home
RSS
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. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Here are your choices:
    1. Only hire Roman Catholics to work for you, thereby be in violation of the Civil Rights act of 1965.
    2. Refuse to make Contraceptive and Abortion Control available to all employees, thereby being in violation of the Affordable Health Care act of 2009.

    January 31, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • J.W

      Hiring Catholics does not mean that none of your employees will get abortions. About a third of all abortion patients are Catholic.

      January 31, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • SPA Knight

      J.W., you just made the case as to why the Church doesn't want to provide the coverage. Too many disobedient Catholics that need to be saved from themselves acting under the influence of evil in the world.

      January 31, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  2. Colin

    Catholics are the low hanging fruit when soembody is looking for silly, childish beliefs to mock. One of my favorite Catholic superst.itions is the nonsense of Communion, where grocery store bread and wine is magically changed into the flesh and blood of Jesus because the priest does some hocu-pocus over it. They believe it changes, even though there is zro change in the bread and wine.

    Dark Ages simpletons.

    January 31, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • jimtanker

      I guess that by eating the flesh and blood of another zombie that it makes them more zombified and, therefore, more easy to control.

      January 31, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  3. iamdeadlyserious

    Since we're on the subject of churches whining about being "oppressed," how about they start paying taxes?

    January 31, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  4. AGuest9

    Separation of church and state is difficult when it comes to hospitals run by the catholic church. You cannot get an abortion, hysterectomy, tubal ligation, vasectomy, etc. at those hospitals. The government still tends to shy away from imposing mandatory access rules on those facilities in those instances.

    January 31, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  5. AGuest9

    The only reason a business wouldn't want to cover this in their insurance policy is due to costs. This is not a religion issue. Perhaps the clergy should start asking why businesses have made medical insurance so expensive to cover children that full-time working parents in management positions are advised by their personnel offices to place their children in state CHIP programs. These programs were introduced for low-income employees, not as taxpayer-funded corporate welfare!

    January 31, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  6. different angle

    Ok sorry this is on the end of the article – I'm not going to argue religion. What is the point of having insurance cover something when the doctor or pharmacist can deny the care due to their own religious beliefs? It's like giving a meat tenderizer to a vegetarian sure they could use it, but you know they're not going too due to their way of life.

    January 31, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  7. Mike from CT

    Can someone help explain this sit-ituation please.

    Is it a law, or is it part of the new Obama health care law, that requires the organization to require carrying health care?
    Or does the RCC, and every other church organization have the right to decline health care coverage?
    If there is no right to decline, then yes I see a conflict with the first amendment, if no then the choice is hard but clear.

    January 31, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • AGuest9

      I think many church "employees" are considered contractors, and as such, required to carry their own insurance. I have a relative who is a music director at a church, and that is the way they handle it. She must deal with her own withholdings, file quarterly, etc.

      January 31, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  8. Reality

    The nitty-gritty of the contraception/abortion situation:

    "WHO USES CONTRACEPTIVES? (From Guttmacher)

    • Virtually all women (98%) aged 15–44 who have ever had int-ercourse have used at least one con-traceptive method.[2](and men?)

    • Overall, 62% of the 62 million women aged 15–44 are currently using one.[2] (and men)

    • 31% of the 62 million women (and men?) do not need a method because they are infertile; are pregnant, postpartum or trying to become pregnant; have never had inte-rcourse; or are not se-xually active.[2]

    • Thus, only 7% of women aged 15–44 are at risk of unwanted pregnancy but are not using con-traceptives.[2] (and men?)

    • Among the 42 million fertile, s-exually active women who do not want to become pregnant, 89% are practicing con-traception.[2] (and men?)

    The problem is that the contraceptives of choice are the Pill and the male condom. Because these contraceptives are not used properly (e.g. some women forget to take the Pill on a daily basis), the failure rates (from Guttmacher) are 8.7% and 17.4 % respectively. This results in over two million unplanned pregnancies every year. And as per the CDC, the abortion rate in the USA is ~one million/yr. The failure rates when the Pill and male condom are used properly are 0.3 % and 2 % respectively. Until there is dramatic reduction in these failure rates, one wonders why Obama "Care" should support their use. There are other more effective means.

    Method.......Typical Failure Rates

    Pill (combined)...... ...8.7
    Tubal sterilization..... 0.7
    Male condom ..........17.4
    Vasectomy ................0.2

    Periodic abstinence 25.3
    Calendar 9.0
    Ovulation Method 3.0
    Sympto-thermal 2.0
    Post-ovulation 1.0

    No method 85.0"

    (Abstinence) .......0

    (Masturbation).... 0

    Combined Pill and male condom..... ?? but it would statiscally be much better than using only the Pill or the male condom.

    January 31, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      Your number for condom failure is based on statistics that include improper use. The perfect use failure rate of condoms is 2%. In other words, if you take human stupidity out of the equation, they're pretty darn effective.

      January 31, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Reality

      Serious,

      Read my comments a bit closer next time i.e. "The failure rates when the Pill and male condom are used properly are 0.3 % and 2 % respectively. Until there is dramatic reduction in these failure rates, one wonders why Obama "Care" should support their use. There are other more effective means. "

      January 31, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • just sayin

      @iamdeadlyserious
      “Your number for condom failure is based on statistics that include improper use. The perfect use failure rate of condoms is 2%”
      And the day that robots start using condoms to have s3x that stat will matter.

      January 31, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      I'm not sure how the government needs to wait for failure rates to drop below 2% and 0.3%. Especially the 0.3%. There's a greater chance of you experiencing complications from pharmaceutical side effects. But for some reason I don't see the government banning medicine until it becomes more effective.

      January 31, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • just sayin

      everwhere i go i don't have to be there to post

      January 31, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • just sayin

      miracles everywhere

      January 31, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Reality

      Serious,

      One more time, we are talking a dramatic reduction in the current failure rate of 8.7 and 17.4% respectively not the rates of perfect use i.e. 0.3 and 2% respectively ( 35,000 unplanned pregnancies vs ~1 million and 138,000 unplanned pregnancies vs. ~1 million unplanned pregnancies) or an ~ 83% reduction in the abortion rate by the perfect use of the Pill and condom).

      January 31, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  9. Reality

    The Catholic hierarchy do not believe in artificial birth control so why do they employ those who do? Did not the Supreme Court recently decide that religious organizations have the right to decide who they hire and fire?

    Bottom line: To reduce health insurance costs and to not be subject to Obama care regulations about supplying contraceptives, the Mormons and Catholics should simply not hire those in need of contraceptives and fire those who demand such coverage.

    There are different opinions as to what a religion really is or what a non-profit is. To be fair therefore, there should be no tax-exemptions for any group and that includes the Democratic and Republican Parties. Faith and community initiative grant monies should also be cancelled and there should also be no tax deductions for contributions made to charities and non-profits.

    January 31, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • ......

      given up on reality? Hit report abuse on all reality repeat bull sh it

      January 31, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • AGuest9

      If they did that, I think that they would find out a lot about their employees. I don't understand the fuss. Planned Parenthood (as well as many doctor's offices – I know mine does) offers birth control for $20-$30 per month. If one can't handle that expense, one CERTAINLY can't afford the expense of one or more children!

      January 31, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  10. I'm The Best!

    Oh, so NOW you want separation of church and state. After you do nothing or even help push creationism and prayer into our schools, I'll just sit back and laugh at the irony. I'd even help pass this sooner if I could.
    Bunch of hypocrites.

    January 31, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • I'm The Best!

      And the more I think about it, the less I see it as a separation of church and state issue. It's the individuals decision whether they want the contraceptive to begin with. So all the church is doing is restricting the freedom of those who work for them.

      January 31, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      While the Catholic church is a mite backwards when it comes to modern ideas of birth control, they are not creationists.
      Pope John Paul II said:
      "Today... new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory."

      Becuase the Theory of Evolution makes no claims as to abiogenesis, nor the existence of a soul, the Vatican is comfortable accepting it so long as God's hand is recognized as "first cause" and as that which endows humans with a soul .

      January 31, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • I'm The Best!

      @ doc
      I know, I was using that as just an example of how they didn't make a sound about church and state then, but now they are screaming their heads off about it. If they want separation of church and state, they should have stood up for it every time.

      January 31, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Colin

      Not that simple, Doc. A perusal of Catholic catechism finds it dripping with references to Adam and Eve, original sin, Noah, Moses and the rest of the Iron Age mythology of the Torah-Old Testament. Heavens, their core faith still maintains that Jesus died to save us from original sin. For 2,000 years they defended it at the point of a bayonet. Now we know its nonsense, they slightly wtaer it down, but it is still very mush there.

      About 60% of Catholics still believe in the talking snake theory of galactic and planetary formation.

      January 31, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Colin

      Not quite, Doc. A perusal of the Catholic Catechism shows it to be dripping with references to Adam and Eve, original sin, Noah, Moses and the other mythological characters from the Torah-Old Testament. Heavens, their core, most fundamental belief is that Jesus died on the cross to save us from original sin.

      For 2,000 years they defended the literal interpretation of the Torah at the point of a bayonet, and only after it was overwhelmingly shown to be nonsense, did they twist in their seat and begrudgingly accept it. And then only partially, as 60% of Catholics still buy into the talking snake theory of galactic and planetary formation.

      January 31, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    There is great joy in morning prayer
    Talk with God
    Of the joy in life
    Prayer changes things

    January 31, 2012 at 6:32 am |
    • Nope

      Again

      Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School and other scientists tested the effect of having three Christian groups pray for particular patients, starting the night before surgery and continuing for two weeks. The volunteers prayed for "a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications" for specific patients, for whom they were given the first name and first initial of the last name.

      The patients, meanwhile, were split into three groups of about 600 apiece: those who knew they were being prayed for, those who were prayed for but only knew it was a possibility, and those who weren't prayed for but were told it was a possibility.

      The researchers didn't ask patients or their families and friends to alter any plans they had for prayer, saying such a step would have been unethical and impractical. The study looked for any complications within 30 days of the surgery. Results showed no effect of prayer on complication-free recovery. But 59 percent of the patients who knew they were being prayed for developed a complication, versus 52 percent of those who were told it was just a possibility.

      January 31, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  12. ﺶCHEﺶ

    It's really funny how a Church FULL of RAPISTS and Pedophiles for centuries on this earth has the nerves to claim that: The use of abortion and contraceptives violates Catholic faith and teachings.

    January 31, 2012 at 6:32 am |
    • what

      What a simpleton.

      January 31, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    There is great joy in morning prayer

    January 31, 2012 at 6:32 am |
    • Mirosal

      wrong again

      January 31, 2012 at 6:32 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Prayer again is never wrong

      January 31, 2012 at 6:40 am |
    • Mirosal

      All prayer is wrong. It's useless, a waste of time, and accomplishes nothing.

      January 31, 2012 at 6:54 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Prayer is strong
      Prayer is useful
      Prayer is time rewarded
      There is great accomplishment
      Talking with God
      Prayer changes things

      January 31, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • Mirosal

      prayer is for the weak minded who cannot handle reality. It does nothing, changes nothing, and is irrelevant.

      January 31, 2012 at 7:01 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Blessed are the meek
      For they will inherit the earth
      Blessed are the pure in heart
      For they will see God
      Prayer changes things

      January 31, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • Mirosal

      reciting beati'tudes won't do or change a thing.

      January 31, 2012 at 7:13 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Prayer is a blessing of God

      January 31, 2012 at 7:15 am |
    • Laer

      Prayer changes nothing.
      Two hands working does infinitely more work than
      Two hands clasped in prayer.
      Prayer wastes time.
      Talking with an imaginary friend as an adult is crazy.
      Prayer changes nothing.

      January 31, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • just sayin

      Prayer is a planning phase of life. do you work with your two hands without a plan or goal in mind?

      January 31, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Nope

      Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School and other scientists tested the effect of having three Christian groups pray for particular patients, starting the night before surgery and continuing for two weeks. The volunteers prayed for "a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications" for specific patients, for whom they were given the first name and first initial of the last name.

      The patients, meanwhile, were split into three groups of about 600 apiece: those who knew they were being prayed for, those who were prayed for but only knew it was a possibility, and those who weren't prayed for but were told it was a possibility.

      The researchers didn't ask patients or their families and friends to alter any plans they had for prayer, saying such a step would have been unethical and impractical. The study looked for any complications within 30 days of the surgery. Results showed no effect of prayer on complication-free recovery. But 59 percent of the patients who knew they were being prayed for developed a complication, versus 52 percent of those who were told it was just a possibility.

      January 31, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  14. doctore0

    Remove their tax extempt status...

    January 31, 2012 at 6:18 am |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      I concur!

      January 31, 2012 at 6:52 am |
  15. penel9

    I'm not about to argue for or against anyone's religious beliefs. I do believe that all are rooted in a divine goodness. To show us the good in each other, to show us tolerance, forgiveness, kindness, compromise and so bring comfort, peace at heart and most of all hope against the cruelties of humanity and the uncertainties of mother nature. I believe we are here for a purpose with the challenge being to leave what we found and reaped even better in even the smallest way we can. We are sadly, each and all, wrong as we have been since the beginning of time, we've learned nothing from the lessons taught and in spite of them, stubbornly continue to our own undoing.

    With that in mind, while I am a Pro-Choice Republican and for the life of me cannot understand but can respect, the no-contraceptive stance of the Catholic Church, the Federal Gov't. has absolutely no business here beyond imposing the same standards held to any other physician and clinic to ensure that it is safe. The AMA could step up to that but peer-review doesn't always work as it should. There are glaringly obvious compromises to be made everywhere but Washington cannot see the forest for their egos. If they are going to stand on principle, then Stand. With dignity, grace and for the good of the whole. Godspeed.

    January 31, 2012 at 5:27 am |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      When the "moral" stance of a church can result in serious physical or psychological harm to another human being, their stance becomes invalid. Period.

      January 31, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  16. Mirosal

    Just how would the church know if a woman is getting birth control or having an abortion using the insurance in the first place? The insurance companies won't give an account of what a person does medically, and the church cannot legally access an employee's medical records. If a woman simply does not tell her employer what she's doing, the church won't know. Insurance might be required, but the employer cannot tell an employee what to do with it.

    January 31, 2012 at 5:17 am |
  17. VRage13

    This requirement violates the long standing position the Catholic church and other religions have held. Where are all the people shouting that this is a violation of church and state just like they do with public prayer? Hey ACLU, where are you?

    January 31, 2012 at 4:15 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      That would require that the ACLU break their double standard.

      January 31, 2012 at 5:22 am |
    • Primewonk

      Again, churches are exempt. Businesses run by the church are not.

      January 31, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      Where's the outrage from you over having church-run businesses?

      January 31, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  18. morg

    um religous liberty is for each individual so they can use it or not. not very hard to see the insurance they are using already pays for it they just want to restrict the rights of thier employees by saying you cant have that if you work for us.

    January 31, 2012 at 3:56 am |
    • Najemeddine

      Nov03 A year after my entry into the one, holy, catholic, and aoiltpsoc church, I was confronted with the reality that we are all sinners whom God is calling to be saints. To know this truth intellectually is one thing, to experience it and remain steadfast is another. My initial response was horror, and instead of seeking the Lord in prayer I gave way to anxiety which lead to depression and despair. I walked that dark road for four years until I respond once again to the voice of the Lord. On that dark road, I knew one day I would be forced to choose between the Lord and His Church or to continue to walk the path to complete and utter darkness. Thankfully, God's mercy has reclaimed me. We are all called to have a Marian response to God's call to holiness. Her fiat was not once for all, but lived every moment in faith, hope, and love. May God grant us the grace to enter into his Divine Mercy that we might be the light of the world. For it will only be in becoming like our Lord, through his grace and mercy, that others will see the light of His Church.

      March 2, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  19. Bootyfunk

    the pope/catholic church has killed countless people with their stance on birth control. popes flew to every 3rd world country telling the poor and uneducated people there not to wear a condom when having s*x because it was a sin against god - thereby spreading HIV/AIDs like wild fire.

    January 31, 2012 at 3:54 am |
    • Anne

      Gotta agree with you. The catholic church is full of hypocracy.

      January 31, 2012 at 4:36 am |
  20. Bob Devins

    "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."And we usually only to that when it comes to priests who are pedophiles."

    January 31, 2012 at 3:35 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Advertisement
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.