Mixed Catholic reaction to revised White House contraception plan
New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whom President Barack Obama called Friday morning.
February 10th, 2012
12:28 PM ET

Mixed Catholic reaction to revised White House contraception plan

By Eric Marrapodi CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Washington (CNN) - As word trickled out of a White House compromise with Catholic groups on its rule around contraception coverage on Friday morning, administration officials took to the phones to sell the plan to religious leaders across the spectrum.

Catholic officials say President Obama called New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, to explain the revised policy, which exempts religiously affiliated universities and hospitals for paying for no cost contraception for their employees but requires insurers to offer such coverage for for free to women who work at such institutions.

Dolan responded to the White House plan Friday afternoon in a statement saying the move was, "a first step in the right direction."

“While there may be an openness to respond to some of our concerns, we reserve judgment on the details until we have them," he added.

But other bishops were far more critical. "I think he's punting, just kicking the can down the road," Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski told CNN. "He's hasn't really addressed our concerns.  I think the only thing to do is... to take back the whole thing."

After hanging up with Obama Friday morning, Dolan quickly organized a conference call with other bishops nationwide, according to a source briefed on the calls. It's yet to be seen how the Catholic Church will greet the revised White House policy, but some conservative religious voices say they're not satisfied.

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Wenski said the Miami Archdiocese pays an insurance company to cover its 5,000 employees and argued that if the insurance company is paying for and providing contraceptives, as the new compromise lays out, the church would still be paying for it.

"They're missing the point when they say this is about contraception," he said. "This is about religious freedom.  It's a sham to say contraception aren't widely available in this country."

But some Catholic groups applauded the White House announcement. Sister Carol Keehan from the Catholic Health Association said she is"very pleased" with the White House.

"Folks were extremely grateful for this," said James Salt, who heads the progressive group Catholics United, which is close to the White House.

Salt was on a White House call to religious leaders Friday morning that was led by Joshua DuBios, director of Obama's Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

"This is a solution that can be universally celebrated," Salt said. " There were groups on the call that have a very pro-choice world view and there was no dissent... We're putting out a full-throated endorsement of this."

Stephen Schneck, a professor from Catholic University who has advised the administration in the past, is also pleased with the new HHS policy.  "There was great enthusiasm on the call, a real sense of relief," he said, referring to the conference call with DuBois.

"I think [the administration] finally got it as a result of the fire storm...the religious liberty concerns, that's what turned the policy makers," he said.  "The level of solidarity with the bishops  in seeing this as a religious liberty issue is what I think turned the day."

In recent weeks, religious leaders loudly lobbied the White House on its plan to make religious institutions offer free contraception to employees through health insurance plans. Evangelicals and conservative Jews joined with Catholics in saying the policy was an intrusion of religious liberty.

"As long as the Obama portrayed this as a contraception issue they had a chance to win the pr battle," said Richard Land, head of public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention.  Despite the compromise, Land said the damage has been done.

"It'll be devastating with Catholics," he said, arguing that the president has "shown what he really believes."

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which brought three lawsuits in federal court against the policy, denounced the White House change Friday as an “accounting gimmick.”

Becket said the new compromise doesn’t address the private religious groups and others who object the policy and still view the new policy as them paying for contraceptives, albeit through an insurer.

“Hundreds, if not thousands, of religious institutions are still left out in the cold and will be forced to violate their religious convictions,” said Hannah Smith, senior legal counsel for the Becket Fund, in a statement.

An administration official said the White House will convene meetings with religious leaders in coming days and that “this policy will be developed collaboratively so that the ultimate outcome works for religious employers, their workers and the public.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

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

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    April 15, 2012 at 9:26 am |
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    April 1, 2012 at 3:36 am |
  6. Noemi Szhai

    Such animosity and hatred...it must really be KILLING the anti-Christ libtarded demonrats to see the surge of a a PRO-LIFE AMERICA. The immoral MAGGOTS writhe with every demolishing strike from the conservative right...PRESIDENT SANTORUM 2012!!!

    February 29, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  7. Meh

    Darn Catholics always trying to get their hands into people's pants. Metaphorically or not.

    February 15, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  8. Christians are not allowed near children and other living things

    Christians molest your children, keep your children away from them!

    February 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  9. Delta


    February 13, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Delta

      Lord, save us from Rick Santorum's religious leaders, and give us Obama's



      February 13, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  10. Godless&Proud

    thru history, Catholics have been discouraged from reading the bible so that priests could tell the 'flock of sheep' what to do. The RCC is vile, corrupt, cruel, destructive, regressive, bigoted, prejudice and just plain nasty. It needs to end.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • rick

      It will, but these things take time

      February 13, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  11. Hank



    February 13, 2012 at 5:22 am |
    • Mirosal

      You talk about the administration telling pepople everything. Religion has been telling people WHAT TO EAT, DRINK, DRIVE, BUY, ETC for thousands of years. So yes NOW is the time to say TIME TO TAKE A HARD LINE STAND – NO! NO! NO! to any and all religion.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:26 am |
    • Educated&Atheists

      Learn history of Catholic Church and it's greed, bigotry, mind control, cruelty, anti-science and erroneous policies. RCC is a dangerous cult, existing for it's own good, oblivious to suffering of people, paying lip service to an imaginary ghost in the sky. The RCC is a sick cult.

      February 13, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • Mirosal

      @ Educated ... I have an education, courtesy of the RCC and Jesuits. I know full well what a crock their teachings are. I paid lip service and lost all faith before my age hit double digits.

      February 13, 2012 at 7:04 am |
    • rick

      how is this administration telling you what to eat and drink?

      February 13, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  12. Redrum

    It's fun to watch Obama buckle to the Catholic Church. And he will have to do it again. This issue is not over. Score one for the good guys. 70 million Catholics in the US, and all anyone can say is "most of them use contraception". Well, then why does Obama pick up the phone on the first ring when Dolan calls?

    February 13, 2012 at 4:39 am |
    • Educated&Atheists

      good question .. he should tell all bible-whackers "Eff you!" and stick to what is right.

      February 13, 2012 at 7:01 am |
  13. Rich

    Shouldn't women be subordinate and silent? Our most Catholic Bishops will certainly find the best path for all of us.

    February 12, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  14. J Brouillette


    "In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed" (Apology 9:8 [A.D. 197]).

    "Among surgeons’ tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs [of the child] within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fetus is extracted by a violent delivery.

    "There is also [another instrument in the shape of] a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: They give it, from its infanticide function, the name of embruosphaktes, [meaning] "the slayer of the infant," which of course was alive. . . .

    "[The doctors who performed abortions] all knew well enough that a living being had been conceived, and [they] pitied this most luckless infant state, which had first to be put to death, to escape being tortured alive" (The Soul 25 [A.D. 210]).

    "Now we allow that life begins with conception because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does" (ibid., 27).

    "The law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion [Ex. 21:22–24]" (ibid., 37).

    February 12, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  15. J Brouillette


    "What man of sound mind, therefore, will affirm, while such is our character, that we are murderers?
    . . . [W]hen we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it" (A Plea for the Christians 35 [A.D. 177]).

    February 12, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      "What man". How telling.

      February 12, 2012 at 10:40 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.