February 1st, 2012
09:23 PM ET

Is Obama losing the Catholic vote?

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.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

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.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Abortion • Barack Obama • Belief • Bishops • Catholic Church • Christianity • Church and state • Politics

soundoff (2,744 Responses)
  1. Denise

    You know, the Catholic bashing that has become politically correct in this country reminds me of something. Hmmm... what is it? Oh yeah, Hitler's Germany? History certainly does repeat itself.

    February 2, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Scott

      Typical snotty nosed, spoiled, whining christian
      Considering the catholic church’s history of oppression, degradation and outright slaughter of jews over the centuries I find the comparison to Hitler’s Germany hilarious. Talk about grotesque exaggeration and hyperbole.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Maura

      I totally agree with you Denise! We are the illogical animals that have no right to any say in our country. And case in point, look at the first reply to you. Scott calls you a whining baby.

      February 2, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • sam

      Quit pretending that you and Maura aren't the same dumba.ss opinion just blathering along for kicks.

      February 2, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Truth

      So when they make you start wearing flair, what do you suppose it'll be, martyr?

      February 2, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  2. lamnotfooled

    Most Catholic women are on contraception. Who wants 7 or more kids nowadays. We are not rabbits. This is just another stupid move by Repubs. They are human beings who need preventive care. Shame on Repubs again. I guess they really don't care about the poor.

    February 2, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  3. rationalfew

    Most of us catholics are what I call cafateria catholics. We pick and choose the reasonable parts of our religion. Most all catholics use birth control and believe in family planning. The catholic bishops are way out of touch with the rest of us. Most of us also think priest should marry and we should allow women priest. Please pay not attention to the catholic bishops... We don't!

    February 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Joe

      Our Lord said "Be fruitfull and multiply" . Get it?

      February 2, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • fred

      If you do not respect the leaders of your church you need to get out. I suggest you look up a BSF international in your area and attend the weekly meetings. They are now studying ACTs which will take you through the starting of the Chruch and give you some truth and light

      February 2, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  4. Johnny

    Great that the church filled with pedophiles have a problem with women having the right to choose.

    Clean up you own pedophile mess instead of attacking women's rights.

    February 2, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Denise

      Actually, statistically speaking, there are less percentage of pedophiles in the Catholic Clergy than the Protestant Clergy and in the general population as a whole. Get your facts right and justly bash yourself as I'm sure you are in one of the two latter groups.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • sam

      Denise, you ignorant s.lut.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Denise

      Sorry Sam. I'm neither. But given that you don't know the facts I'm quite certain that your statement is a fine example of projection.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • risky

      Actually Denise, he's right that you're ignorant. Dont compare religious pedofiles to the general population of pedofiles. It's a really ignorant way of thinking.

      February 2, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • sam

      Sorry Denise – the forum has spoken, and you're an ignorant s.lut.

      February 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  5. Bregs

    Why can't we keep our religious beliefs out of politics? If you believe something, great, don't impose it on me. If you don't like contraceptives, don't use them. Don't tell me I can't. What blows me away is it will be this ONE THING that gets these people to vote one way or the other. Pathetic. We get closer and closer to the Mid-East theocracies every day. And then guess what, these same folks don't want Social Services to go up. Hmm, idiots, how do expect these babies you won't help prevent from being born, to get by in life? Oh, I know, the local church! You may hate taxes, but go ahead and give all your money to the church to help take care of these poor, neglected, unwanted children. Good luck! Your party religious right has helped create so many more for all you wonderfully blessed people to take care of.

    February 2, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Denise

      That's exactly what the Church is saying, they want to freedom to practice their religion. Obama is the one forcing his beliefs on Catholic Organizations (trying to force them to fund abortaficient contraception when it is against their beliefs). Be clear about who is forcing who. Catholics aren't forcing their beliefs on anyone. Obama is.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • sam

      Denise...pull your head out. No one's going to force anyone to use anything; obviously, if catholics don't believe in contraception (which is BS), then they're not going to use it no matter who funds it, and no one loses. It's a matter of making it available for those who want or need it. Stop acting like a righteous snotbag.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Denise

      Sam, the Obama administration is forcing Catholic organizations to fund abortaficient birth control. That's what the outcry is all about. Catholic organizations do not want to fund birth control that causes abortion (which the pill does). I don't want to pay for your abortions either, and nobody should force me to as a Catholic.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • sam

      No one's going to force you to pay for anyone's abortion, contraception, or anything else, chicken little.

      February 2, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  6. Denise

    For those of you who want to know why the Catholic Church teaches what it does about abortion/contraception, instead of blindly bashing the church (which is ok right, as it's politically correct to do so nowadays, Catholics being the modern Jew and all), why don't you try to understand BEFORE you criticize? Start with Googling "Humanae Vitae" by John Paul II. It's short and to the point.

    February 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • rationalfew

      John Paul was a regressive old fool with a yoda like personna. The current pope Benedict is a complete joke. He's trying to take us back to the middle ages.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • rationalfew

      And "Humanae Vitae" is written by a flawed human, not god!

      February 2, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Denise

      Why don't you read it. I doubt you could have read it as fast as you bashed it. Read and consider. That should take you a while.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • sam

      What a judgmental b!tch.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Denise

      How is asking others to respect one's beliefs being "judgmental"? Sam, you are the one who is calling me names because I am expressing my beliefs. You are the one being judgmental. That's projection again. Google "projection" if you need to understand the term.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      Hey – hey – hey! I can understand bashing John Paul II...but Yoda?

      No, sir. You take that back this instant! 🙂

      February 2, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • sam

      Denise likes the word 'bashed' and keeps trying to be insulting but can't quite get the hang of it. God wants you off the computer, Denise, it's a sin to post judgmental crap.

      February 2, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Prayer is calming
    Prayer is convicting
    Prayer is courageous
    Prayer changes things

    February 2, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Nope

      ~~The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.~~

      February 2, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  8. Pat

    Yeah, the biggest group of pedophiles in the world.

    February 2, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Denise

      Actually Pat, statistically speaking, there are more pedophiles in the Protestant Church and the general population than there are in the Catholic Clergy. Get your fact right and go ahead and bash yourself as I'm sure that you are in one of the two latter groups.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • sam

      LOL 'Baaaaaash, baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaash."

      February 2, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  9. james

    ""Is Obama losing the Catholic vote?""–Yep !!!–But it has nothing to do with my religion–

    February 2, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Pat

      He doesn't need the votes from the biggest pedophyles in the world. Unfortunately for your stupidity, he's above in every single poll. Get a clue.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  10. sickofall

    So Obama is losing a group of voters that continue to support an organization that supports and protects child rapists? Yeah, I don't think he's losing sleep over that one. Any catholic who has remained with a church that has protected these monsters needs to take a long look in the mirror and ask themselves when staying in a church was more important than taking a stand against child rapists no matter who they are.

    February 2, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Denise

      Statistically speaking, there are less "child rapists" in the Catholic Church than there are in Protestant Churches and the general population. However, given that it is considered politically correct to Catholic bash these days, people like yourself feel free to find what dirt they can. Don't be silly. Nobody in the Catholic Church or any other church for that matter like child rapists.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  11. AnnaMaria44

    Has anyone driven around a college campus lately? An even bigger problem for Obama than losing the Catholic vote is that I think he has lost the youth vote which helped propelled him into office. All I ever see are Ron Paul 2012 signs everywhere. Obama was cool in 2008, Ron Paul is cool in 2012...

    February 2, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • ─▪┐◊┌▪─

      So Ron Paul isn't going to be in the race, then what?

      February 2, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Pat

      Yeah, so cool that he's not going to win the presidency.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • AnnaMaria44

      Then they just won't vote. My son has informed me that there is little to no excitement for Obama- you know, the "been there, done that" mentality

      February 2, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • AnnaMaria44

      * on his college campus

      February 2, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  12. Don't be fooled

    Ugh!!! So annoying! It is a personal choice to use or not use contraceptive. And some insurance companies cover it some don't depending the package you get. Contraceptive is not forbidden in the Bible. It is a personal choice.

    Armagedon is here because there is no way a Bible reading religion would violate a law not stipulated in the Bible. It is not the way Jesus would react.

    Time for the true God to wipe out all these fake religions that has nothing to do with his purpose.

    February 2, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  13. Laura Shanahan

    How about losing Catholics, protestants, jews and pretty much everyone not named Jeremeiah Wright or Al sharpton? Obama and his cronies have alienated all equally with his devisive strategies and policies. I got fooled in 08' when I elected him over Bush Lite(mccain) but never again.

    February 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • rationalfew

      He's got my vote.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  14. Judy Brown

    This recent rukus concerning birth control and contraceptives is very confusing to me. I live in a fairly large city with many catholic schools and churches. I personally know many of these catholics and I dont know any who do not practice birth control. So these is a ridiculous situation! Speak up all you catholics who plan your famalies. Most famalies these days have one to three children. How do these catholics accomplish this? We all know the truth is they practice an effective form of birth control and I dont mean the rythum method! Catholic women elect to have tubal ligations just like the rest of us!

    February 2, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • One word.


      February 2, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • @Judy

      You are misinformed. Natural Family Planning is not the Rhythm Method. NFP is 99% effective and much safer than artificial contraception. Simply because some chose not to following the Church's teaching, does not mean others should be forced to go against that teaching as well.

      February 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Denise

      The Catholics that are using contraception are not following church teachings are are Catholic in name only. Chances are they don't even know or care to understand what Church teachings are. BTW, the Church does approve of contraception naturally, through abstaining during a woman's fertile periods. Google JP II's Humanae Vitae if you want to know/understand what the Church teaches.

      February 2, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  15. zooinb

    Catholics are just unperfected Mormons.

    February 2, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Why?

      Almost makes sense to me. Are you intending to state that both have strict moral beliefs, only Mormons typically adhere to their belief system whereas many Catholics are only such in name only?

      February 2, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Denise

      @Why? You mean like Mother Theresa and John Paul II? Yeah, what a couple of hypocrites. LOL

      February 2, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  16. KCRick

    He already teed off the Jewish vote with his demeanor and political stance against Israel, now the Catholics. He is going for the trifecta with his comments on "what would Jesus do about taxes".

    February 2, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  17. IamaCatholic

    Dear Pope in Rome,
    Yes, you are legally required to provide contraception.
    Yes, you are legally required to report child molestation.
    Yes, you are just another religion, you are not the law, and you are not above the law.
    A Catholic,

    The Vatican clergy are the ultimate 1%ers. Every seen how these "Servant's of Christ" live? Trump would blush.

    February 2, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • dalis

      If you were really a Catholic, you'd know the Pope is not an American citizen, bound by American laws.

      February 2, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • sickofall

      Dear dalis,

      If you were truly a human being you would know that protecting children is a RELIGIOUS thing and a MORAL thing not just an American Law thing.

      February 2, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Peace2All


      You Said: "If you were really a Catholic, you'd know the Pope is not an American citizen, bound by American laws."

      'Technically' you may be correct but... is that 'really' the point....? He's not "an American citizen, etc..." meaning it's o.k. for the pope to cover up crimes...?

      I don't think that's what you really are trying to 'infer' here, is it...?


      February 2, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  18. Biotechdev

    Gee, threats to the moderators seem to get posts through. So let's see if this does. Take "catholic" out of the equation and think of every oppressive government who forces religions out or to fit their political agenda? Venezuala? The USSR? No, Obama's US. Screenshot saved.

    February 2, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • CNN Moderator

      Do not continue to post, or you will be banned via your IP.

      February 2, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • steve

      wow, i've never actually seen a post from the CNN Moderator.

      February 2, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  19. Biotechdev

    Thanks moderator. Have all my screenshots and your email, sent them to a different site. How sad, CNN censors opinions. But thanks for the extra proof.

    February 2, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • J.W

      You maybe had a naughty word in there

      February 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • sam

      It might be that you're just not quite smart enough to post correctly.

      February 2, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  20. Biotechdev

    Thanks moderator. Have all my screenshots and your email, sent them to a different site. How sad, CNN censors opinions. But thanks for the extra proof

    February 2, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • i wonder


      I hope that you included a picture of yourself in your tin-foil hat!

      There *is* help available to get around the automatic word filter, but you just sound too hostile for anyone to want to come to your assistance.

      February 2, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
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.