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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. Thomas

    @SunBun2011
    Hey, where's the uproar over religious corporations funding men's limp-noodle meds? Oh wait, right I forgot that MEN DON'T have ANY RESPONSIBILITY in creating an embryo, it's just carefree Cialis and Viagra commercials all the f'ing way.

    Brought to you by the same people who told you the Sun rotated around the Earth and the world is flat.

    More woman around the world are leaving the Catholic Church do to the Churches harsh stance on family planing and contraceptives.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  2. Robert

    I think the Religious groups are being rediculous. Don't they realize how many unwanted children are born every year, and how many children tax payers are supporting. I mean seriously, how many do most church goers have anyway. I never see any families going into church with much more than three children. What does the Catholic religion want anyway, do they want every family to have a dozen or more children? Are they going to feed them for those families? The world can only support so many people, if nobody took birth control we would be so over populated they would never be able to grow enough food to feed all of us. Come on Christians wake up, this is 2012 not 1950. And why don't the Catholic Bishops sound off as loud when one of their priests mollest one of their altar boys. They are quick to sweep that under the rug and be hush hush about it. Why don't the Catholic religion let their priests take wives so they can leave the little boys alone. After all, how can a priest give family counseling to a family when he has never lived that type of life style. I think their ways are rediculous as far as a priest having to be without a woman. They still must think that women are filthy.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  3. Halo of Flies

    Is that guy showing all the altar boys the size of his.......staff? Impressive! Body of Christ......Body of Christ......V i a g r a........Body of Christ......

    February 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  4. MB

    EVERYONE ,ANYONE has the right to choose they can or can't . Individuals make the decision, government is saying make it available , you chose. The pill has been available for how long ? It's been part of our culture since the 70's . Hasn't DEMOCRACY based on freedom of choice?

    February 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  5. eric

    First they complain being forced to pay for it, now they complain it exists for free? Come on man, we both know you just dont want them and you are trying to push back in a losing battle. Good for Obama.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  6. derp

    Exactly why do we care what pe do philes in pointy hats think?

    February 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  7. Halo of Flies

    Actually, IF you are a believer, then the Bible tells you that God knows the moment of your existence and the moment of your death. Everything...every detail in your life is in his "book". Therefore, God himself is responsible for ALL abortions on the planet since the beginning of time.

    BTW, why do these people where those ridiculous dresses and chef hats? I got a hat like that one time at Dick's Last Resort in San Antonio. The waiter wrote "Poopy Head" on it. I am reminded of this for some reason.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Tracey

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      April 4, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  8. kyg0904

    Whether or not catholic women or nun's use contraceptives should not be for Obama to decide. It is up to Catholics to decide the progression of their faith.If there's an issue for not voting Obama in , it is his callous use of goverment to overreach into our lives. Backing off will not me vote for him.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • KdmQ

      Obama isn't requiring you to USE birth control – only that if you want it you have access. How is that controlling the catholic church?

      February 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • kyg0904

      I find rather ironic that those who want the Church to provide this service know how to get pregnant and yet have no idea where to get free abortion/ contraceptive devices from the state. Please get over it and chose the right fights.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Momof3

      Your first sentance kinda stunned me...I don't think NUNS use birth control, they (like priests) are vowed to celibacy.

      You really aren't Catholic, are you?

      February 10, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Stan

      "Backing off will not me vote for him."

      Really? you fail English? Unpossible!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  9. Jose

    Issues like this, and the clamoring idiocy of these old fools in robes, only serves to validate my renounciatian of catholicism (and any other orgranized religion). The problems of the world cannot be solved by religion precisely because they are exhasberated by religion. As so elequently said by the late Christopher Hitchens, "Above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightment which will base itself on the proposition that the proper study of mankind is man, and woman...We have to first transcend our prehistory, and escape the gnarled hands which reach out to drag us back into the catacombs and the reeking alters and the guilty pleasures of subjection and abjection."

    February 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
  10. KdmQ

    So tired of religion putting themselves in our – "women's" bedrooms........stay out please! You can't be against abortion and then against free birth control. This is a HEALTH CARE issue and ALL the research on the topic is in support of when women have access to free or reduced birth control they have fewer children, more planned children, better health, healthier deliveries, and the list goes on – higher education obtainment, higher income levels..... Religion needs to stay in their church!

    February 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • kyg0904

      You have a choice to seek birth control at the goverment office and not at the local church. It's plain as that. The Catholic church will continue providing superior health care that any goverment run facility can only dream off. Envy will not get us anywhere.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • RLDESQ

      I think you missed the point... no one is saying woman can't use or have access to contraceptives. But rather does it violate a religious liberty to force or require one to pay for another's contraceptive. Additiionally, it is this law that puts these religious leader's convictions squarley in the "bedroom," not the other way around...

      February 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • risky

      @kyg0904, you're absolutely delusional. This isnt just about the availability of contraception. It's about the affordability. He wants to make it free for all women by including it in healthcare. So religionsly affliliated women dont have to buy it. Therefore they will have more money to spend it on things more important .

      February 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Not from me! Hence forth my thousands in medical payments will be made to another supplier of Health Services (non-Catholic)

      February 10, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Chandra

      Most of the money is kept by either by the conmapy that is donating the money or it goes to the politicians who receive the rest. Greed is what takes place so keep your money to yourself and don't trust anyone except your family hopefully and your gut.References : Everyone is giving money to the Poor African people and I don't see any progress taking place. Greed greed greed that is all I can say. If youy want to help donate your time to the starving Americans in this country the wealthiest country on the earth. And 2 % owns most of it. Yes It is sad but true.

      April 1, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  11. Rob

    I cannot believe religious people. At this stage, in the year 2012, we have to deal with this bull s-! If you want to live believing in this fairy tale, go ahead, but to hold the country hostage to this stupidity is truly more evil than abortion.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Liv21

      I'm also shocked that with the state the world is in that abortion and birth control have been the hot topics in 2012. It's mind boggling. I mean, the economy is in the tank, people have no jobs, our educational system is terrible, yet here we are haggling over contraception. It's a p-ssing match among men toying with women's reproductive rights. Unreal.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  12. TruthPrevails

    What is so hard for the christards and republitards to comprehend here??? Are they all too damn blind to see past the word 'control' when used in conjunction with the word 'birth'?
    You morons!!! No wonder the USA has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the world!! Why teach abstinence when s.e.x is purely natural and stats have already proven that abstinence does not work? Do you want your 15 year daughter coming home pregnant because you were too ignorant to provide her with the means to protect herself due to your bronze age beliefs?
    The pill (not the only form of contraception available through this program but a major one) has more uses than preventing pregnancy...it helps control irregular menstrual cycles; is effective in helping with endometriosis and osteoporosis; it balances hormone levels; helps in the prevention of cystic breasts...just to name a few!! If these women are suffering in pain and are ill, they are not going to be able to take care of those children that you morons seem to think they should be having!!
    What about those women who have had children and decided they want no more or better yet the ones who have had horribly bad pregnancies? Or the ones who never go in to labor or never go full term?
    Look around you people...children dying and starving; a world population that soars above normal; crisis after crisis and it will get worse before it gets better, if that ever happens.

    Stop using that 2000 year old book to guide you. It is damn time the church stayed out of the bedrooms of people and started putting their own where they belong-in jail...stupid cult of ped.o.philes!

    February 10, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • O Canada

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBoItR59REQ&w=420&h=315]

      February 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      oh pre-tell oh wise one...what the hell does the Canadian National Anthem have to do with what I posted? If you're trying to point out that I am a Canadian, anyone with a quarter brain on here who knows my alias knows this fact. And presently and very much no offense to my neighbor's to the south...I am damn happy to be Canadian. In the very least here in Canada we are not arguing over futile crap like stepping in to a persons bedroom...we at least recognize (for the most part) what Freedom of and from Religion means. Hell we probably under what Separation of Church means more than half you fools whining about this.
      You prove nothing by posting my countries Anthem...I'm damn proud to be Canadian!

      February 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      should have said...separation church and state

      February 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Stan

      "I'm damn proud to be Canadian!"

      This should be the tagline for a new anti-drug, anti-alcoholism drive. Just say no kids... drugs and alcohol give people a false sense of confidence; it even makes Canadians proud of their heritage!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • BADGUY

      I tried to swim across the border (Lake Superior) but when I got there I got caught. Seems the Canadians are not allowing immigration (legal or illegal) from the 3rd World Country.

      February 10, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  13. Dan, TX

    As far as I can tell, women will not be covered for contraception. They will have to go to the insurer and specifically be asked to have the service. So, Catholic women don't have to do anything if they want to avoid contraceptive services. Why should the Church care if contraceptives are free or cost $1000? It isn't about how much it costs, it is about the Church-offered policy not having the service in it. Women who want contraceptive services have to actively go out and get it.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Actually the insurance companies will have to reach out directly to the women covered. Circu.venting the employer. Women can then opt in or out of accepting the services.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  14. SunBun2011

    Hey, where's the uproar over religious corporations funding men's limp-noodle meds? Oh wait, right I forgot that MEN DON'T have ANY RESPONSIBILITY in creating an embryo, it's just carefree Cialis and Viagra commercials all the f'ing way.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      They don't cry because those drugs help a man maintain an er.ection and thus in turn help with pro-creation...women's rights mean nothing when it comes down to it. The church still believes the woman should be stuck home bare foot and pregnant...nothing like taking us back a century!

      February 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Liv21

      I bet Cialis and Viagra are covered. >: ( How else could those priests get it up at their age. Gotta keep up with those altar boysm right?!

      February 10, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      TruthPrevails?
      "The church still believes the woman should be stuck home bare foot and pregnant...nothing like taking us back a century!"

      Uou do not speak for the Church and what they believe about women. In fact, the Church is trying to preserve the dignity of women so that they are not reduced to mere objects of pleasure which is what contraception encourages. Look at the statistics and you will find an increase in breast cancer in direct correlation with the use of the pill. Addition, since the dawn of contraception, failed marriages, children born to single moms, skyrocketing abortion, poverty among single women, deadbeat dads, broken families and countless other data has increased expodentially just as a great Pope of the Catholic Church predicted would happen. Wake up.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  15. jimbojoker

    Compromise a purely democratic function, any more input from the gop and you can erase this word from the dictionary

    February 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  16. Tony in New York

    Take away the Catholic Church's tax exempt status – why should US taxpayers subsidize their abuse of children, their lies and their bigotry?

    February 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  17. Mary

    Wow, guess I misread the article I thought it was about birth control. I was raised Catholic and the church's stand on birth control was precisely the reason I left the church. A group of celibate men dictating women's health, ummmm no thanks. Fortunately there is another alternative to low cost birth control just visit a Planned Parenthood clinic.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • TAK

      Not so celibate, these men. Just ask the kids.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • midwstrngrl

      they are trying to close off that option too..

      February 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  18. Guester

    The Catholic Church is just another money making corporation and should be treated as such.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  19. Liv21

    Only 2 percent of Catholic women use natural family planning. The other 98 percent use – you guessed it – another form of contraception.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  20. Bruce Williams

    Big Woopie here people ! I thought that people had been tricked by mirrors for years, and that's all this is . Say it anyway you want to, it comes out to the exact same thing, sort of like taking the ten dollars out of you left pocket and putting it in your right pocket, you still only end up with ten dollars, and not a penny more !

    There's no compromise in the big announcement out of the White House that they are trying to sell everyone today, it's exactly the same old thing, from the same old "Good Old Boys" 😦 !!!!!

    February 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • risky

      Apparently you dont know how insurance works.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:45 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.