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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. Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

    3000 years of atrocities, that is what the church stands for!

    Most recently, 800 cases of Priest Pedophilia>

    Hmmmm, if those were young girls, would the CATHOLIC PRIESTS FUK THEM IN THE A.S.S SO THEY WOULDN'T GET PREGNANT? You know, because abortion is a sin.

    What Catholics stand for? YOU MAKE ME SICK.

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

      yeah, only Catholics priests are pedophiles ... how about your neighbour, yourself and your dad?

      January 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Interesting Tom. Defending the disgusting Catholic Priests but presenting lies about others. Standard deflection. You do realize this is a virtual envirionment and you don't know me (or my Dad, how did he get involved?) right? You seem to be a sad case and, perhaps, you have sympathy for the pedophile. Wow. You are a sick fuk.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Mark

      My arn't you a brain trust..... 3000 years? HOw bout look at your football coaches, your school teachers and your work associates. Yea you are right there has been some filth that has made its way into the church and the are all LIBERALS.
      Cristianity hasnt been tried and found wanting. It has been tried and found difficult and therfore not tried at all. Real Christians stand up!

      January 30, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Tom

      Your name says it all u PEDO.
      "fuk"! lol

      January 30, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      At Mark or Tom – are you special needs? If you have a question or challenge please present it. I will happily defend anything I say. Your posts sound like you are retards.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Tom

      Look at your original post – If you have to change words in order to get it posted, it means you are the one with a problem. btw, you shouldnt use the "R" word either. What points do you want to defend? All we are saying is that there are pedophiles everywhere, independent of religion – btw, this is not even the topic of this article anyways....

      January 30, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Tom you dip shi.t, I am talking about 3000 years of atrocities. I never said JUST s.e.x.ual m.o.l.estion. You are a total dumb a.s.s.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  2. Tom

    I'm not against contraceptives, but I'm against abortion!!

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

      Noted. Thanks.

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

      Is any catholic forced to use contraceptives or have an abortion under the affordable care act? The answer is no. That is the trouble with religion. They want to force their beliefs on everone else. If the catholic church is so concerned about morality why don't they explain why they sat by and did nothing about child abuse for two millenia.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Tom

      They DONT want anything to do with it... why do people keep saying they are forcing their believes on people? All they are asking is that they are not forced to do something that is being FORCED by the government...

      January 30, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  3. raised catholic

    I wonder if the church realizes that most women don't take birth control to avoid pregnancy but for medical conditions and health (reduction in ovarian, cervical, and uterine cancers)? Women have very little to no rights according to the Bible and therefore the church. All women regardless of religion or creed should be able to decide what to do with HER body. If the church wants to continue getting government assistance then they must follow the laws. Oh and this is also the same church that opposes hysterectomies even if it would save a woman's life.

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

      You need to change your screen name to 'poorly caticized"

      January 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • raised catholic

      Mark- I had the privilege of dissecting the Bible in my 13 years of catholic education. I learned the history of the Bible and connecting that with the history of the world. I am also a modern woman that doesn't like to be told what to do with my body by a MAN that has no idea what it is like to be a WOMAN. If you would like to suffer through cramps, bloating, fatigue, higher risk of female cancers, hours of labor and child birth then be my guest. How would you like it if the church turned around and told you you are not allow to be covered by their insurance to get Viagra or refuse to cover the medical bills to remove your testicles because you have testicular cancer because it would prevent you from procreating? I think you would be singing a different tone at a much higher octive.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Mark

      So a modern woman is dead set on changing everything that is natural? I didnt ask to be born either but it is the way it is. maybe your a arian and think that we would all be better off if we were not born? did you learn what arianizam is in your studies? well if you didnt your reliving it now.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Jadugara

      That's the best response ever, Raised Catholic,...bravo!

      January 30, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • raised catholic

      Mark- Wow. Really? That is not what I am saying at all. Let me make it loud and clear. THE CHURCH NEEDS TO STAY OUT OF MY UTERUS! I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DECIDE WHEN AND HOW TO HAVE CHILDREN! I SHOULD NOT BE FORCED BY THE CHURCH TO HAVE MY RAPISTS CHILD! I SHOULD NOT HAVE TO BE FORCED BY THE CHURCH TO DIE FROM CANCERS THAT ONLY EFFECT WOMEN AND CAN BE REDUCED BY A PILL! I WILL NOT FEEL INFERIOR TO MEN BECAUSE THE CHURCH TELLS ME I MUST! Is that clear enough for you? I believe in the divine church not the earthly one. I do not believe that God would except his priests molesting children are treating people as inferior to others. I believe in a God that loves all people despite their personal beliefs and will forgive all that ask for it.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Mark

      Maybe you have just drank the coolaid many reports show that the Pill causes all sorts of cancers and female problems. And bs on your having a rapist child... we are killing off our POSTERITY becouse YOU want to have all you can its called GREED. The Church does not degrade ladies it elivates them. God Does not condone bad Preist as a matter of fact they have relegated themselves to Hell. not a pretty place. God is a Just God and he will see to it that your version of Christianity doesnt prevail.. If you had it your way pedofile preist would make it into heaven becouse God understands that they were trying... CRAP you know it as well as I.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • raised catholic

      Mark- You have a way of spinning words just like the catholic church. I think that child molestation is the most heinous crime that can be committed on this Earth and that priests should be punished with the harshest sentence we have. What God chooses to do is up to Him because He is God, right? And not letting women take birth control and getting abortions are taking away their free will. Remember being taught THAT? You believe what you want to believe. I will believe what I want to believe. That is the beauty of our country and our world. All the differences of opinion and religion!

      January 30, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
    • Mark

      With all do respect to you. You stated earlier that you believe in a divine church not an earthly one. Yet you do not seem to belive in HIS right to retribution. You want something done to those persons that violate the innocense of children. Yet you see no problem in YOU being the judge jury and EXECUTIONER by relegating dealth to the unborn. You have the same problem as Athiests. "I will Not Obey" "I know better." Always the first sin of Adam. Everyone will serve someone and we all make the bed in we must lay.. It is my wish for you to ask God for forgivness and forgive those arround you.. But do not forget that the Lord our God will call you on the carpet for your actions. not your intentions.

      January 31, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • An RC

      Raised Catholic – nice job.
      Mark – your lack of education and level of ignorance are absolutely astounding! Please stop writing.

      January 31, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • urawh0r3

      you just want an excuse to w-h-0-r-e around. You probably fck n-i-g-g-e-r-s, too. S-l-u-t. Shut up.

      January 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  4. chrism

    Total violation of church and state. The government has no right to mandate what private health insurers cover. There are already tons that cover these things. There should be options available for employers to choose without violating their conscience. Just sick and a slap in the face to Catholics from the "Christian" Obama. God help get this man out of office.

    January 30, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • tony

      Catholicism is an Italian religion. Go live there

      January 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Jason

      I presume you're this righteous about the laws in several states that prohibit private health plans from covering abortion, too? After all, the government has no place mandating what private health insurers should cover...

      February 1, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • myweightinwords

      It is not a violation of the separation of church and state. It is a simple matter of equal access to equal care to all Americans.

      February 1, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  5. Mark

    The fed has a responsibility to end abortion. Here it is.. We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our POSTERITY.

    January 30, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • tony

      And all those who would cancel abortion shall be taxed to provide the needed child allowances.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Look around you. We can not afford to feed and house the kids already born. Abortion is not killing our posterity, our inability to see past ancient morality dictated by a society that is no longer in existence is.

      February 1, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  6. S

    So here is a thought – and given the overall size of the Catholic Church, quite possible. Roll your own health plan... yes, that plan is required to pay for services you do not agree with. However, that plan can limit provider choice to those considered "In Network"... a network composed exclusively of providers who have agreed, as a matter of conscience, not to provide those services.

    January 30, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  7. Meki60

    just the beginning of socialism from president garbage

    January 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • tony

      Miss the Good Samaritan parable did we?

      January 30, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  8. just sayin

    Sinners will find out the hard way that abortion is wrong.

    January 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • tony

      Issuance of threats today, burning at the stake tomorrow. Catholicism is such a gentle religion.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • False Dichotomy

      Human beings will find out that STDs and unwanted pregnancies are pretty horrible...yet almost entirely avoidable if they would stop taking the advice of priests.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Jadugara

      So is judging others, according to the faith you claim to follow.... I guess that makes you a sinner destined to burn as well... Enjoy your double-standard while you can,...cause eternity lasts a long, long time...

      January 30, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  9. tony

    My religion requires that all adults drive on the LHS of the road in order to qualify for heaven

    January 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  10. momof4

    I don't see what the problem is.. if they are teaching their people well and the people are listening, they won't use those particular sections of service. There has also been studies that show the pill is useful to nuns (as well as other women who never get pregnant) to try to prevent some forms of cancer, are they also opposed to these women living longer than they would have without the medicine?

    January 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      Yes. They are ignorant.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • it ain't true

      I agree completely. Put your money where your mouth is catholics. If the cardinals and priest are doing their job then this is a non topic.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  11. james

    They do not want a shortage of young boys.

    January 30, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Indigo

      Go get a lobotomy.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • david sean

      Exactly. They have to keep their supply chain open.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  12. NN

    It is now the law of the land that these will be the only health insurance policies available. This does not require the Church to provide the medical services. They complain about an obvious conflict like this, but they don't seem to complain about doing business with multinational corporations with horrendous records of labor abuse and outright murder in some cases, or supporting some of the really bad third world governments with more horrendous track records. the bottom line is their useless religious convictions will not affect the law of the land, it applies to everyone. They can go lump it.

    January 30, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  13. tallulah13

    This is a secular nation. The catholic church has no say in the matter. I suspect only the most fanatical catholics will be bothered by this.

    January 30, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Tom

      yes thy can – they can say they want anything to do with it!

      January 30, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I guess you aren't familiar with the term. Let me explain it to you: When I mean say, I mean that they have no official voice in the matter. Yes indeed, they can speak all they want, but at the end of the day, the opinion of the catholic church has no legal bearing on the government of the United States.

      January 30, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  14. 80shiling

    Who needs contraception? It's not like Choirboys can get pregnant... Silly Catholics

    January 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • Indigo

      I wish I could rebuke this with solid evidence, but I honestly have no clue what you are trying to say.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • andrew

      You do not know what he is trying to say? Really? Why don't you step down off of your intellectual elite pedestal and admit for one second that you are simply trying to be difficult. What he is trying to say is that choir boys can not get knocked up, period. Yes, he is slamming the church and the rigid and dogmatical structure especially when viewed through the filter of the last 200 years of abuse and cover up. But don't admit that you got his joke. Don't do it. Whatever you do please do not demonstrate that you have the capacity to think beyond your annoyingly constructed arguments on some lame chat board. You are a moron.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  15. c

    what is the difference between august 2012 and august 2013? It STILL violates the first amendment!

    January 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  16. toadears

    Whatever it takes to strike this mess down and force them to start over.

    January 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  17. ijreilly

    They complain when a woman decides to terminate a pregnancy because she can't afford to raise a child and they complain when a woman needs federal assistance to raise a child she can't afford. Sidenote: Christians have completely lost the battle for the internet.

    January 30, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • Indigo

      Why did she decide to have a child when she couldn't afford to raise it?

      January 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • toadears

      I had no idea that the Internet was a battle ground. I take it you're a young, sn*t nosed American?

      January 30, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • ijreilly

      Are you implying that all children born are planned?

      January 30, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Indigo, you should ask your mom or dad about the "birds and the bees."

      January 30, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • xtianssuc

      They lost long before the internet when they tried to enforce their illogic

      January 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • ijreilly

      @toa- It's certainly the battle ground of ideas. Also, I wouldn';t make assumptions about people based on a comment you read on the internet, you'll be wrong most of the time.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • BS

      they certainly have

      January 31, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • Jason

      You forgot one: They complain when a woman tries to avoid getting pregnant in the first place.

      February 1, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  18. Theend

    13.1 million Americans unemployed, 52,000,000 Americans without health insurance, 59,523,600 Americans on Medicaid, 6,336 Americans dead and 32,226 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, 15.7 million American children living in poverty, 18.6 million American children receiving food stamps, 3,222 Americans on death row, 94,500 of the richest Americans paying a tax rate of less than 26.5 percent - and all the Roman Catholic Church can do is denounce insurance coverage for contraception and abortion... "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

    January 30, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Chris

      Nice try. Note cnn coverage does not equal all that one is concerned about or works toward. Try the usccb website to see all the work being done with immigration reform, healthcare, the impact of poverty, etc

      January 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Everyone needs a Thneed

      Anything to deflect from events that might cause bad PR. Interesting that the article doesn't seem to mention the fact that the vast majority of catholics already support contraception and that about half support abortion rights.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • ex-Catholic

      @Chris, oh, and don't also forgot how many diocese are actively fighting to prevent the extension of the statute of limitations on s.ex crimes. The RCC is very active on that front. Forget the victims, we can't have people who were abused by the church suing willy-nilly. If the can't get over their issues quickly enough to have the courage to come forward, then too bad for them!

      January 30, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Theend

      "...usccb website...see all the work being done...immigration...healthcare...poverty..." - For your glory and not ours,

      January 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  19. tony

    All churches should be taxed like any other business drawing an income from marketing claims.

    January 30, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Tom

      Yep. Tax breaks are a form of funding. If the state can fund one kind of believes, it also can fund every other kind of believe. Get off tax breaks, and then you can talk.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  20. ctermu

    Most nominal Catholics practice contraception (and have a "clear conscience") without truly knowing what the Church stands for. Authentic Catholics who understand Humana Vitae would understand the moral implications of contraception for themselves and society. Unfortunately, people's following of their conscience does not mean one is understanding truth. By the same token, many people who say they are American do not vote, duck jury duty, and reneg on their responsibilities as American citizens.

    January 30, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Staring Horse with Tongue Sticking Out

      What the church stands for??

      3000 years of atrocities, that is what the church stands for!

      Most recently, 800 cases of Priest Pedophilia>

      Hmmmm, if those were young girls, would the CATHOLIC PRIESTS FUK THEM IN THE A.S.S SO THEY WOULDN'T GET PREGNANT? You know, because abortion is a sin.

      What Catholics stand for? YOU MAKE ME SICK.

      January 30, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Jason

      Alternately, they have a decent understanding of the Church teachings on the subject and reject those teachings. I think that's the most likely answer, in fact.

      February 1, 2012 at 10:12 am |
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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.