January 30th, 2012
06:49 PM ET

Catholic clergymen come out swinging against HHS regulation

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - Catholics around the country got an earful on Sunday from the pulpit over a new health insurance policy by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that forces employers to cover contraception and abortion as part of preventative care regardless of religious beliefs. The use of abortion and contraceptives violates Catholic teachings.

In Green Bay, Wisconsin, Bishop David Ricken denounced the policy at Mass in St. Francis Xavier Cathedral on Sunday and received a standing ovation, CNN affiliate WLUK reported.

"If we pay for those services for people who work for us, we are in effect saying don't do it, but then giving the money to pay for it," said Ricken.

In a letter read to congregants in the Atlanta Archdiocese, Archbishop Wilton Gregory called the policy "a matter of grave moral concern."

"In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty," the letter continued and was read at all English and Spanish language Masses, the diocese said in a statement.

The policy goes into effect on August 1, but U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced in a statement January 20 that religious organizations that do not provide contraceptive coverage based on religious belief will have until August 1, 2013, to comply.

"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," Sebelius said in the statement.

“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan in a statement.

“To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their health care is literally unconscionable. It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty," said Dolan who is also the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the public policy arm of the church in the United States.

Just before the release of Sebelius' statement, President Barack Obama called Dolan to discuss the change in policy, Dolan's spokesman told CNN. Dolan expressed his disappointment to the president and asked if the measure could be changed to include more religious exemptions, to which the president said no. Dolan's spokesman said the two had discussed the measure earlier in November before the HHS policy was set.

A White House official told CNN's Dan Lothian late on Monday that "there are Catholics who support the administration's decision." The official also noted support from other religious groups for the policy.

A spokesperson for the conference said there was no way to tell how many parishes  addressed the issue this weekend, but said after receiving multiple queries from dioceses around the country, they posted a draft letter on an internal website for churches to adapt and read to congregants.

The Conference of Bishops is also urging congregates to reach out to the White House and members of Congress to express their disagreement with the measure.

The Food and Drug Administration first approved the birth control pill in 1960.  When  oral contraceptives first entered the market, theologians across the religious spectrum wrestled with how to the deal with new medication.  Many Protestant denominations said the use of contraceptives was OK for married couples.

The Catholic Church came out against the use of any type of contraceptives in 1968.  In an encyclical letter to Catholics entitled Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI outlined the church's teaching on the matter.

"Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children," the letter reads.

The encyclical also reiterated the church's ban on sterilization for men and women, either temporary or permanent, and left no room for interpretation on the new birth control medications.

"Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means," it reads.

Birth control is the most common type of medication taken by young and middle-aged women. Women’s health advocates said the new rules would affect millions of women. Currently, 32 states require insurance plans to cover contraceptives, but 16 of them provide a “conscience exception” for religious employers, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Contraceptive coverage is one of several services that must be covered without co-pays or deductibles in the new Affordable Care Act, which critics have dubbed "Obamacare."  Other such services are annual checkups, mammograms, testing for HIV and breastfeeding support.

The Sebelius statement also said the rule won’t affect existing conscience laws, which allow doctors and hospitals to avoid providing services, such as birth control, that violate their religious beliefs.

CNN's Caleb Hellerman and Dan Gilgoff contributed to this article.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Bishops • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Health care • Mass • Politics • United States

soundoff (740 Responses)
  1. Bobo


    January 30, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • Jesus

      If they're going to inject their dogma into state business, they ought to be taxed. The First Amendment states that there shall be NO RESPECT for the establishment of any religion--that means part or all of that religion. No religious dogma or part thereof shall be put on the table of leglislative decision making.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      The world at large concurs. The catholic church should also return all the gold and diamonds they stooooole from Africa centuries ago back to Africa.

      January 31, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • J.W

      This has nothing to do with the article.

      January 31, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  2. Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

    Secularism is one of the most important movements of the modern West. The influence and power of secularism serve to differentiate the modern West from the Middle Ages as well as from other regions around the world. Secularism defines the modern West; for some, that is a reason to cheer secularism on, but for George and others it is a reason to mourn.

    January 30, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • toadears

      Interesting screen name. Just remember, next time there is a 9-11. Pray to secularism. You people are so fake.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
  3. Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer causes small kids to get hit by buses when they aren't paying attention.
    Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
    Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
    Prayer fucks up your knees and your back.
    Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
    Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
    Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
    Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
    Prayer makes you hoard cats.
    Prayer makes you crave the smell of kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
    Prayer wastes time.

    January 30, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • toadears

      Please engrave that upon your Momma's tombstone, mkay?

      January 30, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Let it Be

      I feel sorry for you.

      January 31, 2012 at 12:04 am |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Seek medical help for Heaven's sake. Geeeee, what the heck have you been smoking? You're really off the wall. Not even a prayer can save you. Where the heck is your mama?

      January 31, 2012 at 7:04 am |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    January 30, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer causes small kids to get hit by buses when they aren't paying attention.
      Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
      Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
      Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
      Prayer makes you post really stupid shit.
      Prayer fucks up your knees and your back.
      Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
      Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
      Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
      Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
      Prayer makes you hoard cats.
      Prayer makes you crave the smell of kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
      Prayer wastes time.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • bringoutyourdead

      demon is terrified of prayer

      January 30, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • BS

      Yeah, about as much as wishing does.

      January 31, 2012 at 12:29 am |
  5. George

    I'm glad the see that the Catholics are taking a stand in favor of morality. In fact, it is very refreshing. I hope they sue and win.

    January 30, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Observer

      You know George, Obama has taken himself out with this one. His assault on Christian values is just too obvious now.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      I know George. Now all Catholic Girls will be forced to get abortions. It is all Obama's fault. He hates babies. Bas.tard. Well, the good news is Catholic girls love an.al and BJ's so even though they are now forced by law to have an abortion, they can prevent pregnancy by using secondary and tertiary holes in their bodies! There, moral issue resolved!

      January 30, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Sue

      Staring Horse, thanks for so pointedly showing why George's post is so wrongheaded.

      I don't think George understands that the basis for "morality" has nothing to do with a god.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • George


      Your vulgar response is very telling of your lack of morality.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer causes small kids to get hit by buses when they aren't paying attention.
      Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
      Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
      Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
      Prayer fucks up your knees and your back.
      Prayer makes you say and think really stupid shit.
      Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
      Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
      Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
      Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
      Prayer makes you hoard cats.
      Prayer makes you crave the smell of kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
      Prayer wastes time.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      George doesn't even understand what I am saying. He is to ignorant to see beyond the "vulgarity" and get my point. Standard George.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • George


      When somebody is so vulgar, they have no point.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      You are incorrect.

      Come on George, you are a big boy, sometimes we talk in real terms to make our point and don't beat around the bush (pun intended).

      January 30, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      badum tss.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Sorry George, I understand now what you were saying. You are offended at my use of the word "holes". I should have said "orifices". Sorry to have offended your dainty and delicate sense of decorum sweety.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • George

      I will now get on my knees and pray for you. I'll be on my knees all night long.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • toadears

      Aren't these little sn*t nosed middle school boys just annoying? Their parents obviously don't care about them at all because they are all over the internet day and night shouting their pubescent nonsense without faltering.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Let it Be

      It's about time we defended ourselves. Sorry, that is not immoral.

      January 31, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Peter

      @Sue I would like to hear your basis for morality then.

      January 31, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  6. Real America

    I'm more than sorry to see this. I thought Obama had an excellent chance in 2012. Not happening now.

    January 30, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Second term is a lock. No worries. The GOP morons are already throwing in the towel and planning for next time.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Real America

      True. No candidate, no White House. What have they got, really?

      January 30, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Prez. Obama's WIN in 2012 is locked-tight. Take that to your trailer park trash bank and cash it.
      Eat your heart out. America will run out of tissues for crying babies, racist GOPer's and their pea size toilet brain teabaggers after Nov. 2012 elections. Let it be written and it be done!

      January 31, 2012 at 7:14 am |
  7. Richard Kurtti

    About 1 in 3 Americans are members of Catholic families. Kind of a large "swing" group. Looks like Obama is gone!

    January 30, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • ex-Catholic

      1 in 3 are Catholic. But the VAST majority of american catholics are pro-birth control. About half support abortion rights. Also, 1 in 10 americans are ex-catholic. Add all that up and you get a bunch of angry bishops ranting to people whose mind they aren't going to change since they weren't towing the catholic line in the first place. Sorry to burst your bubble.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Let it Be

      It's not the Bishop's line or even the Church's line.... it is God's line.

      January 31, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      @Richard Kurtti, also 1 in 3 Americans are members of Catholic RAPISTS families.
      Not only that; 1 in 2 Catholics Bishops are Pedophiles and sanctioned, certified RAPISTS of little boys in front of the Catholic alters. Check the courts files around the World for the Truth.
      I'm just doing the Lords WILL by telling you the undeniable TRUTH as required of every Christian.

      January 31, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • SPA Knight

      Most ex-Catholics are ex-Catholics because they refuse to observe the moral teachings left by Christ to the church. It's much easier to leave the church than to be in obedience. Any Catholic who accepts contraception and abortion as morally justified is placing their salvation in the hands of deceivers. Choose creation and life or accept the lies of evil that lead to moral bankrupcy and death. The Catholic Churcg is right on this issue.

      January 31, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  8. Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

    Ok, what am I missing here....Catholics will use the option because it is there? Then.....they aren't Catholics I guess? W.T.F??

    And while we are at it why you dorks pay some friggin' taxes.

    January 30, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  9. sosume

    Insurance coverage should not be limited just because some religious sect does not believe in something that is being covered. There are sects that do not believe in blood transfusions, inoculations, surgery; the list goes on. Nobody is saying they have to use the service. The amount extra they pay is a very small part of the cost of the insurance. That is a phony issue. Moreover, the Catholic Church is crying wolf because the vast majority of Catholics would use the service. Truth be told, the vast majority of the flock is not with them on this.

    January 30, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  10. The Phist

    Abortion is cheaper than childbirth. I'd rather have to foot the bill paying for an abortion over the costs incurred with childbirth. I don't understand why most insurance companies won't cover the cost of a vasectomy, but they'll cover the cost of renting out a hospital room so a woman can spit out a dozen kids. Makes loads of sense.

    January 30, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • George

      @The Phist

      "I'd rather have to foot the bill paying for an abortion over the costs incurred with childbirth"

      There is your atheist morality – rather pay to kill a baby than for the miracle of birth.

      January 30, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • Observer

      No fear, George. A lot of change is going to happen between now and August 1, 2013.

      January 30, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      That is so true observer. The Dems are taking the house back and things are going to improve tremendously.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • The Phist

      George, being smug gets your christian morality real far. Just look at how many of us you're winning over by being a smug christian.

      I bet you don't live your life as the bible commands. In fact, I guarantee that you don't.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Jesus

      In Sweden where they have a much higher standard of living than here, abortion is OK as a matter of right up to 22 weeks. Of course they are 80% irreligious. Amazing what an intelligent and enlightened government can do.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  11. RLONG

    I don't believe. It could be dangerous.

    January 30, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  12. Uncouth Swain

    Not that I agree with abortion but the patient doesn't have to use that option provided by the insurance if they don't want to. What's the problem?

    January 30, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Observer

      What's the problem? As an employer, I'm required to pay for this "preventative care".

      January 30, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Slef-righteous indignation. That's what's going on with them.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  13. US citizen

    I personally hope that growing secularism forces the catholic church to extinction. Morality can certainly exist without the influence of teachings from thousands of years ago, espoused by some book which people use to justify cruelty, neglect and all other manner of horrors. They should not be able to pick and choose what they fund. They are a business, and as such, should be required to pay the requisite taxes that go along with operating a business.

    January 30, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Rwraith

      Ya, China and Russia are bastions of morality.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Let it Be

      Soviet Union, Greece, Rome, Egypt, England = secular = extinct. Church = God = 2,000 years and still going. Get the picture?

      January 31, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • WASP

      @let it be: if you check your numbers, they haven't changed much over the past century. that would imply that the number of followers of religious indoctrination is going down due to the fact the population is going up.....around 7 billion now. not to mention not all those folks follow the same "god" or even preach the same ideals of "god" so blunt truth, religion is dying out due to the fact it can't compete with information revolution. we are understanding our world so much faster now that religion can't brain wash the way they once could. try telling a child now days that if you don't believe in god your going to hell, they will laugh at you. welcome to our age. the age of enlightenment.

      January 31, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  14. BS

    And AMEN to US Taxpayer's comment.

    January 30, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  15. BS

    If Catholics do not believe in abortion or birth control, they don't have to take advantage of this portion of their healthcare plan. It's there if you want it but no one is forcing anyone to use it. If they do choose to do so, I guess that would mean they are not truly Catholic after all? and the Church could kick 'em out. Or excommunicate them or whatever it is they do to show their disapproval. The rest of the flock, firm in their beliefs, would not be passing on any cost to their provider if they are not using that benefit.

    January 30, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Let it Be

      That is a good point... need to consider that thought.

      January 31, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  16. US Taxpayer

    If the Catholic Church, or any of the other freeloading religious organizations, want to influence national policy, they should start paying taxes. Pay up or shut up!!!

    January 30, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Let it Be

      Instead of paying the government to support things like studying burping horses, they pay into world charities such as hospitals, soup kitchens, schools, etc. I see you're well informed.

      January 31, 2012 at 12:17 am |
  17. Jonathan

    I'm not Catholic but even I would forgo healthcare if it meant that I had to substidize into paying for contraceptives, especially ones that can cause an abortion. Contraceptives are only the bandaid to an even bigger problem. If people would act responsbily and take care with their actions (ALL OF THEM), one wouldn't have to worry about getting pregnant and being able to take care of the child.

    I mean, why can't we expect adults to act like .... well, adults?

    January 30, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • labrat

      I don't know about you, but I think that making sure that I don't have children when I wouldn't be able to afford them and would never be able to care for them and would have to put them up for adoption is being pretty responsible and adult.
      Sure I get to have fun without that whole pregnancy consequence, but isn't that the whole point? I don't have to be pregnant and give birth. No babies that won't be taken care of.
      Now I have a feeling that you're assuming that there is something inherently bad about s3x. If there is please state it

      January 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Jonathan

      I said nothing about "s3x" being bad nor do I believe I implied it anywhere. I believe you are reading too deeply into my opinion in order to find a way to disregard it without basis.

      I consider irresponsibility to be bad and any action that is abused because of this, is harmful to some degree. Engaging in intercourse for the sole purpose of recreation seems a bit irresponsible to me, considering all the consequences it entails. Sure contraceptives and protection usually reduce the risks of pregnancy or the spread of STD, but while the risks are lowered, the number of people engaging in these risky behaviors increases, solely because they believe they are no longer at risk.

      Now, my personal ideologies behind 's3x' aside, my feelings towards being forced to pay for contraceptives and/or abortive drugs are immutable and unchanging. To give a glimpse of how strongly i feel about them, I would gladly stand in front of a firing squad before I willingly set aside my beliefs. Should this healthcare law pass, I would refuse to pay it and the consequences be damned. Lock me up, throw away the key. I will not be a part of the genocide of the unborn.

      January 31, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • SPA Knight

      Jonathan, perhaps you should consider joining the Catholic Church. We need men that are willing to lay down their life for the right principles and beliefs. Our priests have done so historically and I suspect we are about to entire a new age of martyrdom. Christ laid down his life for the forgiveness of sins even those in this age.

      January 31, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      @SPA – an omnipotent god doesn't make sacrifices, or he's not omnipotent.

      January 31, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      Perhaps your understanding of omnipotence is true for just any plain deity for sure but not with the God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You should study Thomas Aquinas or even C.S.Lewis (once an Atheist) who expressed the following:

      His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to his power. If you choose to say 'God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it,' you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words 'God can.'... It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of his creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because his power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.

      January 31, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Jonathan

      @SPA Knight:

      Thank you for the kind words. I am not a member of the Catholic Church, however, I am a member of the body of Christ, in which all who accept Jesus are a part of. I would no less lay down my life for a fellow 'Catholic' than I would for a member of my own 'local' church. We are all likely to be targeted as a group in the coming years.

      We may have some slight ideological differences but our fundimental beliefs run along side. God bless.

      January 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  18. Pastaforian

    Why do Catholics want more dumpster babies?

    January 30, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • FG

      Don't waste your time. He's too busy getting high on his welfare money to bother with prayer anything, except when he's out of weed.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  19. Bah

    The Catholic Church is disgusting, evil, and full of lying pedophiles who prefer to see people suffer.
    They should all be driven into the sea.

    January 30, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Rwraith

      A critical thinking class would be your friend. Find one.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Indigo

      How much have you donated to charity lately? Huh? How bout Atheists in general? Huh? The Catholic Church and its members donate insane amounts of money from the good of their hearts.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Jesus

      I agree! The onlly question is which Sea?

      January 30, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  20. Save a Life

    Stop, Think, Act wisely!

    January 30, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Prof. Calc


      January 30, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • The Phist

      I'm really not swayed by crappy youtube videos. Please, take your baby fetish elsewhere.

      January 30, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • Monbois

      Thinking is th last thing on any devoted Catholic's mind. At least for themselves.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Maria

      Monbois, don't mean Muslims.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
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About this blog

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.