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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. Enrique Arguello

    .

    February 10, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • tony

      You're confusing "proof" with deliberately published lies by religious organizations. In order to keep the faithful happy and still deluded.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  2. Enrique Arguello

    ? Did you know the cynicism of this administration? Planned Parenthood (government run), receives funds from The American Cancer Society. It has been proved that anti- contraceptive pills are the number one cause of cancer in women, particularly cervix cancer. However how come it does not surprise me. This is the same president that took the vacant seat that Rod Blagojevich was trying to sell to someone else and was convicted in 17 counts of corruption and now seats in jail for many years. Oh and I forgot to mention, President Barack Obama was his top advisor!

    February 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Snooper

      Nobody is forcing you to take birth control. However, it is the church who is trying to force you not to use birth control.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • sam

      You have incorrectly imagined that you have anything relevant to say, then compounded the problem by posting over and over as if you just can't resist sharing your wisdom. Is this your first time on a forum? Are you just so excited, you could almost pee yourself over it?

      February 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Mctaket

      No wonder you can't seperate fact from fiction about birth control, you can't even get basic facts right about a scandal that was in the news for months! Obama didn't get a seat from Blagojevich!! Obama was elected. Obama ran for President and won! Obama couldn't keep his seat in the Senate and be President at the same time, so that left his seat in the Senate empty. Blagojevich then tried to "sell" the seat because as Govenor, he got to name Obama's replacement. Got it?

      February 10, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Flinders, the butler

      Cite the cancer study.....you can't. Stop getting your science from EWTN.

      February 10, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  3. angel611

    HYPOCRITES.
    They have no problem taking medicare, medicaid, grants, and other "evil abortion supporting government money", but let someone try and help their employees, and NOW WAY!
    PROVE ME WRONG.
    Oh yea, I'm Catholic so I can say that. Catholiics are not allowed any birth control, including condoms, so I don't see a problem since they can just refuse to get birth control pills.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  4. Patricksday

    The Church still enjoys its Lovely Tax Free Status, but they cant keep their noses out of peoples Bedrooms or Private lives. Maybe they should have that Honor taken from them. Separation of Church and State what happened to that? Republicans whine about how there is no prayer in the schools, why dont you as a family get up early and have prayer as a family, and let those who dont share your Values live their own lives. If you dont like birth control dont use it. If you dont like Gay marriage dont marry a Gay person.

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

    Whether or not the Catholic Church has done bad things in the past is beside the point. The point is that the government telling a religious organization to violate their own beliefs infringes upon the separation of church and state. If the Obama administration gets away with this, will be the beginning of an all right out dictatorship.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • bobcat

      Religious organizations should be treated like any other group with no special powers or privilages. That is the message of our founders.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • tony

      An open to all university isn't a church. Nor is an orphanage. Non church members work at both.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Snooper

      The church has been doing bad things throughout its existence. Even the sheep who follow don't believe in their ridiculous ideals. Most catholic women ignore the church's views and use of have used birth control.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Mctaket

      When they own and operate a business, whether it is a school or a hospital, they are no longer a church-they are employers in a business. They shouldn't have any exemptions that are not available to other employers.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Flinders, the butler

      Don't you watch the news ? Its over !

      February 10, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  6. tony

    TIME TO ABORT ALL CHURCH TAX EXEMPTIONS !!!!

    February 10, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • bobcat

      True, if they are as charitible as they claim they have nothing to fear.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  7. Enrique Arguello

    The cynicism of this administration. Planned Parenthood (government run), receives funds from The American Cancer Society. It has been proved that anti- contraceptive pills are the number one cause of cancer in women, particularly cervix cancer.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • really?

      Where do you get your information? Religion is the number one reason people think god is giving them orders to kill people!

      February 10, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Mctaket

      Complete garbage! There isn't any reputable source you can name to back that claim. And no- the GOP, Rush or Santorum are not valid sources.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  8. Enrique Arguello

    The government has no business telling a religious organization to violate their own beliefs infringes upon the separation of church and state. If the Obama administration gets away with this, will be the beginning of an all right out dictatorship. And eventually the loss of all of the freedoms we now enjoy

    February 10, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • kflanigan

      Yes they do.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Snooper

      And religious orders who have been found to protect child molesters should never receive tax breaks.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • really?

      Its actually the other way around Enrique.. The church is trying to make every citizen live by their rules. Muslim countries are ruled by their religious beliefs. Thats exactly why they've been at war for thousands of years. Is that what you want for your country?

      February 10, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • bobcat

      America is already an oligarchy and a police state. We have been an olicarchy from our inception the Elite control the economy just like they have from the beginning of time. If our founders were here they would stop it. As Benjamin Franklin told us: All the property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  9. todd

    so i really get that second cheeseburger for free on the two for one deal at McDonalds? Doeas Obama think we are that stupid?

    February 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • bobcat

      Obama does not think we are stupid, maybe you are thinking of Santorum.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  10. Here this is what the Bishops don't want you to know

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DropvK7sFw&w=480&h=360]

    It's that easy!

    February 10, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Snooper

      Gee, it looks so tiny. Poor fella

      February 10, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • really?

      Where's the girth? Said the alter boy!

      February 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  11. Bill

    If you want to go to the White House and make demands how about paying some taxes into the system you want support from?

    February 10, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • tony

      Hear! Hear!

      February 10, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  12. truth

    If you go to church and put money in the collection basket, just know that you are contributing to little boys being mol-ested. The chuch pays out hundreds of millions to shut up the families of their victims.

    February 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • really?

      Sooo true! Sadly but soooo true!

      February 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • todd

      So if you are an american you are also contributing to child molestation becasue we allow tax breaks for the church... really? when are people actual responsible for their own actions. Are Germans all responsibler for Hitler? These type of attempts to paint the church as evil are disgusting... oh thats right we shouldnt let churches get tax breaks and instead let the federal governement steal from own person and give to another. That will end up great .. Greece!

      February 10, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • really?

      Todd thats a long stretch there buddy!

      February 10, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Snooper

      Good point. So by giving tax breaks to the church I'm subsidizing child molestation.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  13. GJGVT

    the Catholic reaction to the return of Christ himself will be "mixed"

    February 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • tony

      Especially when he throws out all their gold leaf and marble to feed the poor!

      February 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  14. clizzy

    Jesus doesn't believe in athiests!

    February 10, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • really?

      Jesus didnt believe your bible was correct either! Sooo?

      February 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Truth

      In the long run there are no atheists.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • bobcat

      Have you ever even read of heard or Thomas Paine's the age of reason? "As to the Christian system of faith, it appears to me as a species of Atheism — a sort of religious denial of God. It professes to believe in a man rather than in God. It is a compound made up chiefly of Manism with but little Deism, and is as near to Atheism as twilight is to darkness. It introduces between man and his Maker an opaque body, which it calls a Redeemer, as the moon introduces her opaque self between the earth and the sun, and it produces by this means a religious, or an irreligious, eclipse of light. It has put the whole orbit of reason into shade."

      February 10, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • LinCA

      @clizzy

      You said, "Jesus doesn't believe in athiests!"
      And it appears that believers don't believe in spelling.

      There is considerably more evidence for the existence of atheists than there ever was for your Jesus. Also, considering that the dude, if he ever lived, has been dead for almost 2000 years, the odds that he is believing in anything are extremely small.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • really?

      @bobcat did you cry when you found out there was no Santa clause, or Easter bunny, or tooth fairy? You prolly didnt want to believe it. Your in the same predicament now. Its hard for people to admit they were fooled. Just as its hard for you to come to terms with the absence of religions. Sorry! but if everyone can get passed this nonsense we can then see clearly, and truly love, and help one another.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Hilikus00

      Jesus doesn't believe in atheists, huh?

      Then maybe you would like to clarify the bible definition of a gentile.....

      February 10, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Luther

      @Hilikus00 you are wrong as well. Gentile just refers to non-Jews it doesn't mean they didn't believe in religion at all.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  15. Yup

    "nope

    nope ."

    LMAO – What an idiot.

    February 10, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
  16. Hilikus00

    If you are Catholic and don't believe in using birth control, you won't use it...simple as that. This isn't about religion, it's about politics.

    February 10, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Snooper

      I believe it's an obsolete religious order trying for another power grab.

      February 10, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  17. Rod C. Venger

    The administration is simply forcing the insurers to "give" drugs to women that demand them. Suppose the insurers don't want to "give" drugs to anyone? Virtually every plan I've had in the last 30 years has had a copay of one size or another. I don't think that Obama can wave his magic wand and require an insurer to give something anyone. Did Obama even ask the insurers about this issue? I'm guessing that he just switched gears and took it out of the church's hands and didn't bother to consult the insurers. That will come later and frankly, the public won't have much sympathy if the insurers balk and say no, since insurers are seen as the bad guy...Obama should know since he's the one that demonized them in the runup to Obamacare. I hope the insurers fight back.

    February 10, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  18. Bob

    I have an idea... If birth control and contraceptives are disallowed for women, then let us be fair... ALL surgery and treatment involving male reproductive organs ( incl treatment for prostate cancer) should be similarly disallowed. Heavy chemo and radiation treatments could similarly result in the prevention of conception. Think it will be considered??

    February 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm |

    • Fine by me Bob. Nothing recognizable as medicine existed for the first 200,000 years or so of our existence. Think it's really necessary?

      February 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    Prayer changes lives

    February 10, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • really?

      Not Thinking for yourself or believing in scientific facts, And not fairies, is healthy? Thats what your church teaches us huh?

      February 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Nope

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs."""""`~~~

      February 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Snooper

      What's not healthy are pedophiles looking for your children. Why didn't the church try to stop their own deranged criminals?

      February 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  20. Prayer killed the radio star

    It wasn't video.
    It was prayer.
    Say NO to prayer.

    February 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Prayer changes things

      Change will be hard for you but do not prevent the rest of us from the benefits of talking with God

      February 10, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Nope

      ~~The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs."""""`

      February 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • really?

      I hear you can text him too. And watch him on foxNews! If you think god is talking to you, you really need help from a medical professional! Please get help soon. Otherwise you're just a danger to society!

      February 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • nope

      nope .

      February 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Yup

      "nope

      nope ."

      What an idiot. LMAO

      February 10, 2012 at 6:47 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.