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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. Rene Tamargo

    From what I read of the article some of these Catholic bishops still don't get the idea that they cannot impose their religious notions upon the rest of us. Women have rights too. I think the president has gone more than half way. If I was the president I'd tell them that they don't this country the people do.

    February 11, 2012 at 6:48 am |
  2. Larry

    To follow this line of thinking now violates my religious beliefs. My belief is that ALL women and families would have access to birth control and family planning so that they could control the size of their families because the biggest problem today in the world is a population that is too large. We are having problems feeding the POOR of the world and many wars are fought over more land for the enlarging population to live in. Also have any of you noticed, the world is only so big. There are only so many resources. At some point we will surpass the ability of the world to support that population at which time nearly ALL will suffer hunger. And maybe we have already passed that point of resource supply. So we certainly do not need more people that certainly follows lack of planning and lack of contraception. And besides you are violating my religious belief.

    February 11, 2012 at 6:45 am |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things*

    February 11, 2012 at 6:27 am |
    • Mirosal

      Prayer is a placebo for the weak-minded. It's nothing more than a Jedi mind trick

      February 11, 2012 at 6:38 am |
    • Prayer changes things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things*

      February 11, 2012 at 6:39 am |
    • Mirosal

      So you're unable to debate your view? You really are incapable of independent thought aren't you?

      February 11, 2012 at 6:43 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer really changes things

      February 11, 2012 at 6:56 am |
    • Mirosal

      so why doesn't prsyer work for the BILLIONS who pray for a better life for them nad their families? You know ... hunger, disease, zealots (like you) .. things that need to be abolished, yet are allowed to remain. Your 'god' is a myth like the thousands of others before it.

      February 11, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • Bibletruth

      For those who will now rant against you with comments like millions pray and dont get answers and such like, they need to know a bible verse, as does Christianity in general need to know it. " Those that will not hear the law, even their prayers are an abomination" ...I suggest everyone read the ten commandments and many will see/know the barrier they themselves raise up that their prayers are not answered. And for those who will go off track and claim that it is impossible to keep the law of God, just answer yes, it is impossible without Jesus. But keeping the law of God is normative christian behavior for a grace saved Christian.

      February 12, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  4. Margaret

    They can tell their flock not to use contraceptives, but in the end it is the individual who will decide.

    February 11, 2012 at 6:27 am |
  5. Kiler

    This so-called Christian objection to contraception is such a perversion of the Bible. How these people can say they won't help their employees prevent STDs or unwanted pregnancies simply because of some misguided, poor interpretation of a series of books patched together centuries ago is unconscionable. These aren't Christians – they have no compassion. They can think only of applying their morality to all of society – they're fascists.

    February 11, 2012 at 5:38 am |
  6. migeli

    I like what you said "Really". Good night.

    February 11, 2012 at 4:13 am |
  7. really?

    Goodnight! Sleep tight, dont let the Republicans bite! Lol

    February 11, 2012 at 4:01 am |
  8. really?

    Lol..
    yeah, cuz clearly the trickle down effect, isn't very effective!

    February 11, 2012 at 4:00 am |
  9. migeli

    Tax the wealthy like we did before.They won't miiss a few million,and junior doesn,t have to have a yacht just as big ss daddy's. And when we help the poor the rich benefit as they always have in this country.Even people on food stamps pays taxes on goods and even a welfare recipient pays tax on gas cigs,etc. And for that matter even a thief pays taxes and pumps money back into the economy.Allright we don't need thieves! Anyway Ive changed the subject. Goodnight. OBAMA 4 MORE YEARS!

    February 11, 2012 at 3:58 am |
    • really?

      Nope, we dont need thrives, we already have them. They're called the "1%"
      we need Robinhood! As it right now the rich are robbing the poor blind.
      We need a robinhood to steal from the rich, and give to the 99%!

      February 11, 2012 at 4:08 am |
  10. really?

    Im sure sometime before we vote in the general election they'll (the Republicans) will be saying things like – The world is going to end. Or were headed for another 911. They'll come up with something outrageous. If they would spend as much time on actual ideas as they do their scare tactics, they might actually be viable! But thats not gonna happen anytime soon.

    February 11, 2012 at 3:54 am |
    • Radical Indepentent

      That comment is racist. ... Look, people have a right to think the way they want. They have a right to spend their money as they please. These people believe that fetal people have a right to not have their heads chopped off or to be poisoned, just like the non fetal people. They believe that because there is a political movement to not recognize fetuses as people, and because of that, their killing is justified by many. My personal feeling is that if the method being used to abort would kill an adult if it happened to them (i.e. beheading), then it is probably wrong. But, I am all for the RU-486 pill, as that is a woman actually controlling her body, as she has a right to do. But, I would not impose my beliefs on anyone, nor suggest that people be forced to finance a personal belief system. It is amazing to me that the president backed off from forcing HIS beliefs on all people. I hope it is a sign of his character, and not because it is an election year.

      As far as the future, eventually a fetus at any stage will be able to be removed from the mother and live independent of her body with the help of medicine. When that becomes common place, I wonder how people will look back at these days.

      The great chasm that divides pro-Life and pro-Choice is that one is arguing against killing, the other is arguing for women's bodies. And each group pretends the other is either pro-killing, or anti-choice. The real debate: Is a fetus a person?

      February 11, 2012 at 6:05 am |
  11. really?

    For the last time...

    GET OUT OF MY WOMB, AND SHUT THE DOOR!
    TAX ALL CHURCHES! AMEN!

    February 11, 2012 at 3:42 am |
  12. migeli

    Yes this contriception issue is areal diversion from the real problems we face.Thats what it was meant to be.The republi-cants don't want to talk about anything important.They have no solutions!

    February 11, 2012 at 3:40 am |
    • really?

      Again migelli!
      . Your right on target! Republicans only win, when they scare the hell out of the American people. Thats why so many people are adamant about getting Obama out of office. Its not any issues or plans the repulicants have. They dont have any at all. But they keep telling the people of the count that he's dangerous, comparing him to Hitler, calling him a socialist, and a communist. All of which isn't true. And if anyone has truly paid attention these last 3 years they would see what the Republicans have done to thwart is every effort!

      February 11, 2012 at 3:48 am |
  13. really?

    These right wingers are dangerous. And they are using religion as a tool to control people for the interest of a rich few! What's heartbreaking is people would rather vote for an idiot white guy, spewing hate, over a black guy who's has done a great job in my opinion, espcially when you factor in how the Republicans have put up road blocks at every turn. I am white, but love what Obama has done and will do if he gets a second term! I love what he represents! Equality, honesty, and helping his fellow man. These Republicans have no plan for our future, they only plan is to get Obama out of office anyway they can. They try to blame him for everything bush had done to our economy. Even thigh we have more jobs than we had when he took office. The economy is looking better than it has since he took office. And he didnt give out hand outs to the rich. He gave loans to help them bounce back. And as a result the auto makers are flourishing. Banks (i still have issues with them and wall street) are doing better. Lending more than they have been. I could go on and on and on! I love this president! Obabma 2012! For more years please!

    February 11, 2012 at 3:36 am |
  14. Jay

    I seriously cannot believe we are debating the morality of contraception in 2012. This is totally ridiculous and unbelievable. The vast majority of the American public use it and support it. Could we please debate something more useful and pressing like the enormous debt this country has and the coming insolvency of social security and medicare? Ugh, this is total madness!

    February 11, 2012 at 3:29 am |
  15. migeli

    Ittook the Catholic Church about 5 minutes to denounce Obama's contraception compromise,but it took the 500years to denounce child molestation by priests. Wow!

    February 11, 2012 at 3:22 am |
    • really?

      Lol good point!

      February 11, 2012 at 3:26 am |
  16. migeli

    So Catholic bishops are another group of stooges representing wealthy Republicans who are against "socialism and handouts" Did they forget Jesus was a socialist. The only candidate I see who had the love and kindness of Jesus is President Obama.These other guys look like what my grandson would call"a bunch of meanies".I never read anywhere thst Jesus said anything about birth control or abortion.Where did these holymen come up with all this stuff that we are all supposed to believe "God said".Why isn't this stuff written in the sky?Love thy neighbor is allwe have to know.Why listen to these nitwits who claim to know what God said.They tell you allthis nonsense to suit their own purposes. Obama 4 more yesrs.

    February 11, 2012 at 3:08 am |
    • really?

      Nigel! You hit it on the nose! Somehow the Republican party has hijacked the religious. What's said is if the religious practiced what they preached, they would be voting for Obama as well! Its all about racism, and greed! And how they can exclude gays from being equal citizens! Its really disgusting.

      February 11, 2012 at 3:17 am |
    • really?

      What's even more saddening, is that we as a country had come so far With civility and brotherhood. And they are doing everything they can to hold us back to a time where hate was the way of the land. Jesus was a good man and had the right idea on how people should treat each other. But they choose to ignore what Jesus said and did. They'd rather focus on the parts of the bible (which I dont believe is the word of any god.) That are exclusive and antisocial! How they can interpret that as being a good Christian is completely beyond me!

      February 11, 2012 at 3:24 am |
  17. really?

    Its funny how if you dont believe in the same god, as a large religious organization, you're called an athiest! I guess I am an athieast as in I dont believe in their simple minded deities. I think im apart of something great, and something of insignificance at the same time. I am part of alpha and omega! Of everything, including nothing! When I die, my body will break down to dust just as everyone else's does. I will have to relinquish control of my body, and be apart of something much bigger, the planet earth. My body may become part of a tree or flower, or part of an insect that devours my flesh. At anyway, I will go on. Not in human form as I will not be needed for that purpose any longer. However I will be needed in some fashion forever! Cuz I am apart of everything, and nothing!

    February 11, 2012 at 3:03 am |
  18. migeli

    Why all this fuss about abortion.The same conservatives who are pro-life are the same hippocrites as Santorum,sure bring them into the world but if they"sick or starving"deny them food stamps and health care.And if in desparation they turn to crime the wealthy are greatly invested in prisons that will hold them.As for the church causing problems for this president who needs to win against these right-wing traitors, please shut up,even if abortion doesn't suit you there will still be enough children around for some of the priests to molest.Jesus never said a thing about abortion or birth control,so why don't you mind your owm business?

    February 11, 2012 at 2:33 am |
    • jn0224

      If you would travel to Sudan, or Ethiopia, or other famine-stricken countries, you'd be sure to find a ton (perhaps the majority) of relief efforts being handled by Christians. Yes Christians. Nice generalizations you make.

      February 11, 2012 at 2:35 am |
    • really?

      I dunno! People are crazy! I have a nontraditional stance on abortion I guess. I think with all the contraception around there are few reasons for abortions to happen. However there are reasons. But I would make those decisions for myself, and not anyone else.

      February 11, 2012 at 2:39 am |
    • really?

      The only bad thing about the "Christians" over there, is that they are trying to force their religion on the people of those countries, so they will have an even larger base. There not over there just too feed the poor. There are arterial motives. And thats what makes it less than a pure effort!

      February 11, 2012 at 2:46 am |
  19. really?

    But while we're here we need to be understanding, patient, caring, trusting, and loving of one another, otherwise we may share the same fat of so many other species. Try to understand that people have different interest than you do. Different desires, hungers and thirsts. Embrace them, it what makes us uniquely different from one another. God has made us this way. To try and conform everyone to the same things is just not possible, its not in our genetic make up. We're all different. Our top priority should be to love and protect one another from the elements we must avoid. Its not ok to hurt people. Its not okay to compromise the ground, the water, or the air, especially for something as simple as profit. Believe me its not worth it. Protect what we have and each other from violence, and destruction. And lets live together in peace!

    February 11, 2012 at 2:25 am |
  20. really?

    There is no man like figure sitting up in the sky watching your every move. He isn't there making sure your sports team wins. He isn't there talking to the pope, the rabbi's, or any other religious leader. And he certainly isn't there talking to any of you. You're just not that important. He does have laws though, that must be abided by. For instance there are things you must do to live, procreate (even though his laws have allowed us to do that outside of our own bodies), we must stay clear of certain elements while devouring other elements. His laws are made of laws you may have heard before. Like laws of gravity, laws of physics, and evolution. To deny these would be to deny the one true god! That makes the universe and more. People need to stop thinking they are the most important thing in the universe because we are not! Things you can't even imagine reproduce, the planet is alive our solar system is alive the universe is alive, and we're just a minuscule particle in a minuscule time period. our destinations will be laid out in time with science and true understanding of these (gods) laws. Be patient we"LL get there in time!

    February 11, 2012 at 2:16 am |
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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.