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.

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

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

soundoff (2,082 Responses)
  1. just the facts

    Abortion or birth control IS NOT healthcare.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Halo of Flies

      You clearly do not have a grasp of the issue. But yet you post anyway. Why? The stereotype of ignorant, child molesting, women hating Catholics is already firmly in place. You don't need to add to it. We got it.

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

      And your comment is obviously not intelligent.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Brad

      What is it, then?

      February 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Christianity Sux

      They call it "preventive" medicine

      February 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Christianity Sux

      These Liberals are out of control. Next they will tell us that the priests cannot molest little boys. When will this madness end?

      February 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • just the facts

      medicine is to be used to CURE. Are you saying that by preventing you are curing? Since when has pregnancy become a sickness or a disease? you people are convoluted.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Christianity Sux

      Since Life "begins" at conception, and half of those conceptions fail to implant, technically, your God is killing more "babies" than all the abortion doctors combined.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Halo of Flies

      Your reply is so completely off the mark I....I......do yourself a favor. Look up the following for yourself:
      1. Benefits of Birth Control
      2. Preventative Medicine
      3. Imflammation
      4. Common Sense

      February 10, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Christianity Sux

      @ Just the facts

      If a bunch of undifferentiated cells can be called a baby, an unwanted pregnancy can be called an illness.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Halo of Flies

      Actually, IF you are a believer, then the Bible tells you that God knows the moment of your existence and the moment of your death. Everything...every detail in your life is in his "book". Therefore, God himself is responsible for ALL abortions on the planet since the beginning of time.

      Why do these people where those ridiculous dresses and chef hats? I got a hat like that one time at Dick's Last Resort in San Antonio. The waiter wrote "Poopy Head" on it. I am reminded of this.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • just the facts

      one does not have to believe in a god, to come to the logical and moral conclusion that the killing of a fetus before being born is none the less a killing. I find it amusing that today's society will twist every which way a rule or a law or a fact and morph it into something completely different just so that it accommodates them. we are becoming a disposable society, that values only what suits us at the present time.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Momof3

      @just the facts: abortions and birth control have been practiced for literally thousands of years. Your 'disposable society' theory just doesn't wash...

      February 10, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Greg

      Perhaps not "Life-Critical Healthcare" in most cases. But clearly those procedures are care, and they are intended to modify the sate of the person's body. Hence, indeed, they are healthcare. Now, are you going to argue that only "Life-Critical Healthcare" should be insured? Or required to be covered by insurance? If so, thats a different argument – and you will need to take into account _all_ healthcare out there that is not Life-Critical.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Greg

      Do you really not understand the concept of preventative medicine? Cancer screenings? Inoculations? Biopsies? etc... Maybe you should think about the value of the medical procedures that, say, WIPED OUT POLIO.

      Get a clue.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • bspurloc

      forcing your beliefs onto your employees is NOT FREEDOM......
      time to snap the reigns of this tax exemption money hole

      February 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • bspurloc

      FYI when u get beyond being ignorant, birth control is used to control menstrual cycles and other benefits, but when it comes to the christian taliban it is all about CONTROLING women dark ages..... time to come out of the cellar

      February 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Justin

      @Just the facts – keep fighting the good fight! The barrage of negativity just goes to show how much ignorance there is here.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Dummy, ANY part of your human body systems (a.k.a interior and exterior) is HEALTHCARE.
      A typical deficient GOP who missed his/her 1st Grade Biology classes.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • RevMum

      Sorry, just the facts, sometimes it's EXACTLY that. You don;t know, and you don;t get to say. Neither do I. This is America.

      February 11, 2012 at 12:12 am |
  2. Rev. Rick

    Quoting from the article, "I think he's punting, just kicking the can down the road," Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski told CNN.

    C'mon. Really? Actually, it's the Catholic Church heirachy (and the Obama haters) that keeps kicking the can down the road by keeping the issue stirred up. Don't they see! The Catholic Church leaders have a very unique opportunity here to root out heresy from their midst! First, let the insurance companies offer insurance-funded contraceptives to the Catholic affliated hospitals and universities. Then (if Church Officials can circ-umvent HIPPA rules) the Church could find out who among their employees are using the contraceptives and are therefore not following the Church's teachings on birth control. Then they could FIRE the apostate heathens immediately! Problem solved!

    Oh...wait...that probably wouldn't work because then the Catholic affiliated hospitals and universities would have to fire 98% of their employees. Oh well, it was just a thought.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • bspurloc

      you let them get the pills then u declare them heretics, hang and burn them..... then stop at the pharmacy on the way home and pick up yours..... cuz never forget point the finger at others so u can do what they arent sposed to do.....

      February 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • RevMum

      And 98% of their parishioners.

      February 11, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • RevMum

      Not to mention 98% of their parishioners.

      February 11, 2012 at 12:19 am |
  3. Joi Gibson

    It still will not be enough. This will be milked for all its worth. The hypocrisy is stunning. Keep government out of religion – then keep religion out of government. The Conference of Bishops should not be allowed to lobby on Capital Hill – they are injecting religion into government. A bunch of old men telling woman what they can and cannot do. And if I understand correctly, most Catholic women use birth control. The Church is out of touch, yet it holds so much sway. I repeat, don't want government in religion, then keep your religion out of government. Otherwise, hypocrisy is thy name.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • RevMum

      That is a really good point, well said,about keeping religion and government out of each other...

      February 11, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  4. wastelandpast

    He's (odummy) against America so he's a POS that needs to go. kick odummy to the curb, he don't use condoms he likes sinclair poop on his dingaling.....

    February 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  5. wastelandpast

    He's (odummy) against America so he's a POS that needs to go. kick odummy to the curb, he don't use condoms he likes sinclair poop on his dingaling...

    February 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • chemack56

      "Wasteland" is a good euphemism for your brain.

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

      What on earth did you just say??

      February 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      From what we know you are RAPIST of your own daughter.
      Stop spreading STD to your baby daughter.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Hey pick up your sheet behind the barn. The meeting starts in 5 minutes!

      February 10, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
  6. To the Pope

    Dear Catholics, It is very clear that you need to be in fervent prayer, get right with God.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • FatSean

      Christian Taliban strikes again! If you take public money you should be required to OFFER these medicines. Nobody is required to use them. It is that simple.

      Where is the moderate Catholic outrage?

      February 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • The Name

      How can the Taliban be compared to anything Christian? are you so prejudiced by your insane beliefs?
      Get educated about what the taliban does before you spout nonsense.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ Fat Sean – The moderate Catholics are too afraid of being excommunicated for not following the Church's teachings on a primary moral issue (at least for them).

      February 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • A Recovering Catholic

      @The Name

      You asked, "How can so-called Christians be compared to the Taliban?" Easy. Both our so-called Christian radical right and the Taliban want to use the power of government to compel people to abide by their personal religious tenets and views of morality.

      What was it that Gandhi said? Oh yeah, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” and “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.”

      February 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Patrick

      Recovering Cath...Gandhi was not a Christian, neither was Mao not Stalin.
      India, China and Russia don't have many Christians.
      What is your point?
      Talibans are violent and no they are not Christian, get your facts straight before betraying your ignorance

      February 10, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  7. Bruce

    I thought the 1st Amendment was implemented to separate church and state. Wenski, and others like him, seem to be using his ideology to interlink to two. They have a word to describe this kind of thinking...theocracy.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • MartinSA

      First Amendment also prevents the government from oppressing religions that disagreed with them (as was done in 1600-1700 England) where property wass seized, people thrown in prison and some even executed (St Thomas Moore for example).

      February 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  8. anagram_kid

    Gluttony is a sin. Therefore the Catholic Church should not cover any drugs that a person has to take due to being overweight. To do so is to condone a sinful lifestyle.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Christianity Sux

      Good one.

      Greed is a sin as well.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  9. Ann

    OK GOP NOTHING MORE TO SEE HERE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    February 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  10. Scott

    Let me explain something to all the catholic brainwashed believers on this comment round, birth control is NOT JUST a contraceptive. It's used to control hormone levels in women. Some women have such high hormone levels, they have two periods a month or none at all. Some have very intense cramps. Birth control normalizes the hormone levels and actually a good number of women take it for these reasons.

    WAKE THE HELL UP PEOPLE. let women take care of their bodies on the cheap.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Justin

      @Scott – you obviously have no idea how harmful contraceptives and abortifacients can be to a woman. "Taking care of their bodies on the cheap" can be very costly in the end. Ask my sister, who can thank her IUD for cancer.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  11. Linann

    They are the first to cry, " No Goverment in our Religion" but have no problem sticking their religion in Goverment policies. You can't have it both ways.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • RevMum

      That's a point, it really is.

      February 11, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  12. Republican

    Now that all the catholic bishops are together, while they're at it why don't they rally togther and stop their preist from molesting boys!

    February 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • well

      Nothing like a mindless bigot to lighten your day.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • bob Johnson

      Not the issue, jagov.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Darwin

      Good idea

      February 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • bspurloc

      yes a mindless bigot..... just like the pope DENY the lusting of young men while declaring man+man (non priests) is a sin

      February 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  13. Halo of Flies

    I think it is oustanding that the Catholic Church has at long last embraced abortion!

    February 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  14. FrankinSD

    This compromise should go a long way toward separating Catholics who care about women's health from Catholic leaders who care more about doctrine than they do women (or young boys, for that matter).

    February 10, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  15. manhandler

    A bunch of fat old men telling women what to do with their bodies, oh...and telling little boys what to do with theirs.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • mamivaqui

      could not agree more, fat, old, and covered in silks and pearls....very freaky!!

      February 10, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    February 10, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Liv21

      Athiesm isn't a health risk.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • well

      Might ask a person who survived one of the four or five atheist governments in history.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Liv21

      What does an Athiest government have to do with a person's health?

      February 10, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Darwin

      ..... in your head, and nowhere else.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Erik

      Actually, my doc says I'm very healthy.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:10 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 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  17. coy4one

    The Catholic Church should not have any say in the matter until they clean their own house.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Liv21

      I know, right? "Stop taking the pill, but pay no attention to our priests that are molesting young boys" Please. Hypocrites.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  18. Liv21

    What a shame. Congratulations Catholic Church. By not allowing birth control to be more easily accessible, you've just contributed to causing unwanted pregnancies that can be aborted. Way to go!

    February 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Lizzie

      Anyone has access to birth control, that's your choice, but to mandate it or be free that's something new. I wonder if pretty soon ALL men are required by law to use condoms.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Liv21

      I see you have reading comprehension issues. I said "more readily available."

      February 10, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Liv21

      Correction: "more easily accessible" was my quote.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • different

      Or adopted . . . what a concept?

      February 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Rational Hypostasis

      Contraception causes abortion.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Liv21

      And how many unwanted children have YOU adopted?

      February 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Liv21

      LOL Contraception does not cause abortion.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Well not really. This decision was more or less a way to circu.mvent the Catholic church. They have no dog in the fight any more. All working women will now be guaranteed to have access to these services.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • different

      Between 1973 and 1995, 9.9 million woman looked into adoptions, from 1971 to 1991 there were 250,000 foreign adoptions, and there are 2.1 million infertile married woman in the US. I'm sure finding them a home wouldn't be the issue.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Liv21

      Sorry, I'm not a baby incubator for infertile couples! Abortion is legal and safe. Just the way is ought to be.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • sarah

      When there are over a million abortions a year and children still stuck in foster homes, you can bet there will be more children than adopters in less than five years... especially when most of them only want "a baby to snuggle". The number of infertile couples cannot keep pace with that.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  19. AtheistSteve

    Obama just spoke about this. So now the Catholic enti.ties who have a conscientious objection to providing and paying for contraceptive services are off the hook. It now falls to the insurance companies to reach out to the women that work for these organizations to offer, free of charge, these services. So in essence women can opt in, or out depending on your point of view. In my opinion this is a satisfactory comprimise for all. Religious liberties are not violated and individual women's rights are not dismissed. It's a win-win situation but I'm certain that the fundies will not be satisfied(they never are).

    February 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • nope


      February 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • fred

      We make it sound so nice "contraceptive services". As to the godless society they will do whatever they wish. As little as 20 years ago you could never have gotten away with giving abortions and birthcontrol to children without parental consent. Today we just provide services to those children that have been lured by the liberal candy of "safe $ex". What is sad is that most people are no longer aware of how we have $exualized our children. A long way from holiness and purity of God.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Sean

      What a touching rant that hand nothing to do with anything, Fred. Exactly how many "children" do you think are employed by these groups?

      Your response, nope, was equally thought compelling.

      The way I see it, allowing woman to have a choice is the only way to prevent someone else's religious choice from being thrust upon THEM, therefore denying them their own religious freedom.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • AtheistSteve


      Funny...I don't know any children who qualify as working women. But despite your objections and antiquated ideals s3x is a normal and natural function of ALL animals and is not a 'sin' since that word has no meaning outside your religion. Preventing unwanted pregnancies is sensible and pragmatic for young women who want a healthy s3x life. Big sky daddy isn't watching and doesn't care what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms. You are an anachronism.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • carrotroot

      Fred, only adults over the age of 18 can have their own health care policy. This is about giving adult women access to contraceptives, not children. I think adults should be allowed to make the decision to birth control themselves. Their employers should not make that decision for them.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • Watson


      >> Big sky daddy isn't watching <<

      You mean, Big sky daddy is NOT a Peeping Tom? Strange...

      February 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Watson


      >> Exactly how many "children" do you think are employed by these groups? <<

      How about the ones they molest? So, aren't they employed by these groups?

      Oh, do you mean to say they come for free? What a shame!

      February 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • RevMum

      Good post.

      February 11, 2012 at 12:38 am |
  20. J.W

    Some of these people will not be satisfied no matter what happens. He could announce that all gay marriages and abortions will be illegal and some of these people would say its not enough.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Lizzie

      He is against gay marriages, but has fundraiser at gay couple house. So who is the hypocrite.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Rational Hypostasis

      No, I think that would be OK. Marriage is between a Man and a Woman and baby killing is illegal, Sounds good to most Catholics and its in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If they disagree, a little education can change that.

      February 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Liv21

      Who said he's against gay marriage? He's not!

      February 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • David

      Lizzie doesn't know what she is talking about. Obama never said he was against gay marriage. But he has made statements that he is open to different solutions at the state level whether it be marriage or civil unions.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:00 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.