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. Jesucrisco

    If only the Catholic Church had taken this strong a stance against child molestation, perhaps hundreds of thousands of children wouldn't be their victims.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  2. Jesucrisco

    I'd like to see that Catholic Church stop protecting child molesters. Then maybe they might have some moral authority.

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

      I agree completely!! The church has no morale code or order at all. The church doesn't have to worry about a birth control policy when it comes to molesting young boys, then it shouldn't it when it comes to birth control.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  3. ember

    ask the WOMEN what they want, not the churches. The Catholic church seems to not have a grasp that most women want this, and if they don't, they have the choice of not getting it. It seems from these articles that the people who are speaking out against this are men. (granted I'm not going out of my way to look deeply into this) These are for the rights of women, denying this option to those who are employed at a Catholic business, is denying this right to that group. Do they not know that contraceptives are not just for unwanted pregnancies. There are many medical reasons that they are used. This is ridiculous.

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

      The women are free to handle it as they wish, but the issue is simple. The government is trying to force the Catholic church to offer something to their employees that they do not believe in.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • ajbuff

      And they say that it's a shell game, but not see how idea of paying people a salary and then not being able to stop them from taking that money and spending it on birth control is no different. It is so silly. The compromise is a good one.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  4. 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 4:49 pm |
    • JohnRJohnson

      Of course, your very biased comment fails to consider where the statistics would be if Planned Parenthood wasn't around and contraceptives were against the law.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • jjb123

      sterilization for everyone! that will fix it

      February 10, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • ajbuff

      That doesn't even make any sense? Gee, I won't give women access to contraception and then the chances of pregnancy and STDs will be 100%. Genius! Great plan. Let's not talk about or distribute protection either – that will ensure that teenagers get pregnant and contract diseases. Your post has no point and makes no sense.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  5. AndreLinoge

    Look at the grown man in this photo wearing a ridiculous fairy tale costume while invoking ancient, primitive wisdom to a bunch of fools inside a building designed to look like it was built in the middle ages.

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

    Since when did the child molesting Catholic Church have any moral authority on anything?

    February 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Still Catholic

      Apples and Oranges. The priests who did those horrifying things were also breaking the tenets of the faith along with their vows. The church is still reeling and healting from that. This is about the government coming in to tell the church what it will and will not provide in terms of bcontrol which ALSO goes against the tenets of the faith. Those progresssive Catholics are not Catholics at all. I think they should form their own religion. Dont' like Catholics? Don't be one.

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

      They will never have any moral authority until the Catholic parishioners speak up, and take control of their churches. They must let the clergy know that they are there to serve the parishioners, and that their behavior is to now be monitored by a board of parishioners, and their employment can and will be severed if they refuse to take their proper place in the church.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • wga3g54a35a3

      if they want to run a business they need to follow business laws. what next, they won't have to obey minimum wage or safety regulations based on some new delusion they come up with?

      February 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  7. ma & pa

    We can get birth control on our own without this controlling law.

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

      The question is who pays? Insurance?

      February 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  8. food

    Can we please just get past stone age belief systems that collect money from you and promise something after you die.

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


      February 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  9. PoBoy

    I'm amazed that the Catholic Bishops would be so bold as to call out the President on this issue, when they were so deficient in dealing with their Priest Gone Wild with young boys. Given the fact that the vast majority of their flock is on the other side makes it more perplexing. Why the President saw a need to cave to them is beyond me, because they exert little control over their congregations as evidenced by the fact that over 80 percent of them support access to birth control.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  10. mudbone9

    @KevinE – people that think like you are scary. Sort of reminds me of the mindset of the Taliban.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  11. Jesucrisco

    When is the Catholic Church going to take a stand against child molestation and the prosecution of pedophiles within it's ranks?

    February 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  12. Djohn

    Show me a Catholic with 2 kids or less that is not on birth control.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  13. Beth

    I wish the Catholic Church was as concerned about the thousands of cases of child abuse committed by some of their priests as they are about birth control.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  14. Joe

    The Catholic Church is a religion so if they wish to provide insurance they should follow the same rules as every company. What if every Religion decides they object to different laws in America, do we repeal everything they object to???? I'm Catholic, do not believe in abortion, or birth control!!!! But the reality is the world should not be run based on my personal or religious beliefs!!!! If we do that we'll be no different than the Iranian theocracy. The Catholic church should understand that American Government has to deal with societal reality as a whole not on a Utopic religious point of view. We have millions or maybe billions of babies born into poverty and drugs so if there are options that can prevent population growth hopefully we can evolve enough to take care of everyone!!!! But in the meantime we cannot force Religion on everyone, no one believes the same thing anyway.

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

      If you're not Catholic, mind your own business.

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

      Then the Catholic church should stay out of government issues. They should also not be involved in hospitals, or anything that has a public venue and employs diverse people.

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

      With a population of 300 million, I doubt that you have billions of babies born into poverty, but it does seem they aren't getting the level of education they deserve.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  15. Dragon68

    You all don't get it. The point of this is that if forces a religion to financially subsidize a practice which viloates its beliefs. The purpose of the seperation of Church and State is two fold – That the church not have undue influence in government (as occurred in the monarchies of Europe) and to prevent the government form interfering with the free practice of ones individual religious beliefs (ala puritans and pilgrims in England, along with Quakers, Amish, and Mennonites from Central Europe.) This is what happens when we allow government to begin telling you what you must buy. In no other instance does the government force me to buy anything except for the new Healthcare mandates.

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

      Interesting. That's not what the noted anti-Catholic and enemy of religious freedom Antonin Scalia wrote in Employment Division vs Smith. Here's what the SCOTUS says: "Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. . . . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself." In another case he wrote for the Court in rejecting Amish claims that they did not have to collect Social Security taxes because it violated their religious freedom.

      The Bishops and the rest of those screaming about how religious freedoms are being trampled because, gasp, women might get birth control, are simply wrong, as a matter of fact and a matter of law. You don't get to decide which laws to obey just by claiming religious freedom. Even Justice Scalia can see that.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  16. Bert BigDongle

    What a complete crock. Catholic reaction is irrelevant anyway. Our dictator-wanna be in chief is MANDATING that an organization provide a certain type of healthcare "for free". Don't any of you koolaid drinkers see any issue with this? Would you get a warm and fuzzy feeling if George Bush MANDATED the details of your healthcare plan?

    February 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Hobie111111

      As long as Bush was providing affordable access to healthcare for my family, I wouldn't care what he mandated. So what's your point?

      February 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  17. TOTO

    what about religion? what about humanism? what about atheist? what about nuts? everybody has the right to proclaim whatsoever he wants. let people live in freedom, speak in liberty, people who attack religion is worse than the religious themselves.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  18. Jesucrisco

    The Catholic Church believes that women should be barefoot, pregnant, servants.

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

      not true. Go a site for heretics.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • TR6

      You forgot illiterate

      February 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  19. southernsugar

    Non-Catholics, mind your own business. Just stay out of the discussion.

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

      Or you'll do what?

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

      Thanks for proving our point!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • and...

      EXCUSE ME? This is an issue that concerns ALL Americans who work for these organizations whether they are Catholic or not. If you want bishops running your life then move to the Vatican. PLEASE.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Hypocrites

      Is all the Catholic religion is full of. That, pedophiles, and the good ol boy vatican club that protects them. How many issues has the catholic church flipped flopped on in the name of self preservation hmm? 10 yrs ago something was a sin and I was going to hell. 2 months ago, "hey guys its ok now". The catholic church wanted nothing to do with science yet now they have a massive, state of the art observatory at the vatican. Paid for with all them little hand baskets passed around the church. I was raised catholic but fortunately not stupid.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • blam

      Hows about you open your eyes for a change you sheep. This is America and this is an open forum and I will voice my opinion as much as I care too and there is nothing you can do to stop this. : )

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

      Non-child-bearing-aged-women stay out of the discussion. It's their business and theirs alone.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  20. blam

    The Catholics just want to make sure they have plenty more children to molest in the coming years.

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

      Mind your own business.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:46 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.