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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

    Birth control could have save tens of thousands of innocent Catholic children from being molested by the Catholic Church. But the church wouldn't want that.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Gregory Faith

      Was this a SLOW news day for CNN?

      February 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  2. Don't get fooled by Atheists.....

    Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE and unhealthy for our children and living things!

    † Atheism makes you stupid, ignorant & blind.
    † Atheism is a disease that needs to be treated.
    † Atheism makes you post stupid things.
    † Atheist are satanic and have gothic lifestyle.
    † Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith.
    † Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
    † Atheism making you agree with Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot & other terrible mass murder leaders.
    † No traditional family lifestyle, boring and feeling 'outsider'
    † Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel "safer" behind closet.
    † Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God and argue with religious people.
    † Atheists have had terrible life experience, bad childhood and not being loved.
    † Most Atheists are uneducated... No Atheists could run for presidency.
    † Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history.
    † Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists.
    † All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals.
    † The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
    † Atheism have no holidays, no culture, no nothing. Waste of living in this planet...

    †† Our Prayers goes to Atheists to be healthy and seek their creator ††

    February 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • and...

      Ha! What an ignorant rant... dipping into the communion wine were ya? Moron.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Gregory Faith

      That is EXACTLY why I am an athiest. Stupid people saying stupid stuff. Go back to the dark ages you cretin

      February 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • tekstep1

      Reasons why this poster is stuck in the dark ages: too many to count.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Drumcode

      This is the most idiotic thing I've ever read in the history of everything. Majority of geniuses to ever walk this planet were atheist you tool!

      February 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Dont be a foolish theist

      No

      February 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Ingrid

      I was ex atheist who converted to Christianity 5 years ago. I left atheism because they were attacking religious people and being arrogant.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Mom

      Gregory Faith @ Who cares if you left your religion.... you're the one going to h.e.ll not me 🙂

      February 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  3. Jazzy

    Obama has no spine. He caves.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Drumcode

      So does your gay boyfriend.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  4. dennis hill

    Who cares what the catholic are doing or what they think? haJd, pdh

    February 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  5. Sh8un

    Who really check all those cash donations at all church??!!! Do you really think Churches report all those earning. I agree with " Honesty" Tax the church.
    The Richest religious organization in the world is "Catolic Church" Their asset are well above a trillion dollar(and counting).
    they have many factories all around the world including USA. even they have a plastic factory in New Yourk??!!!

    February 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  6. Jesucrisco

    The Catholic Church is the classic Pharisee Church that Jesus railed against. They condem others and pretend to be a moral authority on the outside while on the inside they are perverted and rotten to core.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Mike Hall

      Evangelical churches are more like the pharisee churches. They're more public about loving Jesus.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  7. Marc

    There are only 74,000,000 Catholics in this country. I don't know what Obama's worried about :o)

    February 10, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • Steve Agnostic

      ONLY 74 million? That's a huge number!

      There are 247 million Christians in America (~80%)

      February 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Ed

      I wonder what percentage of those 74,000,000 are child molesters as compared to the rest of the population.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • J.W

      Yeah and most of those Catholics support this law.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  8. and...

    From a recent Fox News poll:
    "Overall, do you approve or disapprove of requiring employer health plans to cover birth control for women?
    Approve 61%
    Disapprove 34
    (Don’t know) 5"

    February 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Sashland

      Now ask: should Catholic Churches, hospitals and schools be required to pay for birth control and abortion for their employees?

      Is that the same question as the poll?

      February 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  9. Jason D

    I once worked at a hotel which was being used that weekend with a group of catholic priests and nuns for some religious thing...one day in i had to unblock the sewer pipe as it had clogged (yes my life wasnt always wine n roses).

    I used the rods and a corkscrew end to unclog the area of sewer drain....what did i find come out that had clogged up the pipe????

    I found probably 50 to 100 condoms in a clump, the sewer had been working the day before so it wasnt from previous guests, i told the owner of the hotel when asked if id cleaned it up and was taken aside and told to never tell anyone about what id found....i never said id not write it down though...so this is me being all silent about what somewhere between 40 and 60 priests and nuns got up to on an axclusive weekend at a hotel....remember though, they hired the entire place so no other guests and im sure who put all those condoms down the toilets thought theyd never clog the drains up and me have to go and uncork them.

    Some things deserve to remain secret but this wasnt one of them

    February 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • BethTX

      This post made my afternoon!

      February 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Gregory Faith

      Just another reason why I am an athiest. Religious people doing things that non religious people do. Shame on them!

      February 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  10. The Phist

    Forced sterilization would eliminate the catholic problem we have.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  11. Bill

    Yet another Owebummer boo boo. What a fickin idiot.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  12. M1sf1ts

    Government Mandate is Tyranny.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  13. emma

    If you don't want birth control don't get it. Just because it is an option doesn't mean you have to utilize that option.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  14. Jesucrisco

    Would anyone let the fat guy with the silly hat be alone with your child? Thought not.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  15. Gerry Daley

    Of course they are against it. As a sub-set of the GOP they will be against anything their racist, gay hating, women hating masters are against. Their own Church members don't even support them. A Catholic's (having been one) is to shut up, pay up, and put up with a bunch of hypocritical pedophiles who ought to be taxed, along with the Baptists and any religious organization that lobbies to have their own personal beliefs and myths pushed down every else's throats.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  16. Jesucrisco

    Would anyone here trust a priest alone with your child? The Catholic Church has no moral authority whatsoever.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  17. 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 5:06 pm |
  18. mark in las vegas

    Priests don't need birth control. They only like little boys and they can't have babies.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Steve Agnostic

      Eastern Orthodox and Protestant priest could get married and have children.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Brandon, from Kentucky

      People like you are an abomination and embarrassment to this nation.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  19. rp

    Our country will never move forward until we stop folding to the idiocracy of religion.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Ingrid

      Then parhaps you should consider moving to another country...

      February 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  20. Jim in Georgia

    Seems to be a lot of hate for the church...
    As Carl Rove would say, "Any issue can be a wedge issue".

    February 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Sheepleherder

      Not really "hate for the Church" just a lot of disrespect for those who use the Church as a vehicle for their own political agenda, even more disrespect for those in the Church who ALLOW politicians to USE them. There was nothing in the law that forced any employee to use contraceptives, the only thing in there was wording that gave the CHOICE of having it available to the people who work for the Church.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:13 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.