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.

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Wuerl is calling his congregants to action, asking them to call congress and the White House to express their displeasure.

"We're beginning to say to our people this is what the issue is, it's wrong, we've never experienced this in the history of our country before, this is a violation of the basic rights of conscience and religious liberty. So you need to know that and you need to speak up," he said.

The timing of the administration's announcement has drawn criticism for being tone deaf, coming just three days before tens of thousands of protesters, many of them Catholics who oppose abortion rights, came to Washington for the annual March for Life on the anniversary of Roe vs Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.

"In my estimation it's a huge misstep politically," said Stephen Schneck a political scientist from Catholic University who has consulted with the administration on Catholic issues. In 2009, Schneck also worked with pro-abortion rights Democrats in Congress on the president’s signature health care reform measure to find language that ensured government funds did not pay for abortions.

"The way in which the narrative is being developed is that the administration is at odds with the Catholic Church fundamentally. What I'm seeing in the pews is something of a waking up, a Catholic solidarity. That I think could very well carry over into their political activities" Schneck said. "There's nothing like having a sense of opposition to you to rally the troops and I suspect that's going to happen here."

Schneck pointed particularly to states with large Catholic populations where this new solidarity could have a far-reaching political impact.

"If you look at where those Catholics are, they're in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Florida, which are of course critical states for anyone who wants to become president of the United States," he said.

In 2008, President Obama won 54% of the Catholic vote, according to the Pew Research Center. Early on in his presidency, Obama reached out to Catholics. He appointed prominent Catholics to several cabinet positions and ambassadorships.

In May 2009, the president delivered the commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame, where he spoke of working together on abortion.

"Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women. Those are things we can do," the president said to rousing applause from the crowd in South Bend, Indiana.

In shaping the new Health and Human Services policy, the administration reached out to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who is the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the public policy arm of the church in the United States, and other Catholic leaders in November to seek their input in the process. Many of the same Catholic leaders received a heads up on January 20 several hours before the administration announced the policy.

"This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty. I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in the statement about the policy.

On Tuesday in the White House briefing room, Press Secretary Jay Carney again defended the administration's decision when pressed by reporters.

"After very careful consideration the administration believes that this strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventive services. We will continue to work closely with religious groups during this transitional period to discuss their concern," Carney said.

The administration is extremely concerned this will affect Catholic voters’ support.

As the opposition grew this week, the administration noted to reporters there were Catholics in and out of government who support the measure, as well as interfaith groups.

Late Wednesday night the White House launched the first part of an information campaign to spell out what the policy change does and does not do.

An administration official also pointed to nearly $2 billion in federal grants that have gone to Catholic-related charities since the beginning of the administration as a sign of the willingness to work together.

James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, which hasn't taken a position on the HHS policy, said there could be a silver lining for both Catholics and the administration on this issue. He said with more women able to access contraceptives there could be a reduction in abortions stemming from unplanned pregnancies as a result of the policy.

"More needs to be done on both sides. It's not just a question for the administration, it's a question for the pro-life community and the pro-choice community to put aside their heated rhetoric and find common ground," Salt said.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

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

soundoff (2,744 Responses)
  1. Haitianus

    Typo...... Are not in position. ....

    February 1, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  2. urshadow

    Given enough time all Left Wing leaders turn into Socialist Dictators – and all in the name of Common Good, Fairness, and Equality.

    February 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Reggie from LA

      So are you saying that in order to reach Common Good, Fairness, and Equality it should be left to Right Wingers.
      That's been tried for at least 8 consecutive years before Obama. Epic Fail!!!!!! You're just being snotty and hateful.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • EatYouAlive

      lame troll or tea party nutter... same thing...

      February 1, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Cynthia


      February 2, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  3. Haitianus

    The catholic Church has been around for more than two millennia. Human conscience has evolved. Believers of the churches of yesteryear are misplacing in position to criticize our Church. do you know what exactions your Congregation might have committed if it was around during the dark ages.

    February 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Gene Church

      So, your human conscience has evolved to take away my rights not to pay for abortions?

      February 1, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  4. mabel floyd

    where is my post?

    February 1, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • Michael M.

      bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ar-se.....as in spa-rse, pa-rse, ar-senic, etc.
      ass-hole.....yet ass is okay.
      ba-stard..as in who killed Kenny.
      cia-lis...as in Cia-lis(a drug), socia-lism, socia-list, specia-list, etc. (note: this only happens with some email addresses uknown as to why)
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, lubco-ck, etc.
      co-on.....as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cucu-mber, etc.
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
      hoo-ters...hoot, hootie, and hooter is okay. More than one hooter is bad.
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      po-on.....as in spo-on, po-ontang, harpo-on, etc.
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sh-@t.....but shat is okay – don't use the @ symbol there.
      sp-ic.....as in disp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      strip-per..but strip, stripe are okay.
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, anti-thesis (any anti-"t" word),beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!

      February 1, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  5. Jack

    I would be willing to bet that well over 90% of Roman Catholics in the USA use or have used contraceptives in their family planing. This is one of the many issues on which the great majority of Roman Catholics ignore the hierarchy. How can anyone take seriously a hierarchy that condemns the use of condoms to help slow down the spread of HIV infection? Or tells the desperately poor people of the world that it is sinful to use contraceptives in an attempt to limit the size of their families. And then after making these outrageous pronouncements they retreat to their palaces and mansions to live the good life.

    February 1, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • streetsmt

      I come from a catholic family and I agree. Almost none of the younger generations pay attention to these rediculous contraception rules.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • blessings

      Cardinal Wuerl, I hate to tell you that you are very wrong. I know the Catholics you mean when you speak of "lockstep", but not all of us are with you on this. Only the ones that still believe that the Church teaches you can't receive Communion if you are divorced. Oh, excuse me. They also believe they are going to hell if they divorce. Wonder where they got that teaching. You are also not teaching about contraceptives, abortion, and gay marriage, so you want the law to pick up where the Church's teaching prowess has failed. We have got to do a better job starting with children and married couples.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Gene Church

      You are probably right about the percentages. But that does not change the fact that Churches are full of sinners, and have the right to desire better for themselves. And you have no right to make them continue to do evil.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Southern Gentleman

      I LOVE my palace! The mansion is so colonial though. I may get rid of it but I hate to think that my poor slaves might have another owner.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  6. EatYouAlive

    Religion. Twisting young minds by the thousands every day.

    February 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Gene Church

      Government, twisting the minds of millions each day.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • Inconvenient George

      Yup, the government abducted me too. Put that implant in my butt. They track everything I do.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • JC

      I saw what you did there.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  7. RealityCheck

    Obama won in 2008 by 9 million votes. 24 million American Catholics voted in 2008 and 59% (14 million) voted for Obama. Today, polls show that only 38% of Catholics support Obama's reelection. That is a reversal of 15 million votes. Enough to win the election for the GOP, even if Obama keeps all of the other groups he had in 2008, which is highly doubtful.

    February 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Michael Siever

      That also makes the assumption that everyone of those Catholics he's lost votes for Romney, since it's pretty clear he's going to be the GOP nominee. Unfortunately for the GOP, a lot of people think Romney is too much like Obama, which will make people think there's no real difference, resulting in many just sitting out this time. Some may even get back on board with Obama, deciding "At least he only gets one more term. I'm not so sure about Romney. He could get a second term, and it would be like 3 terms of Obama".

      February 1, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  8. Phil Brandis

    Not only is Obama losing the Catholic vote, but this action to suppress religous freedom in America has helped to unite Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims. Obama is making it clear that he has no Fear of the Lord and no amount of spin control will cover this up! Obama will one day meet our Lord Jesus Christ and will have alot to explain. Will he then tell the Lord "its above me pay grade" ?

    February 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • EatYouAlive

      Fear of the lord?

      You ignorant religious nutter.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • borisjimbo

      What action to suppress religious freedom? Can't people still worship as they choose in the church of their choice?

      February 1, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • amphiox

      Obama's policies are leagues closer to the teachings of Christ than any of the Republicans, who, to a soul, share far more in common with the moneylenders and pharisees. It's not even close.

      If Obama were ever to stand in judgement before Christ, the first thing said will likely be "good job, Barack."

      February 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • blessings

      Are you sure it's not you who will be surprised when you meet the Lord?

      February 1, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Reggie from LA

      Is there such a thing as a Catholic Fox News network, cuz I believe you've been watching it. What a right wing mish mash of foolishness and misinformation. Of course, as I think of it, misinformation is the GOP/TP most effective vehicle. It captures weak minds.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  9. Cafeteria Catholic

    Not loosing this Catholic family's vote.....there's about 20 of us.

    February 1, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Roninaustin

      So let me get this clear in my head. You are Catholic but Obama's votes for abortions up to the 9th month is ok with you? Do you have any idea the procedure? You are also ok with closing down all the Catholic Adoption Services, which in some communities finds homes for up to 70% of the children adopted over the age of 4, because of the new Federal requirements that go against the Churches teachings? Interesting, you are aware that it has been the Presidents position that if in the course of an abortion a viable baby is delivered that they can just not tend the baby and let it die. That is the law in Illinois that he helped pass. But hey that's what confession is for I guess.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Gene Church

      That's a shame Catholic. I'll be praying for all 20 of you.

      Fortunately, a number of Catholics, including liberals, and Cafeteria Catholics, and even some Democratic Catholics, are outraged by HHS's decision in this matter. They have clearly stepped over the line, and badly underestimated the political costs.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  10. EatYouAlive

    Tough, you ignorant bastiches.

    February 1, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  11. Nick

    I think this is wishful thinking from some people; There are lots of Catholics (though they go to church) DON'T agree with the teachings of the church in the matter of contraception, gays and lesbians and even the sacred sacrament, the confession. Don't be fooled by the fervent religious in any religion.

    February 1, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • Gene Church

      Perhaps, but that only supports the Obama Administration's beliefs that religious are weak and they can defeat them. We will see.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
  12. Haitianus

    We need more Catholics in the spheres of power in this country! And catholic teachings need more press!

    February 1, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • blessings

      Like the injustices the Supreme Court Justices are dishing out? Not okay with this Catholic!

      February 1, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  13. Peikoviany

    Letting his Sturmabteilung run loose to throw condoms at Catholic schoolgirls probably didn't help.

    February 1, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
  14. AL

    I don't want to pay for a lot of things...but guess what, in a large society you often have to pay for things you don't want to. Just cause it's part of your religion doesn't make you exempt. Hell...if it is, then I am starting the religion of "I am tired of paying for tax credits that support you and your 10 children"...

    February 1, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Nick

      AL, well said. Why would religious organizations get tax-exempt status?

      February 1, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
  15. JB

    First they want insurance to pay for Viagra, then they want insurance to pay to protect you from the results of taking the Viagra.

    February 1, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  16. David B

    I am catholic and am alright with this. I am against the church for transfering pedophillic priests who abuse and abuse and get away with it. The Catholic church is slowly loosing me and many others.

    February 1, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • blessings


      February 1, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Nick

      The Catholic church has been ina downward spiral for a while and loosing their flock. I think they should concentrate on getting their respect and flock back and not get involved in politics.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Gene Church

      David, sounds like you need to work on that Catholicism a little more. Start with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
  17. charlie avila

    To me, obama came to be president telling lies to americans, and false promises. I think he's socialist and holds a destructive agenda for our nation. If he' re-elected, he will turn the nation into a third world country...

    February 1, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Mike

      Charlie Avira
      You are a moron. Please tell me at least 2 specific lies President Obama has told the American people. And please don't just spew Fox New talking points.
      Have you seen what a 3rd world country is like? Believe me, you, with your Starbucks coffee etc have no idea what a 3rd world country is like.
      You have conveniently forgotten that 750,000 people lost their jobs in Jan 2009, and millions more had already lost their jobs before then. Whatever President Obama did may not have been perfect, but you cannot in all honesty discount that it has stopped the haemorhaging of jobs, and now the economy is creating jobs. We may not be creating jobs at the rate we like, but jobs are being created, none the less.
      Rather than blame President Obama, you should hold companies that outsource jobs accountable. And please don't give me that holy crap that it's Government regulation driving companies abroad. Rubbish!
      Companies are going to countries with the lowest labor costs, and where they can pollute without any consequences. I hope you can recall the river in China that was turned red in color, from one factory's waste product. What about the workers that kill themselves because of the awful working conditions and wages?
      Believe you me, you have no idea what a 3rd world country is, nor what a socialist country is.
      I can wager that you have never left the continental United States. I hope you have left your State.
      Please use your noggin and think for yourself.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • EatYouAlive

      And every sane person in the universe knows you are an ignorant sod.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • blessings

      Please, Charlie! You are so misinformed. But, you have a right to be misinformed if you wish.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • mmk

      Do you have a brain that is capable of thinking?

      February 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Nick

      What a moron!

      February 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • RealityCheck

      "Passing this stimulus bill will hold unemployment below 8%". "I will close Gitmo." "I will not allow members of my administration to leave government and become lobbyists." "Our healthcare plan will cover all Americans." "We will restart the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians." "Removing Mubarak from power in Egypt will not result in Islamic fundamentalists taking over." "Investing taxpayer money in Solyndra was a good idea." "Green jobs will lead the way out of the recession." "I will be a transformative leader." How many more Obama lies do you need before you wake up from your coma? And while you're busy recovering from the shock of learning about Obama's lies, check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics.... they show that since Obama took office, there are 2.7 million fewer jobs in the United States. Deal with reality. For a change. REAL CHANGE this time.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • petena

      I come from a third world country and it is NOTHING like things are here in the USA. Because people don't pay taxes, there are no services, no infrastructure, no jobs. and crime is everywhere. People walk around with guns everywhere you go (Mcdonalds, soda shops, banks, malls, movie theaters, etc). You see the few wealthy and all the poor people everywhere. People have bars on their windows and have to hire bodyguards. People in my country of origin would do anything to trade with you. Take a trip to one of these places before you speak. I am from Honduras and I don't call myself Honduran American. I am an American.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • amphiox

      And yet another example of an ignoramous who doesn't even understand what the term "socialist" actually means.

      Obama is a slightly right of center pragmatist. There are no real socialists in US politics and there for all intents and purposes have never been.

      And the US would have been a much superior nation than what it is today if there actually had been a socialist or two of prominence in its politics. A 10% minority of hard-core socialists would probably have been ideal, enough to have influence of public discourse, not enough to have sufficient power to run away to excesses.

      But America never had even that, and American political culture is the meaner, weaker, colder, and less humane for it.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  18. Mary

    I am Catholic... I love being Catholic...however these Cardinals, Bishops, etc... are NOT speaking for the majority of us Catholics. I do not believe in abortion, I wholeheartedly support contraception!

    February 1, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • blessings

      Amen. Again!

      February 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Gene Church

      Mary, and this decision requires payment for the morning after pill, an abortifacient, because the Obama Administration has decided that this should be part of the standard healthcare package. You have the right to be a cafeteria Catholic. You do not have the right to require your employer, or the Catholic Church, to pay for your licenciousness.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Inconvenient George

      Every Catholic is a "cafetria" Catholic. Did you take the "catholic" test ?

      February 1, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  19. james

    Catholic vote ???–He never had mine to begin with-I saw thru all his rhetoric before the last vote.–His habit of sneering and ridiculing anyone who confronted or disagreeing with him really turned me off–

    February 1, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • blessings

      Yeah, and you are soooooo smart.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • borisjimbo

      Habit of sneering at and ridiculing anybody who disagreed with him? Do you have examples with e.g. YouTube clips?

      February 1, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • J.V.Hodgson

      The law simply states that part of an insurnce policy cannot exclude the inclusion of access to contraceptives under the insurance.
      If you have strong views on this you need not go to the next step of buying and using contraceptives in line with your religious beliefs.
      However the other 270m non catholics or people who think contraception is not against thier religion have a benefit , and can execise thier right to buy/use.
      Nothing in this policy forces any catholic to go against Papal encyclicals if they CHOOSE not to do so.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • Gene Church

      J.V.Hodgson– It goes against the employer's religious beliefs, it goes against the Church having to pay for contraception and the Morning after pill, and it is immoral.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Inconvenient George

      It "goes against the church" is BS. The "church" is NOT the hierarchy. The "church" approves" of contraception, because "the church" uses it.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • Gene Church

      Inconvenient, maybe in your church, but not the Catholic Church, the Church of Christ.

      February 2, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • Inconvenient George

      The "church" is not the old men in red dresses. And BTW, there are 22,000 "THE church of christs" .

      February 2, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • Gene Church

      Just one, inconvenient.

      February 2, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • prezhussein

      James, I agree. The snarling arrogance of Obama appears the moment he's not being coddled or praised.
      He heard nurses testify about babies born alive after late term abortions and voted twice to deny them care. Twice.
      The nurses say he was cold as ice.
      Later, when it was a poltical problem for him , he tried to reconstruct what he meant with his opposition to caring for a living breathing baby. But, he knew all along.

      February 2, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  20. Actuary

    What a bunch of fokokin taards in the comments section

    February 1, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Southern Gentleman

      That public school education seems to be working really well with you. Or, let me state it as you might understand given your spelling, "That pubic skool edumukation sems to b werking reely wel 4 U."

      February 1, 2012 at 11:01 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.