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

soundoff (2,082 Responses)
  1. Sifleut

    There goes religion preventing progress again!

    February 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  2. Chuck G.

    The religious nut cases in this country need to stop crying victim when anything rational is there for society.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  3. whybs

    Once upon a time, Ra was our god; Ra'ianty subjugated women. Today, christians perpetuate the tradition! 🙂

    February 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  4. Jesucrisco

    The Catholic Church also uses the "religious freedom" argument to protect itself from prosecution for the molestation of hundreds of thousands of children and the cover-ups.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  5. ZL

    Enough is enough, this is utter stupidity. Republicans if you TRULY do feel this way, prove it....why don't all of you go off birth control and stop using it if it's so evil. Why don't you actually 'do' what you try to ram down everyone else's throats, then maybe somebody will take your argument seriously.

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

      amen! LOL

      February 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • DinI

      Did you completely miss the point.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  6. Christina

    I think that the bishops in the Catholic church have taken this way out of line. By insisting on their no endorsement of use of contraceptives by Catholics they risk making themselves look hypocritical . Because after the 1968 Vatican council forbid their use, the parishioners were told they did not have to comply and that the issue was being left up to people's individual consciences. So I am very curious as to what that means. Are they revoking what they said back then ? I think this issue has been effectively addressed by the Obama administration. If the government concedes what should be secular laws that are designed to be fair to everybody to favor Catholics on the contraceptive issue what's to stop other religious groups from suing over the same thing? Imagine Muslims suing to practice their religious belief of being allowed by God up to 4 wives? Or those radical offshoots of the Mormon faith to sue saying they have a right to practice polygamy? The current secular law states only one legal marriage. Catholic church leadership
    is doing a very big disservice to fellow Christians and those of other faiths by insisting on their doctrine being made into law. If they were accommodated what would be the outcome? The bottom line is our law guarantees freedom of religion to ALL citizens not just Catholics. Each woman Catholic or otherwise should have the right to choose for themselves whether they use or don't use contraceptives. The truth is not every woman is the same. We all have different health issues. Not all of us can have unlimited babies or have them naturally. To lump us all in the same category is preposterous. It's 2012 not 1200. It's time for a policy review for the church. Does the health and well being of their female members matter? After my second child I had a health issue come up. I was hemmorhaging. I was literally minutes away from a needing blood transfusion to save my life. Back before modern medicine many women died of this very thing during/after childbirth . Why does the church ignore individual cases like mine? I don't need any human being to tell me that Jesus, my Saviour , loves me and forgives me for using contraceptives and not having any further children. I truly resent candidates like Rick Santorum making blanket statements like " the first thing I will do of elected president is to outlaw contraceptives" . That is his right to choose for himself but not anyone else. He offended me by not respecting my right to health and life. Rick Santorum, with his obvious Catholic doctrine bias, is not a fit candidate for public office. As a woman he has greatly offended me by not respecting my first amendment rights.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Waiting

      We now have a very conservative Pope. Mass is now in Latin. Reiteration the “Catholic Church is God’s Church.” Next up “only Catholics can go to heaven.”

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

      but...but...but...you don't understand. Santorum sees himself as a modern day Ward Cleaver. Mrs. Cleaver should just stay in the kitchen, bake cookies and procreate!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Justin

      Hi Christina,

      Actually, the Catholic Church has always taught that contraception is immoral. Vatican II did not somehow make contraception ok to use. Prior to 1930, every Christian denomination forbade contraception until the Anglican church permitted the use of it. The Catholic Church has never wavered on this, for good reason. Certain contraceptives can cause great harm and even death to a woman, but the media does a good job of weeding this information out.

      @Waiting – there is no such thing as a "very conservative" Pope – or very liberal Pope, for that matter. The faith and morals of the Church remain the same. The Mass is not "all in Latin" as you say, but rather, a church can have Mass in the Latin rite if the parishioners wish. The majority of all Masses are still in English.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  7. move31

    no one gives a damn about the catholic reaction. They cant even protect children from molestation in there own church. They hide the sick act by moving the priest to another church. The catholic church is the sickest most disgusting cult

    February 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  8. Former Catholic

    Now wait just a minute here! Free contraception? I have to pay the majority of the cost of my daughter's contraception; my insurance company pays a small percent. Where do I sign up for the free contraceptives?

    February 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • ldsmom02

      Just go to Planned Parenthood. You already pay for that.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  9. Federico Victor Guerra

    All religions are a thing of the past. I am glad I do not practice my catholic religion anymore, It is just pure nonsense.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  10. Reason & Logic

    The Catholic Church hierarchy is against this but I would venture to say that most Catholics do not. When a religious organization only allows the rhythm method for birth control then they either lose part of their congregation or most of the congregation will turn a blind eye and practice contraception as they please.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  11. scrollman

    If we allow the wing nuts to prevail, the next thing we will be faced with is the potential for life in an unfertilized egg. Allowing it to remain unfertilized, or not even trying to get it fertilized could lead to jail time. Sounds good from a paternalistic viewpoint, but will the wing nuts feed and shelter the offspring?

    February 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  12. Mychele

    Contraceptives are used to treat a variety of serious and troublesome female gynecological disorders- heavy bleeding, painful menses, endometriosis, etc. Are we really allowing a social control system dominated by men who have no personal knowledge of women's medical problems to shirk proper coverage and care for their female employees., or push these off toward the woman's own pocketbook, yet continue to cover male erectile dysfunction, no doubt.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Michele

      The pill is used to treat EVERYTHING under the sun for women's issues that wome used to just "tough out" and learn to deal with. When drugs are pushed in your face for every little thing in order to solve an issue...there's usually a hidden agenda...and it's usually big pharma that capitalizes on it. Half the women out there don't need the pill for half the crap that's wrong with them. Putting a 13 yr old on the pill to regulate her period and in order to avoid cramps and heavy bleeding is ridiculous. Suck it up and toughen up like the rest of us did. Not to mention putting all those hormones in your body isn't exactly the best thing for a young teen. Then women want to know why there's a rise in breast cancer? Come ON!!! High estrogen levels are highly linked to breast cancer...WHAT do you think the pill does? Over half the women out there are clueless to how the pill even works and to what it does to them. Twenty years from now lawyers are going to have a field day with all the law suits that will be involved for those using the pill...AND anyone with half a brain knows that it takes a good 2-3 yrs for a period to regulate...they don't even give it a chance nowadays...just shove a pill down your throat to take care of it...AT MY EXPENSE!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Justin

      Just saw a legal ad on TV for those who have had serious medical issues regarding the Pill.

      Do some research on The Pill and you'll find how dangerous it can be! Pope Paul VI was truly a prophet when it comes to the issue of contraception and what it can lead to.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  13. Skegeeace

    Catholics ruin things for EVERYONE. Notice I said "Catholics" and not "Christians". ;-{

    February 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Thinking7

      Catholics are Christians and are the church that Christ began. Look into the history, and you will see that the Catholic Church is Christ's church.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Justin

      The first Christians were former Jews and what would become the Catholic Church. Do your research.

      Catholics are Christians. Christians are Catholics. Period.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • J.W

      Thinking7 is lying. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates that. Unless you are going by 'tradition'

      February 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  14. Joseph

    The bishops should pull up their skirts and slide back into their spider holes. It's time for the Catholic Church to pay taxes and for the priest to stop buggering little boys.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  15. tellitlikeitis

    I don't understand why the Catholics do not show this much passion when the Church keeps and protects pedophiles. Both Washington and the Catholic Church remain silent on this one. Grown women can manage and take care of their own birth control, but, who is the spokesperson for all the children abused by these Catholic priests? Where's the outrage, the news media, and the mouth pieces for that???

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

      Lets not forget the 'moral masses' effectively and happily condemning others instead of all that 'help they neighbor' nonsense. And you wonder why people mock the 'faithful'.According to them, Jesus was a socialist

      February 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  16. Max Menon

    These guy priests have no shame? Trying to dictate what women can do? Wonder what would happen if women lawmakers all ganged up and demanded that all deviant males should be castrated !

    February 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  17. Calvin

    The Catholic church should be bowing down to Obama like the rest of you are.

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

      Totally agree. Thank you for your wisdom.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • DinI

      Nothing to bow to, he's just the president. A rather bad one at that!

      February 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  18. notfromtheisland

    OMG! This is not about the Catholic Church. This about Govt dictating to us what we should do. If you want access to public contraception go to any public clinic to get. If you cannot afford to have a child then take the responsiblity of getting your own contraception. This notion that somehow everyone should pay for women to have contraception for free goes against everything this country stands for. What is next? Should we pay for everyone to have a car? Is that the next "right". Should we pay for everyone's prozac, lipator, oxycotin for free? Give me a break!!!

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

      Do you have any idea how much society benefits by preventing an unwanted child from being born? Society means all of us. Some poor person with 5 kids already who can barely take care of them not having a 6th means one more person not breaking into your car 20 years later.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • TommyTT

      notfromtheisland, you've got it backward. The government is not telling individuals what to do. On the contrary, the insurance that employers partially pay for is NOT a gift from them. It is something the employee EARNS (and the cost of which reduces the employee's paycheck). Your employer has no right to tell you what you can do with what you've earned, and the Obama administration is trying to PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS AS AN INDIVIDUAL.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  19. TPF

    Kathleen Sebelius is in way over her head, she needs to go!

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

      You smelling your a$$ or something? Ok, try to let her go if you're tough as you think you are.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Justin

      @TPF – totally agree. Sebelius is just shooting herself in the foot.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  20. Johnny 5

    Religion should have to wear a condom at all times. They would eliminate ignorance from spreading any further.

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

      amen brother.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Kupledon

      Well said. Religion sucks. Religious people are here to control other humans. Both their bodies and minds.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • DinI

      Get a job you three

      February 10, 2012 at 5:21 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.