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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. Cindy

    Well the Catholics don't want government telling them what to do, but it is ok for the catholics to tell everyone else what they can and cannot do. Catholics are hypocrits. My Catholic neighbor just had her tubes tied. What does the Priest think about that. If you vote for Santorum or Gingrich you will have people like this Priests writing your laws. They just want to stack the Supreme Court with 2 more Catholics and they will have 100 percent Catholics on the Supreme Court. Then watch out. The Pope will be moving into the Lincoln Bedroom.

    February 10, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • The Phist

      Not just the catholics. Most religions are like this.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  2. Bob

    Catholic church has to address the larger sin of fornication that is more prevalent in today's society.

    February 10, 2012 at 8:08 pm |

    • FRIAR BARNARDINE. Thou hast committed–

      BARABAS. Fornication: but that was in another country; And besides, the wench is dead.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  3. really?

    Dam*n it! I had no idea how many religious nuts were in the world.
    Religion is worse than any cancer, std, or any other ailment in the world. Please people thinking men from 2000 years ago know what god said. They dont! But if you think for your self, you may be able to find something you believe in that isn't false!

    February 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  4. JB

    What Obama says and what Obama does don't usually jive. It's 2 chickens in every pot between now and November, but after December it's your goose that gets cooked.

    February 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • really?

      I like how youre looking forward to the general election when your party can even decide on a candidate! Thats some funny stuff right there! I know you want anyone but a black guy in the oval office. But your party has to stand behind a candidate 1st.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Snooper

      Only if a Repub gets in office.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • berk

      Yum cooked goose. i didn't know we were getting cooked goose. he has my vote

      February 10, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  5. Enrique Arguello

    The Catholic Church is the communist number one enemy because of its organization in the world. is the one thing standing in the midle of their evil plans.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • tony

      You are just upset because you are proof that 99% of religious believers are dumber than 99% of atheists.

      If you think about it, they are ones that at actually use the brains you think god gave them.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • really?

      Enrique, if you would go to any event that your church doesn't host. You might meet some intelligent thought provoking folk, who are kind, loving, caring, considerate, and great to be around! But you have to first pull your head out of your preahers ass, and let your mind think. Stop taking orders, and learn a little. You'll stop being so hateful and lonely. Then you too can become thought provoking, and maybe even loving.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • ric

      Why does it bother you that some people choose to not believe?..I have no issue with you choosing to believe.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Cindy

      How do you know? The Catholics got in bed with Hitler.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  6. Enrique Arguello

    The type language and hate that some people use in this forum, tells me what angel they are working for. The devil. A murderer since the beginning and the prince of lies. Hope someday some will repent and see the light and the truth of Jesus Christ.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      You mean like the hateful and horrible language you yourself have been using?

      February 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Snooper

      One day you'll learn that he's not affiliated with a church of child molesters.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • ryan

      you are the prime offender of offensive language on this forum. A fine catholic example. What a shame!

      February 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • really?

      You Hippocrates, you just called every athiest "useless" now your talking about the language of others... youre the weirdest creature, I've ever meet. I love that your crazy with words but hat that youre insane with religion. Get a life dud!

      February 10, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Cindy

      Sometimes the truth hurts, doesn't it Enrique.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  7. ryan

    Could there be a dumber controversy?! I can understand some people being opposed to abortion or the morning after pill (though I support both), but opposition to birth control??? I just don't get it. This is just as important for married couples as for single people. The greatest threat to world progress is uncontrolled population growth!

    February 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Snooper

      Thousands of years ago the good lord said be fruitful and multiply. When he came back in 2012 and saw 7 billion people he said are you freakin kidding me? Enough already! You're breeding like bunnies.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • really?

      Right? He'll come back and say "Jesus" I had only 1 son, and these idiots dont know when to stop!

      February 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • MerlinX4

      Missed the point I'm afraid. It's not about birth control. It's about a religious organization being forced to PAY for birth control. Kind of a big difference there...

      February 10, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  8. tony

    Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the dearth . . . . . of any affordable health care and the bounty of the tax burden of the rich.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Brownsrbest

      I agree, the only question is, How meek will they be when they do?

      February 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  9. Enrique Arguello

    Atheists are fucking useless.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • tony

      And you would have been far better as the result of some birth control.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • really?

      Enrique. seriously! YOU MAKE ME SICK. after what the churches have done. Raping millions of children. Twisting their minds making them believe that it’s okay. And then to get on here and try to defend their actions lets me know you are the exact same slime as they are. I think you are vile, disgusting, and a poor excuse for a human being. You should be ashamed of yourself, and your leaders. You are just as perverted as they. You’re sick freak!

      February 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm |

    • Perhaps he was a result of a birth control failure. Saran Wrap was an ill-conceived barrier protection in his mom's day.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • NorthVanCan

      But oh so right. Reality is not so scary if you just give it a chance.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Enrique Arguello

      You said, "Atheists are fucking useless."
      Don't hold back now. Let it all out. You'll feel much better.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • really?

      Apparently his mother used the rhythm method... What day did I start?

      February 10, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • berk

      Is this what you have learned by studing the teachings of Jesus Christ and his desciples.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  10. Enrique Arguello

    THIS is NOT woman’s health issue; it IS a Freedom of Religion issue.... PERIOD!

    February 10, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Snooper

      Yes. We all need freedom from religion. Too many lies. Too many child molesters.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Enrique Arguello

      More like freedom from atheist pieces of shit.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • really?

      Ok Enrique, then why not make it available for everyone. And then the individual person can decide if they want to take the pill or not. Why do you go on believing you know what's best for every woman... I see about 3 divorces for you in your lifetime. No woman will put up with you asinine thinking.. Good luck ther chump!

      February 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Enrique Arguello

      You said, "More like freedom from atheist pieces of shit."
      Feel better now?

      February 10, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Jose

      Enrique, you sound like a very holy man. You are the reason why people should be afraid of holy men. You, regardless of what religion, represent the biggest threat to mankind. The sooner we leave you back at the catacombs the better.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • berk

      Enrique Arguello the light Jesus brought into this world shinse brightly through your words and actions. Your words are a credit to his teachings shine on young Christian Shine on.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  11. really?

    Jesus! This shi*t is funny!. God dam*n the worshipers! Tax the churches! And stop the madness. Believe what you want but dont tell me what or who to believe in!

    February 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Snooper

      If I don't believe in a religion why do I need to subsidize their tax break?

      February 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • The Phist

      If you tax the church, then they now have the authority to force themselves into everything. Why would you want the church to have the right to be in your face with government consent?

      February 10, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • really?

      I say TAX THE HELL OUT OF THEM!

      February 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @The Phist

      Because they will do it anyway, might as well have them help pay for the cost of running this country at the least.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • The Phist

      I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      I'm not being sarcastic. The religious hard liners will continue to attempt to legislate their religion.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  12. Enrique Arguello

    "…what women do with their body...?” Said a poor confused soul in one commentary above. If a woman’s body is truly hers. Let’s see what she can do to prevent that body from dying, and furthermore what she can do to prevent the worms from eating that body and eventually that body turning to dust.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • really?

      Enrique you've raised an interesting question. Not really but anywho.. So you think you will not die, or your body will not turn to dust? Because you you're part of an oppressive organization? Please tell me more.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      "If a woman’s body is truly hers. "

      Whos is it then?

      February 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • tony

      And the "miracle of life" is so powerful any teenage can stop it with a condom . . . .

      February 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  13. Sports Fan

    Sorry folks, I just had to step in for a sec and point out that the guy in the gold chef's hat is clearly signaling for a "TOUCHDOWN".

    February 10, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Snooper

      Didn't Zippy the Pinhead were that same robe?

      February 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  14. tony

    A widespread lack of birth control is why so many US jobs have ended up in poor, and frequently Catholic countries. And also why we can get an abundance of overly cheap food from mostly Catholic poor South America.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
  15. JerseyGeorge

    The pope is a closet Nazi.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  16. Snooper

    Tax the church.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  17. Enrique Arguello

    It is also very important to mention that there is a communist agenda in all of this. Unfortunately most people think that after the fall of the berlin wall they declared the USA as the winner and all their agenda stopped in their tracks. Fat chance!
    The communist started by infiltrating the judicial branch and created the no fault divorce, and the schools and universities and eventually all the media outlets. They have been very effective in destroy the family. Remember under communism you owe your life and purpose to the state not God or whatever your family has taught you.

    February 10, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • tony

      Yup. Honesty, fairness and goodness are definietly Communism at it's worst.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Cindy

      You got that right from David Koch book. There father started "The John Burch Society" you know. Running around calling everyone communists.

      February 10, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  18. total nonsense

    Religion is a ILLNESS once humanity willl understand this BASIC fact.... trouble will be over

    February 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  19. ELH

    I am getting really tired of a bunch of old, white pedophiliac protectors who blindly follow the wishes of a senile old man in Rome telling me and mine how to conduct my private life. If my daughters wish to avail themselves of birth-control medications, that is their right and to H*** with any outsider that wants to deny them that right. Furthermore, if either of them wishes to abort an unplanned pregnancy, Catholics and that fool Sanitorium can butt out!

    February 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  20. Enrique Arguello

    A lot of confused people call themselves Catholics are really not. A Catholic tries to follow the teaching of the only church instilled by Christ.

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

      You idiot, you can't even figure out what a catholic is.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Brad

      I'm not sure what that means "only church instilled by Christ". I'm genuinely curious.

      February 10, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • tony

      catholic meas "universal". Rather the opposite of the "one and only"

      February 10, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • LinCA

      @sam

      You said, "You idiot, you can't even figure out what a catholic is."
      I think catholics are like alcoholics (just kidding)

      February 10, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Flinders, the butler

      He meant "insti'tuted", but he's too dumb to write a sentence. The Communists stole his dictionary.

      February 10, 2012 at 9:25 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.