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.

CNN's Belief Blog – all the faith angles to the day's top stories

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. Frank Cardenas

    This entire controversy was contrived by the GOP and it just shows how out of touch they are with average people.

    February 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • wes

      hate to break it to you but catholics overwhelmingly vote democrat., well maybe not anymore. This issue isn't about birth control, its about big government.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  2. Thomas

    @Jewish Mom

    Orthodox Judaism , Catholicism , Mormonism ,what about Islam ?

    February 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  3. Pathetic

    It has always saddened me that people cannot seem to think for themselves! We do not need nor require an 'on high' to preach the RIGHT way to live our lives. I have aways been able to decide for myself right from wrong or to choose how many children I would have. If all forms of religion would go away today it would make for a much better world.

    February 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • southernsugar

      Catholics think for themselves. We choose to follow Christ, who walked this earth and showed us a path to eternal life. We choose the path to eternal life/heaven.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Dennis Fung

      So how come your divine with his bastard son gave his other sects wildly different instructions than he gave yours?

      February 10, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • wes

      This is not about birth control per se, its about big government. This is what we all feared with the passage of Obamacare. "We have to pass it to see what's in it" right Pelosi. I bet you don't even know who that is. moron

      February 10, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Matt

      Well southersugar, may your time in purgatory be short. Hope you got lots of money to have your soul prayed into heaven.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  4. USA is a Christian nation.....

    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...

    February 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • ...

      click 'report abuse' to get rid of this spam

      February 10, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • VoiceFrmLeft

      Frankly, Christians AND Atheists are both pretty friggin annoying. You both have closed minded viewpoints from a non-objective source.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Dennis Fung

      Your nom de guerre and every line of your post are all wrong. No thanks for coming out, stupid.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • wes

      its not about being a christian nation, its about government control over our ideas and thoughts.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Blah

      No nothing? Haha, you simpletons make me laugh.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • RDUB

      @USA>>>blah blah. You really need to leave your mom's basement and step out into the sun. It is an amazing feeling.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • VoiceFrmLeft

      @wes: if you think gov't is controlling your thoughts, seek help. I'm not kidding, that's not a political jab, seriously... seek help.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • poopmeister

      What about other religions that don't follow a God? I celebrate holidays, I love my dog and I don't worship a God. I live a happy life and I make the people around me happy. It's usually Godly people that are rude, one-sided in their beliefs and only think of infrindgement in their right; not the rights of others. It's never been about forcing Catholic organizations to go against their beliefs, it's been about taking steps to solve the healthcare system which has been broken for a long time now. The federal government is creating a solution to a problem that these "said" organizations should have solved a long time ago for their employees. If they took earlier steps to address the issues, then the federal government probably would not have needed to intervein.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • The Phist

      Voice, you are incorrect. Atheists tend to study various religious viewpoints, doctrines and histories. This is why we become atheists.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  5. Prayer makes your pets look at you and wonder what the fock you're doing, then they worry you will be taken away to the place for sick people and nobody will feed them

    Don't scare your pets.
    Say NO to prayer.

    February 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • USA is a Christian nation.....

      At least religious people don't abuse their pets like atheists

      February 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Dennis Fung

      Religious folk abuse both atheists and pets sexually.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  6. Ramon

    "burder king" catholics sicken me! they "want it their way". The Catholic Church is NOT pro-choice and is against contraception. If you choose to sin and do those things -leave and find another cihurch – or stay and take your chances – that is between you and GOD – BUT to advocate others to do the same? That is just WRONG!

    February 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • southernsugar

      May God forgive your ignorance.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • VoiceFrmLeft

      The Catholic church has evolved on many issues over many centuries, and this will be another evolution as well. Whatever purity test you're advocating doesn't exist, since the Vatican itself is a governing body of the church that can change its stance at will. Get over yourself.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Hypocrite much?

      Do you tell this to your remarried catholic friends who haven't gotten an annulment?


      February 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  7. Mercyme


    February 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  8. bobcat2u

    The bottom line is, the Catholic church or anbody else has the right to tell anyone how to approach the question of contraception. Would they rather that married couples who choose not to, or are fiscally unable to have a family at this time, have children anyway ? This is not a prudent move by the powers that be. Stay the hell out of peoples private lives.

    February 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  9. laurence

    Why are catholioc priest so up in the air about this? could it be that they want to make certain that there plenty of little alter boys to take the place of the ones they've used up?

    February 10, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  10. FedUpTexan

    The Conference of Catholic Bishops has never objected to employer-paid insurance covering Viagra or Cialis prescriptions for men. Denying women coverage for birth control is blatant discrimination on the basis of gender.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • allens

      at least they did not neglect the little boys. they have zero moral ground. if they were not involved directly, they knew it was happening. true evil

      February 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • tx4ever

      There are a lot of elective medicines not covered by employers. get a clue

      February 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • really?

      @tx you really know how to make someone's stomach turn! Shouldn't you be spinning your head completely around and throwing up pea soup by now? Its clear your a racist bigot. You dont have to say anymore.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • FedUpWithTexans

      Not even remotely the same thing. Viagra and Cialis are not contraceptives. Stop trying to mix apples and oranges.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • southernsugar

      I expect no more from a Texan. For Catholics, it is a sin to interfere with the seed of life. Got it?

      February 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  11. VoiceFrmLeft

    All these arguments about "being forced by the gov't" to do something are pretty ridiculous. Insurers have to cover it, that's the job of an insurer. Catholics have the OPTION to use it, that's the choice of an individual. Catholic hospitals, as in the case of all hospitals, are beholden to insurance if they want to offer care. Canned outrage from the opposition is just an opportunity to publicly demoralize themselves and defiantly say how out of touch with society they truly are.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • BigBrotherWatch

      Wake up, America. Presidential fiats dictating what must be paid for by insurance companies. Abortion services are next: Obama is a tool for Planned Parenthood.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • VoiceFrmLeft

      @BigBrotherWatch: Responses from people in tinfoil hats are the most entertaining. Thank you

      February 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  12. Jeffer65

    This election is supposed to be about the economy, not issues like this. Besides don't some states have laws requiring insurers to cover birth control no matter what?

    I've known several women who describe themselves as "recovering Catholics". What does that tell you? I'm Lutheran, we can use birth control.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • tx4ever

      either way...Obama will lose

      February 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • southernsugar


      February 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  13. Satan

    The Catholic Church decries being forced to pay for contraception, citing that it is the government infringing on religious freedom...then says that it should not be an option at all. Which is it, Catholics? Freedom or no freedom? The government may not be able to tell you you have to pay for contraception, but you can't tell the government it can't tell insurers they don't have to pay for it. You should be thankful you're exempted and leave it alone. It will be over my dead body that I live in a country where Catholics, Evangelicals, Baptists, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, or any other religions tells me or anyone else what is allowed and what isn't.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • really?

      Well put Satan!

      February 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • tx4ever

      Obama spent too many years with Rev Wright and his hostile towards Christians. Bye bye Obama. You can move back to your homeland (Kenya)

      February 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • southernsugar

      I will follow what my religion says. No fool like you will ever make me doubt the Holy Roman Catholic Church, nor the Pope. God forgive and bless you.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Satan

      @southernsugar, I don't need forgiveness for being a free thinking human with a functional mind. "Praying" for people and hoping they get "forgiven" who share 0% of your views is a passive way of saying "I hate your guts." Well guess what, southernsugar, I hate you too. The only difference between you and I is that I'm honest enough to say it unabashedly and clearly so there is no confusion. I honestly don't care that you do what the Church tells you to do. Everyone needs a master. I hate people who, because they wholeheartedly think something is wrong, think everyone WILL abide by that viewpoint. Do you know how many atheists and protestants (who are fellow Christians) the Catholic Church murdered for doing nothing more than questioning the teaching of the Church? Millions. MILLIONS. You can hide behind your faith. I choose to live my life out in the open and call out hypocrisy when I see it. People like you are the way you are because you are taught to never question anything, and that's unfortunate. I was raised in a Catholic home...a devoutly Catholic home, actually. I even went to a Catholic school...the faculty and administration of which told me I was wrong and "different" for questioning the BS their church says and the glaring contradictions contained in the Bible. They told me that. Your church sucks. LOL NO JOKE. You people are insane.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Ramon

      Shouldn't that go the other way also?

      February 10, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  14. tx4ever

    Obama is a closet Atheist

    February 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • .

      Lying is a sin

      February 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • really?

      Just as you are a closet child molester right?

      February 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • poopmeister

      This is actually an attack on something a step above one religion's God, the federal government! It is suppose to be separation between church and state, so why is it that God is smeared all over our society. The reason I say that government is a step above the "God" of the Catholic religion is because there are and should always be equal rights among all religions and this country is suppose to embrace all of their citizens religions. If I ever end up in a court room and need to be sweared in on the holy bible, do you think I should complain about it? For me, I could be swearing on a Curious George book and it would mean the same thing. I'm sick of our society pushing their Christian and Catholic beliefs down my throat, suck it up and let's do it for all the women out there....provide some choices for the common person!

      February 10, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "Obama is a closet Atheist"
      You are probably correct. He appears to be too smart to be a believer. It's just sad that he has to hide it.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
  15. perrrob

    Religion is a plight and an obstacle to Enlightenment. This is the 21st century and it's more than time to eliminate these primitive beliefs.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • southernsugar

      You have no idea what you're talking about.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • really?

      Well said perrob! @tx you are vile! Racist! And amount other things. STUPID! close your mouth your breath stinks from the children you've eaten while they dreamed! FREAK!

      February 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  16. Republican

    The president is following the true word of christ, which was to protect the poor from the elitist religous leaders that preyed on their weakness. Thanks Mr. rpesident for making sure women are protected and that all american people have acess to healthcare.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  17. Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
    Prayer wears out your clothes prematurely.
    Prayer contributes to global warming through excess CO2 emissions.
    Prayer fucks up your knees and your neck and your back.
    Prayer can cause heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
    Prayer reveals how stupid you are to the world.
    Prayer exposes your backside to pervert priests.
    Prayer makes you think doilies are exciting.
    Prayer makes your kids avoid spending time with you.
    Prayer prevents you from getting badly needed exercise.
    Prayer makes you frothy like Rick Santorum. Just google him to find out more.
    Prayer dulls your senses.
    Prayer makes you post really stupid shit.
    Prayer makes you hoard cats.
    Prayer makes you smell like shitty kitty litter and leads you on to harder drugs.
    Prayer is completely ineffective.
    Prayer wastes time.

    February 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Blah

      Haha, this made my day

      February 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Holy Day

      I prayed someone would say that!

      February 10, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  18. Jewish Mom

    Orthodox Judaism prohibit the use of birth control pill too. America is a Judeo-Christian country

    February 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • really?

      No its not muthafuka! Can I call you that? America is a governmental democracy! Free from religious idiocies! Stop confusing yourself!

      February 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • VoiceFrmLeft

      Freedom of religion also means "freedom from religion". We are not a theocracy.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • wes

      America is a republic dumb a$$.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Another jew

      No it doesn't. Re-read the talmud. Abortion is permitted, too. Life doesn't start until you draw your first breath. The closest you have is that it is a sin to release semen in vain, which primarily refers to masturbation and nocturnal emissions. And if we want to be strictly talmudic, I certainly hope you isolate yourself during menstruation. And don't forget, no singing in public.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  19. ron

    Watch out folks. This Catholic has read the Book of Revelation! Who is it again that joins forces with the anti-christ???

    February 10, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • southernsugar

      Yes, we've read Revelations. Have you? It can be very frightening if you do not choose to live the path Jesus Christ laid for all people. Read your bible and pray.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  20. Jewish Mom

    247 million American Christians.... Good Luck Obama all I have to say to you if you keep doing this now 😀

    February 10, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • ron

      You're right. Jews should vote for the party that says Jews are polluting the white race! What? You didn't know that? LOL Review the list of CPAC speakers....

      February 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • wes

      Ron, I am a jew and a conservative. Who has said that? Please tell us all who has said that. YOu do realize the democrats refused to give the woman the right to vote and implemented separate but equal laws (jim crow). you belong to the racist party and don't seem to know that. America is doomed. Dumbed down, idiots.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:11 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.