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. Brooklyn Boy

    When I read the drivel released by the church, I am so glad I saw through this ludicrous organization when I was 12 and that I never went back. The President made a huge mistake by giving any ground on this issue. These phony perverts decked out in costumes that look as though they were stolen from a 3rd rate Shakesperian road show don't deserve that kind of consideration – especially when vurtually all catholic women use contraceptives anyway. I just can't figure out why otherwise intelligent, educated 21st Century men and women waste their time wth this fantasy nonsense.

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

      Well said!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  2. Jesucrisco

    When the Catholic Church stops molesting children and protecting the priests that do it, perhaps they'll have the moral authority to tell other people how they should live their lives.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  3. Clint

    The women hater catholic church has declared war on women. It's fine to bugger children, but not okay for a woman to use contraceptives. The money grubbing pedofiles should be closed down and the priest arrested as pedofiles.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • always be trolling


      February 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  4. Bob

    It's not a matter of who pays for it. If you are Catholic it's just not allowed. Somebody should sit down with Obama and try to explain it slowly, in small words.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • mike in dallas

      Why small words? So you can understand them? End their tax breaks now.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Steve J

      Then 98% of Catholic women should be thrown out of the church for doing it! They are only being required to follow the same rules that other employers are rather than being given a blanket exemption because they have fantasies to the contrary. If churches didn't believe in minimum wage or safe working environments (if someone gets hurt, it's God's will, right?), etc., should they be exempted from laws/rules concerning those issues too?

      February 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • SZ

      Dear Bob:

      It seems that what we should all work on is explaining the Bishops and the Catholic Church that abusing children is not allowed.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • CR

      and there's so many good Catholics out there

      February 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • always be trolling

      time to abort the church tax breaks

      February 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Sildenafil

      If you're Catholic and it isn't allowed, don't do it then.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • TR6

      @Bob”If you are Catholic it's just not allowed. “

      That’s fine for that Catholics; but, your ignoring the non caholics that work for catholic hospitals and universities?

      February 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  5. ma & pa

    "They're missing the point when they say this is about contraception. This is about religious freedom." Agreed. Also, comparison: You domesticate the free animal by giving it unnecessary food, thereby causing it to not forage independently, depend on you and then bend to your will. It's birthright of freedom is lost. Don't be that animal anytime.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  6. Tracy

    I see many posts relating to birth controll being a choice and should not have to be covered. Do these same people also feel that pregnancy should not be covered? That too is a choice to become prgnant and by logic businesses should not have to cover that either. By this logic should infertility treatments be covered? Also foreveryone posting that you can get free condoms at Planned Parenthood, yes you can, but someone is paying for these somewhere along the line. Be careful about using the "choice" arguement about what should and should not be covered. Its a dangerous raod to start down. A choice in one persons eyes is often not in anothers...

    February 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  7. KevinE

    I tell you the truth, Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to heaven. Your ticket to heaven has already been paid for. Jesus Christ paid for the price of our ticket with his precious blood he shed on the cross for our sins when he laid down his life for us! Jesus took our place for the judgment of our sins and rebellion and hatred against God. The ticket to heaven has already been paid for!!! ... You cannot enter through the narrow gate of heaven by your own selfish good works and expect to get to heaven by that. But it is by God's grace he has saved us through our FAITH IN HIM! To experience God's best and greatest gift, you have to accept and receive God's GIFT... ETERNAL LIFE through JESUS CHRIST. Jesus Christ is the ONLY way. Jesus is Lord! <3

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

      How does this pertain to the article?

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

      from Professor JD Crossan's book, "Who is Jesus" co-authored with Richard Watts)

      "Moreover, an atonement theology that says God sacrifices his own son in place of humans who needed to be punished for their sins might make some Christians love Jesus, but it is an obscene picture of God. It is almost heavenly child abuse, and may infect our imagination at more earthly levels as well. I do not want to express my faith through a theology that pictures God demanding blood sacrifices in order to be reconciled to us."

      "Traditionally, Christians have said, 'See how Christ's passion was foretold by the prophets." Actually, it was the other way around. The Hebrew prophets did not predict the events of Jesus'last week; rather, many of those Christian stories were created to fit the ancient prophecies in order to show that Jesus, despite his execution, was still and always held in the hands of God."

      "In terms of divine consistency, I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time, including Jesus, brings dead people back to life."

      February 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Dan613

      Iris, you are asking waaaaayyyy too much!! Kevin has no brains, his were brainwashed by the precious blood of of his dead god.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • KevinE

      Everything outside of Jesus Christ is death and temporary. Accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior is the most important decision we can ever make in our life on earth.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • KevinE

      @Reality: You can try to deny and try to disprove Jesus Christ all your want, but the truth remains forever and ever.

      Deep down in your heart you really know God really does exist. Look around all creation! Every design has to have a designer. Every painting has to have a painter. The universe and the earth was not created by chance. But God created it! It was created by JESUS CHRIST. Jesus created the world and then lived in it when he put on human flesh, and then bore our sins upon him on the cross. And those that believe in him and follow him and REPENT will enter through the narrow gate of heaven for eternity! AMEN!!! 🙂

      February 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Jose

      I Believe....that you are completely brainwashed. Hate to break it to you, Religion is a man-made sham, created by our, primative and barbaric ancestors...promoted today by often the most repulsive hypocrits and charlatons of all. Religion has long been debunked, extraordinary claims required extraordinary evidence, Religion provides none of the latter. Believe in your fairy tales if you wish, but Please do not prothlesize your delusions upon others who wish to be free thinkers.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Frank

      Jesus Freaks are oblivious to other religions as well as to the notion of requiring evidence before believing something.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  8. Reality

    Only for the newbies:

    Contraception should mean complete protection from getting pregnant and from contracting a S-TD. Unfortunately, this is not happening . And why is that?

    The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate, one million unplanned pregnancies) and male con-doms (17.4% failure rate, another one million unplanned pregnancies ) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Se-xually active teens, young adults and adults must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute.

    from the CDC-2006 with some health and economic eye openers:

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (i.e. the Bill Clinton Syndrome)

    Obviously, Planned Parenthood, parents and the educational system has failed on many fronts.

    (note: some words hyphenated because of an obvious word filter)

    February 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  9. Preligion

    There's something really, really wrong when religious leaders are engaging in negotiations and compromises with politicians.

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

      There's something really really wrong when politicians think they can legislate the tenets of a 2000+ year old religion.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Leslie

      I say TAX the church, then they can have a say!!!!!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  10. mudbone9

    @Mike – it's only in your mind. Obama will win reelection in 2012 because Republicans are all greedy, stingy and otherwise backwards. We need a President that thinks before he acts and genuinely cares about all the American people and not just the 1%. I predict that he will win with at a minimum of 60% of the vote.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  11. Really?

    I wish the Catholic church was this vocal about the widespread abuse that has occured on their watch. Everything is OK once it is swept under the rug right? These clowns are a complete joke.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  12. Bob

    OK, Dolan, now get back to what's important: Playing with little boys.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  13. SAC

    Just when I thought I couldn't become more alienated from the religion in which I was raised...

    Bishop Dolan, if you're listening, you digust me.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  14. Billy

    I am so absolutely sick of religion... when I say I have up close and personal experience with it, I mean I do. God is cool... but religion is a waste of human time and attention.

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

      Your free to believe or not, we should be free to make our own choices as well.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  15. Thinking7

    This is about religious freedom. This is not about the Catholic Church, although it is the Catholic Church that took an open stand on the issue. I applaud the church for standing up and doing what all of the Christian churches in this nation should do. Demand religious freedom. Christians want health care for all, but we do not want to pay for abortifacients and contraception in our health care plan. We just want an opt out clause for that issue. Period. It is about religious freedom.

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

      No it isn't about religious freedom. It's about a government doing all it can to help regulate the population explosion that is in part caused by the ridiculous notion that just because you can have a lot of kids you should.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Luke

      The Supreme Court just smacked the Obama administration down last month for trying to control the Church. Now they've had to backtrack on another intrusion. Let's see how smart they really are.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  16. scott

    I have two words for them-too bad. Frankly I don't think they should be tax exempt unless they prove they are providing a needed public service. The era of having 20 children is over-time to grow up and begin addressing the real issues like the fact that 6 million people starve to death every year.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  17. Luke

    The question remains...who is paying for it? If the religious have to pay insurance companies to "provide it for free," nothing has changed. This "accomodation" is a scam.

    By the way, what gives the govt. the authority to make a private company (ie insurers) give something for free? I smell another court challenge.

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

      It's a standard of medical care that all other employer provided insurance plans have to offer. Why should anyone be exempt especially when it's the employees choice whether to use it or not.

      Also, most Catholic women are very much for birth control.

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

      Nope, it's not a standard that's provided "for free." Such standards don't exist. Somebody pays.

      >>Also, most Catholic women are very much for birth control.<<


      February 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Jared


      It is a simple matter of seperation of church and state, only this time it isn't the 10 commandments being pulled down. The Catholic church doesn't believe in contraceptives and the government is trying to force them to offer them in the insurance package. The state has no right to make such a demand.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  18. Jesucrisco

    It's interesting that the Catholic Church is so interested in more children being born when it's so clear that they can't be trusted not to molest them.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  19. PaulNYC

    Since I don't see Jesus bring up contraception once in the New Testament (or abortion), I will have to assume that it is something that the church added later for its own purpose.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Thinking7

      It actually is mentioned in the Bible several times. Do a search. You will not find the word "contraception." Other words are used to describe it.

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

      Some of us Christians believe that since the world is over crowded and resources are being used up quickly, contraception is our Christian DUTY. We need to limit the number of children we bring into this world. But I don't expect the old men who try to make the rules for Roman Catholics to understand that.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  20. Doris

    I've been a catholic all my life and it was never a question that I would be and that I am on the pill....when the Catholic church wants to give me financial support for all the kids that I may have because of not using the pill then they can talk.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • jjb123

      um... close your legs?

      February 10, 2012 at 4:49 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.