is largely quite compassionate. They would almost certainly have tried to help in any capacity that could- And then, admittedly, tried to convert said AIDS patient to their faith, but they'd have likely still given assistance.
JoeT, I cannot speak for the general view of vaccinations and blood transfusions or the view of the Jehovah's Witnesses. I don't have any experience there. My mother, who is quite Catholic, is a doctor. I got all the vaccinations available, as did my siblings. If we are discussing a medical practice that was not commonly offered and viewed as risky due to a medical/scientific uncertainty of its effectiveness, then it's a matter for the doctors. We should defer to their expertise.
In regards to the religious principle angle, I believe there needs to be a distinction between medicines that are taken by choice and those that are required to prevent significant malady and/or death. If a doctor tells a woman that she should take a medicine because it will help with a malady, okay. That's one thing. It's addressing a certain condition and if that is the only viable way to address, in this case, a hormonal imbalance okay. There should be provisions for it (though if I recall, recent findings have shown a significant cancer risk with use of the pill? And possible infertility down the line? Not a doc myself.)
If a medicine is being used purely electively, which I believe most birth control probably is, then no, I don't believe there should be any requirement for a religious-based organization to subsidize a practice they disagree with. There is a distinction that needs to be made based on the gravity of the ailment or lackthereof.
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.