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. K2

    The Catholic Church used to throw people in jail or worse for saying the world was round, so when the Catholic Church says something is sinful because of their interpretation of the Bible, you have to ask why?

    It's just like Baptists who believe drinking alcohol is a sin, even though Jesus himself drank wine.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • TXZag

      They'd have you believe that it was a special non-alcohol wine; you know, that special fermentation process that does not produce alcohol (I think that's called vinegar, but I doubt a bunch of party-goers sat around drinking vinegar, then praising it for its quality).

      February 11, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  2. Jesus

    Obama waxes righteous but he's like a god forsaken used car salesman. The Catholic organizations aren't "Offering" the contraseptive services" but their insurance company has to offer it to their employees free of charge. So you do you think is still paying for those conraceptive services? Of COURSE! The insurance is just going to raise the Catholic organization's rates somewhere else to pay for it. This is an OBAMA LIE! A DECEPTION OF THE DEVIL OF HELL WHOM OBAMA SERVES!

    February 11, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • really?

      Obama hasn't molested any children!
      yet you think Obama is while and your church is wholly!
      What a lunatic! Dude you should be locked away from society. Its minds like yours that are a danger to all human kind. But go on supporting these rapist, pedophiles, and murderers! Thats your choice. But dont expect everyone else to share your disgusting self serving pathetic views! You are a human race disease!

      February 11, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • really?

      Did Jesus ever say suck my coc*k?
      Did Jesus ever ask you to bend over?
      Did Jesus commit dirty deeds, and the ask his disciples to cover it up?
      No, no and no? hmmm! Maybe these churches aren't so christlke after all!
      Ya think?

      February 11, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • TXZag

      Sounds like you ignore some of the details and only cling to what supports your bias. The argument for no premium is that contraceptives reduces the overall cost of health care by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies (approx half of all US pregnancies are unwanted), etc., thus producing savings (which would not be true without the contraception mandate), which would be used to cover the cost of the contraceptives.

      February 11, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  3. really?

    Anyone who claims the bilble is the word of god is full of poopooh!
    The bible was written by men, for men! End of story!

    February 11, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • realist

      well if YOU say so it MUST be true.......

      February 11, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  4. neastsider

    Contraception is an widely accepted medical procedure regardless of religious belief. Some of the moderate Catholic bishops look to be more willing to compromise with HHS on the revised proposed regulation. But as long as the majority of bishops are conservative in outlook and as long as the Vatican only promotes/advances priests to be bishops whose outlook is as conservative or even more so as the Vatican's, women's access to needed medical care will be blocked by these archiac old men.

    February 11, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  5. really?

    Churches are nothing more than well orchestrated psychics! Who never get it right!
    Dion Warwick, and her psychic friends network still paid taxes. And so should any church!

    February 11, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  6. Meh

    So, as usual the Catholic church won't take responsibility for caring for its parishioners – first allowing them to be molested by priests, now passing on the cost of their contraception to insurers who will in turn pass it on to all of us in the form of higher premiums. And we're supposed to respect your "religious liberty" why? I say tax the $%#@ out of you clowns

    February 11, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • TXZag

      The argument for no premium is that contraceptives reduces the overall cost of health care by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies (approx half of all US pregnancies are unwanted), etc., thus producing savings (which would not be true without the contraception mandate), which would be used to cover the cost of the contraceptives. It makes sense.

      February 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  7. AvdBerg

    98% of all catholic women use some form of contraception. That should have been the end of the debate but obviously not when the media gets involved. It is an issue that is after the wisdom of man and the spirit of this world and not after God (1 Cor. 2:4-6).

    For a better understanding of the history of the Catholic Church and all its deceptions, we invite you to read the articles ‘The Mystery Babylon’ and Popes and the Princes of This World’ listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    Since Obama opened Pandora’s Box on this issue, we also invite you to read the article ‘Barack Obama ~ President of the United States of America’.

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain the deep hidden mysteries of God and how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.

    The Word of God is God (John1:1), it is truth and there is no lie in it (Hebrews 6:18).

    Seek, and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7).


    February 11, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • .....

      CULT ALERT – This is a TROLL on this site, they are only here to peddle their garbage website and book. They are LIARS. Click the report abuse link to get rid of this TROLL!

      February 11, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • really?

      Unless you are considering John and Matthew to be gods. Then what they say isn't the word of god! But the word of fallible men!
      please stop trying to pretend any god talked to any man.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • AvdBerg


      You don't know what spirit you are of as you are spiritually blind (Luke 9:55).

      For this reason our message remains the same: Ye must repent and turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan (whose spirit you are of) unto God (Acts 26:18).

      You judge after the flesh (John 8:15), the believers judge after the spirit of man. Even though we don't know your name, we know you and what spirit you are of (Luke 9:55).

      He that is spiritual judgeth (discerneth) all things, yet he himself is judged of no man (1 Cor. 2:15).

      Seek, and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7).


      February 11, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  8. really?


    February 11, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  9. Prayer is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer takes people away from actually working on real solutions to their problems.
    Prayer makes you kneel to sicko guys who wear expensive dresses and abuse kids.
    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.
    Prayer dulls your senses and prevents you from thinking.
    Prayer makes you even more fat than you already were.
    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 wastes time.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Mavent

      That just gets funnier every time you post it.*


      February 11, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • really?

      Mavent! I think it's freaking hilarious! Now go wear out your clothes prematurely!

      February 11, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • realist

      you need some anger management there sport....

      February 11, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • GrouchyKat

      You must do lots of praying then

      February 11, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  10. Laura

    Unless these Catholic hospitals are insuring their employees with some special religiously-affiliated insurance company, they are probably using one of the major health insurers. While they may not offer coverage for contraception, abortion, or elective sterilization under a particular PLAN (which Catholic hospitals might choose), pretty much all of the companies offer coverage for these procedures under other plans. I'm pretty sure insurance companies don't separate the premiums paid based on every possible religious or moral objection. So really, while the Catholics may be able to keep their employees from being covered for these things, they're basically still paying for everyone else's abortions and birth control.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • TXZag

      The bottom line is that there is no end to where you can take this nonsense. You'd have to recuse yourself from practically all forms of commercial activity, otherwise you are contributing to the bottom lines of companies and corporations that are not doubt engaging in activities or supporting groups with which you have a moral objection.

      And this is the biggest problem with conservatism invading the Church such as it has. Conservatives tend to be rigid and dogmatic, there's little interest in cooperating with those who hold different points of view. In a pluralistic society it's their way or no way. Forcing your moralistic righteousness onto the rest of the population is oppressive; it does not win you converts. And it's unrealistic, especially in a secular society like the US.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  11. Neel

    Its about time to revoke the tax exemption status to churches then... It certainly offends my sensibilities to subsidize them out of my tax payer dollars

    February 11, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • BADGUY

      And here in Wisconsin, we now have to subsidize their schools directly and reduce the money we send to our Public Schools. Talk about a "plot"!

      February 11, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • BADGUY

      And here in Wisconsin, we now have to subsidize Catholic schools directly and reduce the money we send to our Public Schools. Talk about a "plot"! Hey, I sent my daughter to Catholic School but I paid for it myself! This latest action, the school financing, the failure of the Catholic Hierarchy to comply with the law on this insurance issue, the pedophile scandals.......... are ALL "beyond the pale"...AND...."The last straw". Effective, immediately, I have discontinued ANY participation in the Catholic Church or its charities. I have moved my very expensive family health care expenditures out of the local Catholic Hospital and into a non-religious affiliated one. When the Catholic Church comes to its senses, I'll reconsider.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  12. pervert bishops

    Catholic church is a profit centers for sure. Universities are one of their biggest. Even catholic charities is one too. This charity runs off our tax dollar, that's right. The catholic church has more grant writers than any other organization in the US. They get to our tax dollar first.
    If you DON'T think they are in it for the money. Just look at all the schools, churches and hospitals that they closed because profits were not as good. Now look at the revenue growth at the vatican.

    The truth is in action.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  13. JD04

    This whole stupid flap is another reason why we need a single-payer system or a public option, and, indeed another reason why the ACA is a good thing. If the Church has its way and gets to deny their female employees basic preventive care services, women who work for them should be able to go out on the exchanges and buy their own insurance policy that will give them access to these services. I think this exposes a weakness for these religious Republicans. If you don't want your church to pay for contraception coverage, then let people have affordable access to that coverage through their own policy. Unless you're Melinda Gates, that's probably not economically feasible without the new insurance exchange environment created by the ACA.

    February 11, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • TXZag

      You are forgetting one thing about the Republicans; they do not believe you have a right to access to affordable health care. So if you do not have access to comprehensive health insurance, well, "tough luck!"

      February 11, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  14. Zorlot the Great

    The Church will back down once Obama reminds them that they largely owe their existence to their tax exempt status and this favored position might be put in jeopardy if they don't shut up.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Therese

      So you unequivocally back using the IRS (or other government action) as a weapon against views you do not like? Do you see where that might lead all of us?

      February 11, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Howard

      Therese, its better than those who use religion as a weapon against views they don't like.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  15. mikithinks

    Using contraception is a mortal sin per the catholic church. You can confess it and be forgiven, however, confession includes an intent not to repeat the "sin". Since 90% of catholics now practice birth control, they have a problem of conscience. You really can not practice both birth control and the catholic faith. Now that is a matter of choice. Decide if your path is in a church with which you disagree on a mortal position with a "wink, wink" in the confession and pharmacy. or face not being a member.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • really?

      Oh, no! The church kicks you out for being on birth control.
      Kicks you out for being divorced!
      Kicks you out for being gay!
      However, if youre a member molesting children, they help you cover your tracks!
      If you get caught, they relocate you too another church, with new victims.
      Gees! Where will all their flock go to get on there knees and pray/suck??

      February 11, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • TXZag

      Actually, the Catholic Church rarely kicks anybody out, per se. With the average Catholic only giving about 2%, they cannot afford to turn anybody away. Now, they may or may not refuse to serve you communion. Well, they mostly leave that up to you and your conscience, unless you are a politician who supported abortion, then that's a whole new problem. Never mind that none of these politicians are actually performing abortions (i.e., not the ones murdering babies), nor are they dragging women into these clinics by their hair, but because they allow you to make your own decision they are evil!

      February 11, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • really?

      TX! You couldn't be more wrong. If the church leaders knows you are divorced, or gay, or take contraception, or do anything against their rules they ask you not to come back to their church. Sure they're not asking everyone what they are doin. Turning a blind eye is their mode of operation. If you are trying to remarry, no catholic church will marry you as remarrying is evidence of a divorce. They will also not marry you if your spouse is anything other than catholic!
      stop pretending they're caring. They are not! They have 1 goal! And thats to make everyone they can, believe and behave as they do!

      February 11, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • TXZag

      really?, I am a life-long Catholic. I know what the Catholic Church has to say on these matters. To start with. it's not so much the divorce but the remarriage that violates the Church's position on divorce (Catholics do not believe that you are ever truly divorced, because civil actions do not nullify the spiritual). You need an annulment to be considered re-unmarried in the Church, which in essence says that some of the components required for a valid marriage before the Church were missing (i.e., you were never really married in the first place). Getting remarried without an annulment puts you in a state of sin because you are married to more than one spouse at the same time (bigamy).

      Using contraception, etc. puts you in a state of sin, which means you are not to participate in the Eucharist (communion) until you've received the Sacrament of Reconciliation (penance, confession). Being in a state of sin is not grounds to be excommunicated, which is what needs to take place to be kicked out of the Church. The Church recognizes the sinful nature of man; therefore, it would be preposterous to suggest that they kick sinners out.

      February 11, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • TXZag

      really?, your ignorance of Catholicism–or anti-Catholic bias–is telling. Please, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (widely available online) to get up to speed on these and other issues, before opening your "mouth."

      February 11, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  16. Therese

    I for one think President Obama showed sense and courage to admit a mistake and try to reconcile the deeply held views fo lots of Americans. The issue was always more about liberty of conscience than contraception. As he said recently, America has to be a place in which we have each other's backs, even if we have very different views on some matters. That is why many liberal Catholics supported PPACA – not because they favor contraception but because they recognize the need for universal healthcare and employer-provided health care is the most viable way to do that right now. With a single payer system ( though he never could have gotten that thorugh Congress) the issue would not have arisen. Catholics and like-minded people or pople concerned with preserving a right to dissent, simply asked that in return their rights to be who they are , according to their values, be respected.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • really?

      Come on now?
      Catholic church has values?
      The way I see it. If you are catholic and dont want to take birth control, then dont take it! However 98% of catholic women use it!
      This isn't about infringing on anyone's religious beliefs. This is about religion infringing on civil liberties!
      Where do we draw the line?
      Should catholic histpitals not have to treat any of the following because it's against their beliefs?
      Being divorced, gay, pregnant out of wedlock, being Jewish, being Muslim, being athiest, or protestant, I could go on and on!
      The church just needs to GET OUT OF MY WOMB, AND SHUT THE DOOR!

      February 11, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.!

    February 11, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Phil

      Honestly, it doesn't do anything - but if it makes you feel better, do it in private...but stop coming here and posting the same shìt every time like you always do.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • 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 11, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  18. Diogonese

    Just more Obama smoke and mirrors. Church leaders should be sceptical of known liars.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • The kettle callin' the pot black?

      Right. Church leaders never lie.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:21 am |
  19. John Stefanyszyn

    President Obama's Strategy in Gaining "Women's Right" Vote.


    The HHS regulation created a controversy in which the Catholic leaders claimed an interference on freedom of religion and conscience.
    ...however statistic showed that the majority of Catholic women do take a contraceptive.

    ...it also created a controversy from women organizations that it was their freedom and right to have access to this coverage.

    Now we see that President Obama has made a compromise because he believes and said that....
    "No woman's health should depend on who she is or where she works,"
    and that Americans would not have to choose between "religious liberty and basic fairness".

    This controversy has stirred up the cry from the Catholic Leaders for freedom of religious rights.
    This controversy has stirred up the cry from women for their rights.
    President Obama believes in the rights of religious liberty.
    President Obama believes in the rights of women.

    President Obama will get the "freedom" vote from the women because he stood up for women's welfare rights.

    President Obama will also get the "Catholic" vote because he made a compromise that respects the right of freedom of religion.

    The Catholic Church may suffer membership loss because of the perception that they were against women's right to contraception.

    Since the President and his counsellors were probably well aware of the loophole which made the compromise possible, why did he not present this alternative at the introduction of the regulation?

    ...because it would not have created the cry for rights, equality, and freedom...the belief that he has advanced and believes in.

    ...glorification of the "god of fortresses" in the place of the One True Creator God, in the place of One True Way of Life, the Christ, Son of God.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  20. William

    It seems that pro life rights end once the child is born. With HIV and other STD's the prevention way offers great savings to insurance carriers. We see all the arguments but in the end more people live in a stagnant world being chocked off by the economy and becoming staves to debt. IF people want to see real freedom we need some type of braking system on greed and corruption. There is an old saying that missery loves company well stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something. God is about having a personal relationship and not having to go thru someone else. Make up your mind either God made Man or either Man made God. Seek God and find Him don't let others interfere. Note: Jesus did not seek to be worshiped his greatest relationship is with His Father who gives Him all the praise He needs. Jesus pointed us to His Father not to Himself.

    February 11, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • SixDegrees

      One way to avoid becoming a choked off slave is to learn how to spell and form proper sentences. Check any job offering: probably 90% of them list an ability to communicate as a requirement.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:08 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.