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. Reality

    One does not need Planned Parenthood to teach our kids about s-ex. Simply read and have your kids read the following:

    WARNING!!! WARNING!!! WARNING!!! ---–>

    The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate, one million unplanned pregnancies) and male con-doms (17.4% failure rate, another one million unplanned pregnancies ) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Se-xually active teens, young adults and adults must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (i.e. the Bill Clinton Syndrome)

    Obviously, Planned Parenthood, parents and the educational system has failed on many fronts.

    (note: some words hyphenated because of an obvious word filter)

    February 10, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  2. Independent

    What church? I'm atheist. Pay attention and think deeper. I'm not talking about abortion but contraception. The Catholics' argument blurs the line, and that is my point. Never mind. This why the discussion is doomed.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • really?

      Ok, I'll retract my last statement to you. But let me say this. In your argument against birth control holds know weight unless we try to inseminate every egg in a woman's room? Now ask yourself why we dont do that? If we did, the poor women would be on their backs popping out more kids than Orville Redenbacher pops popcorn!

      February 10, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Honestly

      Mmmm! Can I get my with butter please? Lol good point!

      February 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Independent

      You seem to be arguing at shadows. You don't even know what my position or arguments are, yet you presume you should debate me. My point in posting originally was simply to suggest removing god from the life, contraception, and abortion related debates for a little bit less bias and nonsense. Perhaps at some point it is moral to practice contraception. Perhaps at some point it is not. But the answer does not lie with how horrible another person's religion is nor whether god exists. Those are digressions and tangential. I am with many people, religious or not, in the observation that many so called atheists or non religious people who claim superior intelligence and rationality over the religious argue with just as much emotional bias and prejudice from whatever psychological predisposition their lives have bestowed upon them as the brainwashed religious. You would do better service to your intelligence and character ( and perhaps argue more effectively to actually convince someone who doesn't already believe in your opinion) if you did not display the type of human nature for which religion was created in the first place ( thoughtless, knee jerk, blind, mob-fervor- justice mentality etc) .

      February 11, 2012 at 12:54 am |
  3. chutzpah!

    Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhist, their all the same! We do we let these fortune tellers, tell people what is best for them? And then not tax them! Its just crazy! If you shut down the churches of all faiths, and ask their flocks to give to actual viable charities there would be no need for charity any longer. There would be a world of wealth. And far fewer old perverts in power!

    February 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  4. Independent

    What church? I'm atheist. Pay attention and think deeper. I'm not talking about abortion but contraception. The Catholics' argument blurs the line, and that is my point. Never mind. This why the discussion is doomed.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  5. Concerned Lutheran

    Of course Lutherans are all about reformation. Let me go on about it. Generation after generation of celibate men under their venerated popes have been trying to dictate the moral standards of people from whom they are rather detached, even isolated. It should surprise no one one that there are two sets of standards – one real and one not. The one people really follow is evident. It is much like the system of morality and ethics followed by the rest of our society. If the Catholic hierarchy wanst to be influential over this real set of standards they should end their strange isolation and live lives like those of the people they would presume to teach and influence.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Phillip Campbell

      Lutehrans were against contraception until at least as recent aas 1931. In America, in 1931, the Federal Council of Churches approved of the “careful and restrained use of contraceptives by married people.” In response to this declaration, Dr. Walter A Maier, a Lutheran seminary professor, called it a “20th century renewal of pagan bankruptcy.” Is it more likely that God's opinion of right and wrong changed after timless eons have passed or is it more likely that the Lutheran faith slowly adapted to the ways of the secular world?

      February 10, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • chutzpah!

      Dude your church is no different! You're just as brainwashed as the rest of 'em! I dont care what day you think the Sabbath is. You're just wrong! There is no Sabbath because the idiot you believe in doesn't exist. Its a fairytale! Get past it already! Are you sitting down? Ok good, cuz Santa clause doesn't exist either. He was used to make you behave, and clean your room. Cuz Santa doesn't bring bad kiddies toys! There do you see the resemblance?

      February 10, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • bff

      Problem is you keep showing these religious people situations that they see and acknowledge every day, yet they still can't see their noses in front of their faces. It's similar to asking "what's more likely, a virgin gave birth to a man/god or a jewish teenager told a lie?"

      February 10, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • mollyd

      Santorum's wife Karen had an abortion in 1996......he fully admits it was to save her life.........it is OK for him and his wife, but not for others? What a liar. Plain and simple......he is telling us to do what he says, not what he does.......he can't be trusted.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Concerned Lutheran

      I would say the Lutheran view on contraception evolved with changes in society and with the coming of effective contraceptives. Regarding what God through scripture has to say about contraception, scripture is silent on the subject.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Honestly

      You're right about Santorum! And after the baby was aborted, he brought it home and set in a jar on a shelf! True story! nice huh? Thats how morbid he is!

      February 10, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • Concerned Lutheran


      I don't know the man Santorum, but I agree with what he and his wife decided. The candidate Santorum leaves me cold for a variety of reasons. Let me put in my standard plug for Obama – please consider voting for him in November. He's done a good job with a very very bad situation inherited from 8 years of GWB.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • Phillip Campbell

      @Concerned Lutheran
      Effective contraception has been available from at least as early as the time of the Roman empire but I do agree that it has never been more available. So you agree that the Lutheran view on contraception evolved with society away from the view that Jesus left with the early Church due to the effectiveness of the contraception? So in essence, the previous generations of Christians were only against ineffective contraception?

      Scripture does in fact condemn the withdrawal method of contraception. In Genesis Chapter 38:9-10 it says: “But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD, and he slew him also. “ Onan engaged in what must be the oldest form of contraception, the withdrawal method. Some make the claim that he was slain, not for the contraceptive aspect, but because he did not raise up offspring for his brother which was the custom at the time. This custom is sometimes referred to as "the Law of the Levirate". However, death was not the normal punishment that was reserved for breaking this custom.

      The normal punishment for not raising offspring for one’s brother is given in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 which states:” "If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead shall not be married outside the family to a stranger; her husband's brother shall go in to her, and take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his brother who is dead, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. And if the man does not wish to take his brother's wife, then his brother's wife shall go up to the gate to the elders, and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to perpetuate his brother's name in Israel; he will not perform the duty of a husband's brother to me.' Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak to him: and if he persists, saying, 'I do not wish to take her,’ then his brother's wife shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot, and spit in his face; and she shall answer and say, 'So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother's house.' And the name of his house shall be called in Israel, The house of him that had his sandal pulled off.” Thus the punishment given for this offence was not death, but public embarrassment. Furthermore Onan’s father and younger brother both broke the very same law and they weren’t struck dead. Judah even admitted that he was in the wrong with regard to this law (Gen 38:26).

      February 10, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • Concerned Lutheran

      To reiterate, I do believe that the modern Lutheran view of contraception did come about because of the advent of modern, effective, and widely used contraceptives.

      Jesus did not communicate anything regarding contraception, so I do not know that we have departed from his view on it.

      Regarding Onan and the "sin of withdrawal" it is clear that God had a specific demand for Onan and that he failed, or even defied God. That was a sin. Similarly, a specific situation is defined in Deuteronomy 25:5-6 that applied in special circumstances. Again sin was failure or defiance in a particular situation. I don't believe that every sex act between a man and a woman is under a similar obligation to God. So I don't think those situations are informative on contraception.

      February 11, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  6. flush limballs

    catholics , mormons and christians ,, sounds like a fordchevydodge you know that truck aint gonna get far down the road

    February 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
  7. rwristheac

    The Catholic Church still can't figure out why it's losing its followers. Time for a 501C challenge!

    February 10, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  8. rwristheac

    The Catholic Church still can't figure out why it's losing its followers...shame on them...it's time for a 501C challenge...they can join the NRA as a Polical Action Organization.

    February 10, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  9. Moe Vee

    The world has many terrorist groups and one of them is the Catholic Church. Like most terrorist they are zealots who promote their God through fear, intimidation and trying to make others believe what they believe. Do they want more children so they can increase the pool of potential abuse victims?

    February 10, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • BADGUY

      No..they want more contributors to the "till" on Sunday Morning. Why would any organization that's dependent of people dropping money into a basket want fewer people?

      February 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  10. really?


    February 10, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • mollyd

      Santorum's wife had an abortion in 1996, which he will not deny.......what a hypocrite.......and a liar.........

      February 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  11. Thomas

    Through repeated failures to clean their own house, the Catholic Church has long lost the moral high ground in America nor do their leaders speak for their congregations. The Americans Catholic Church relies today upon the support of a dying generation and the influx of immigrants who with one generation of education will reject them. They cannot replace their dying priests and find that after centuries of refusal to change they can no longer hold back truth. We living will not see the end of the church as a political power in this country, but our children or grandchildren will.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Phillip Campbell

      The Church has endured the likes of Nero, Diocletion, Caligula, Henry VIII, Hitler, and Stalin and they will endure long past the reign of Obama the reprobate as well. Jesus Himself promised that not even the gates of hell would stand against it.


      February 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • BADGUY

      That's why YOU and the Catholic Church are a real problem!

      February 10, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  12. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Hey, just do what just saying' did! Have a bunch of kids who have limited brain power and unleash 'em on the public. They're the ones who are behind the counter asking you whether you'd like "fries with that."

    February 10, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      Is there some context to your post? What are you talking about?

      February 10, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Not for you, herbie.

      February 10, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • herbie

      there is no herbie

      February 10, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      There is no is.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  13. city1360

    ann-when you are dead- you are dead- there is no such place as heaven- if there was – we would have received a sign-however there is a good chance there is reincarnation- and for you, I would hope that your are returned as a lady of the evening- so that finally, you would experience a really good time! ta!

    February 10, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  14. BADGUY

    You've got to understand: Having multiple children is economically the right thing to do when you're living in a poor country. You just send them out to beg in the street, or steal from local merchants, whatever as long as they bring their "earnings" home to mommy and daddy. The Catholic church has worked on that principle for 2000 years! It really doesn't care how many poor people there are as long as they show up at church and "fork over" their 10 or 20% every Sunday. You don't make much on each parishoner....but HEY..you make it up in volume. Does that clarify, a bit, why the Catholic Church is REALLY against birth control?

    February 10, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  15. Aristocles

    Isn't it interesting what kinds of biased crap CNN allows to be posted here. If they just replaced "Catholic Church" with "Jews", the comments would be considered anti-Semitic and be removed, but being biased against over 1 billion Catholics is somehow better than being biased against 14 million Jews.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • BADGUY

      We're NOT biased against Catholics. We're angry at the Catholic Church's right wing Hierarchy..starting with Archbishop Dolan! BIG DIFFERENCE!

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

      Believe me! Im not excluding the Jewish church! They should be taxed as well as any other, palm reader, fortune teller, and witch doctor. Its this easy! If you lie to people to form some kind of mafia, be it Christians, Jews, Muslims, or Buddhist, you need to be taxed to say the least! Shut down would be better!

      February 10, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
    • Thomas

      I am Catholic and feel no personal insult from what is said here. Why do religions thrive on being the victims? Last Christian eaten by a lion was long ago.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • really?

      So I guess you thinking "CNN not allowing us to blast Jews" is disproven, huh?

      February 10, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • jerrylax

      try muslims.. haha

      February 10, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • jn0224

      Thomas, you may not know it, but Christians are still VERY MUCH being martyred for the faith today. Not in America, but definitely around the world.

      February 11, 2012 at 2:30 am |
    • Mirosal

      @ jn0244 .. and look where it's gotten you. Your 'god' still hasn't shown up to protect you. That's because your god is partying with Zeus, Apollo, Thor and Odin. After all, they all reside at the same address, in the realm of mythology.

      February 11, 2012 at 2:38 am |
  16. yahmez the mad

    Religion is like a penis.
    It's okay to have one.
    It's even okay to be proud of it.
    But don't be pulling it out and waving it around in public.
    And don't be shoving it down your employees' throats.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Which the Catholic Church has done both literally and figuratively (your last line)!

      February 10, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  17. DragonPat1

    Any Church that's takes money from the govt. and then claims non-profit status to escape paying taxes that our country needs, which then wants to dictate their own bizarre antiquated beliefs outside the law of the US has nothing to stand upon but greed, power over others and hypocrisy.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • jn0224

      Man, you libs always trying to get at the church's money. Why do you care if I donate to my church, rather than blow my money. How do you think you should get a cut of that?

      February 11, 2012 at 2:31 am |
  18. AngryBob

    If it had been me, I'd of told the Cardinal to go "F" himself. As far as I'm concerned, the Catholic clergy lost all credibility when they allowed their priests to molest children and then actively tried to cover it up. I applaud President Obama for taking a statesman's approach to the problem and using diplomacy to resolve the issue. Compromises are always difficult because the extremists on both ends of the continuum will never accept them.

    February 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • BADGUY

      His Eminence Cardinal Dolan called it a "Witch Hunt"!

      February 10, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • RevMum

      I aagree Obama handled this well.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
  19. Independent

    Thousands of comments and not really any thoughts on the real underlying issues: when does human life or sentience begin? When does it matter and how does it matter even if God did not exist and where to launch you into hell for not agreeing? This has all degraded to a futile shouting match full of tantrums about how God exists or how God doesn't exist. Any of you ever give any thought on why it is so important morally to defend unborn but potential sentient human beings? If your parents didn't tell you pooping on your brother was wrong, would you believe it to be right?

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

      This is about prevention, not abortion. stay focused! This isn't your church, people in here are actually paying attention!

      February 10, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  20. BADGUY

    The Catholic church must be considered a "Far Right Wing" religious AND political organization. Don't attend its services. Don't give it money, Don't patronize its schools, hospitals, Universities or Charities. AND...DEMAND FROM YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES that it's political involvement over the last 4 election cycles makes its "tax free" status, null and void. (per IRS rules)

    February 10, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • really?

      You're certainly a good badboy! Are you good at being bad, or just bad at being good.
      At any rate, I agree entirely on taxing the churches! But not just the catholic ones! They all have blood on their hands! TAX THE "HELL" OUT OF 'EM!

      February 10, 2012 at 10:49 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.