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

    Would anyone here leave their kid alone with a priest? Thought not.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • jack

      It is better to let people think your an idiot, rather than opening your mouth and removing ALL doubt!

      February 10, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  2. Drumcode

    Hey Ingrid! You're an idiot!

    February 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  3. Dan Sutton

    Message to the Catholics: "He's YOUR god, they're YOUR sins: YOU burn in hell."

    February 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Drumcode

      That's right b1tches!

      February 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  4. catholic engineer

    Stalin sarcastically asked "How many legions does the Pope have?" referring to Pius XII. The election of John Paul II set into motion a chain of events that brought down the Soviet empire – bloodlessly. The average anti-Christian blogger loves to insist that the Church is oh so violent. Stalin knew better. If the Roman Catholic church can bring down Soviet communism, bringing down minor tyrants like B.O. would be like swatting a fly. After all, the church speaks with the voice of God for a fourth of the planet's population – just as authorized by its Founder.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • realitybites

      Yeah, nice history lesson there. How about the one where the papacy in France was compliant in turning over thousands of Jews to the Nazi's duing WW2? Sure did a great job engineering the downfall of Hitler. Why the Cathoic church was an awesome force to recon with then. Remember when the Pope conscripted the US to send forces over to Europe to save his ass from the same fate under Mousselini and his Nazi friends? I don't either. A lot of good Cathoics American's died in that war but, not for the Pope or for Catholicism's sake, but for humanitie's sake. Get over yourself, you're about as much an engineer as a loaf of bread. Actually a loaf of bread is nourishing. Here's a wonderful quote from a Pope. Kill 'em all. God will sort them out.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  5. gffds

    Should show an illegal for 20 kids. That would be more representative of the Catholic population of this country.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  6. Joe B

    They are living in the past, man

    February 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  7. Dick Hertz

    Why do we let child molesters have a say in anything. Their clergy uses anal love of little boys as a contraceptive practice. Instead of the corn they like the cornhole.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  8. chrsnck

    I really dont see what the issue was in the first place. If you work for a church or religious agency you should not be held to what they want you to do if its dangerous. Frankly not allowing your employees to use condoms to protect against STD's and unwanted pregnancy based on religious reasons is wrong and dangerous. What happens when someone contracts HIV because they didnt have access to condoms? THat person will sue and win because they were prevented from using their services by their employer. Regardless of if its a religous organization or not they are an employer and therefore should have to act accordingly just like any other employer. With this situation its allowing the religious organizations to dictact their employees lives and will put some of them in dangerous situations.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  9. Marc

    It doesn't take many Catholics adhering to church teaching on birth control to make a difference. As many VERY large families as there are who belong to the church I attend, I would say that if the trend continues and the rest of of you continue to limit procreation, Practicing Catholics will be a majority in no time. :O)

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

      And priests will have a never ending supply of young, innocent, victims.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  10. Jesucrisco

    If you can't trust a Church with your children, how can you trust them with your soul?

    February 10, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  11. Jesucrisco

    Anyone want to leave their kid alone with the fat guy with the funny hat?

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

      Why not try showing some respect for once in your useless life.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  12. Hamilton

    Just checked St. Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta and the Archdiocese of Atlanta – both offer health plans with prescription coverage through traditional insurance companies. Since 1999 Georgia law has required ALL insurance plans to cover birth control if they cover ANY prescriptions

    Somehow I have totally missed the protests all these years.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  13. Johny james

    Obama changed his lines in a way for his re election. Still the employer (Catholic Churches) have to buy this benefit package from Insurance companies. Thereby violates the basic principles. Still the insurance companies are mandated to provide free contraception and related products. Shows that Barack Hussain Obama does not care about religious freedom. He is only looking to win the election and the country will be a basket case like Greece.

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

      whatever dude...

      February 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Josh

      The country will be broke like Greece if a few more Republicans like Bush come to power.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • jack

      The country will be broke like Greece if a few more Republicans like Bush come to power.
      It's more than obvious that your either too stupid to read or you can't read period. Obama announced that he will spend 1.3 Trillion in 2012 ( That's TRILLION ) And you have the gall to talk about republicans. Your no different than the politicians we have in office now, Your one sided, and that is why nothing gets done.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • MyCNNTake

      I am Catholic and I do not agree with everything the church says. I do not agree with the Catholic church imposing their religious views to anyone working for them, regardless of their religion. That is called discrimination.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Stubby

      It's Hussein – get it right Johny "know-nothing."

      February 11, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  14. Jesucrisco

    I was raised in a very Catholic area. I knew several kids who were molested by priests.

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

      That's stupid, Maybe you should leave earth because unfortunately Kids get molested everywhere's in the world. So don't put all the blame on the Church.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  15. sheshie

    victory is sweet!!!!!! :-}

    February 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  16. Joe

    If the Catholic Church is so concerned with politics then why do they align themselves with the right wing???? That is not in complying with the church teachings????? The right wing believes in local state control along with a concentration of wealth for a small minority that leaves people enslaved to corporations!!!!!!! That is exactly why I'm a devout Catholic that does not go to church anymore, I don't need a corrupt Church working along side government. THEIR SUPPOSED TO BE A RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION NOT A POLITICAL LOBBYIST!!!!! ALL LOBBYIST ARE SEEKING A BENEFIT FOR THEMSELVES!!!!! CATHOLIC CHURCH HASN'T NOT CHANGED ONE BIT, JUST GOTTEN WORSE!!!!


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

      The Catholic church has been political for centuries. Why are you shocked they are policitical now?

      February 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Anthony

      I used to be Catholic too. The politics, covering up for molesters, and the fact i felt like a hypocrate for using birth control, I left. I now go to the Episcopal Church. The service is similar to the Catholic service, but we are encouraged to think for ourselves and we don't have a Pope as a leader. The leader of our church is Jesus Christ.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  17. Ted

    So the Catholic Church that does not let women server the church in any influential matter consider the use of birth control to be a huge religious rights issue. That combined with abortion being their main concern over any other matter seems to be that they pretty much want women back in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant. Seems odd as almost all Catholic women use birth control.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  18. Alboree

    Why is the Catholic Church so obsessed with contraceptives. Are they afraid they will run out of little boys to molest.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Jesucrisco

      Yes, they are.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  19. Jesucrisco

    Any church that you can't trust with your children, can't be trusted with anything.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  20. realitybites

    Mixed Catholic reaction to revised White House contraception plan

    Just like the congregation's reaction to their church's doctrine.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
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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.