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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. Delta

    I believe the children are the future, abort them all and let them go
    Don't let them see the beauty that you have inside
    Give them a place to die

    February 11, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • really?

      Thats a pretty song there delta! Do you sing that while you eat dreaming children?

      February 11, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  2. Delta? Help the Bishop out here.

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DropvK7sFw&w=480&h=360]

    Disclaimer: 9 out of 10 bishops disapprove of this method.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  3. Delta

    WHITNEY HOUSTON HAS DIED! I blame the pro-choice crowd – and not the godless druggies who sold her drugs and used her.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • really?

      100% of all Drug pushers are religious!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  4. Delta

    I say the fewer people who get to vote or voice an opinion in this country, the better off we all are.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • really?

      If by fewer, you mean you! They yes!
      Wow you are really coming on board here Michelle!
      Gimmie a second, and I'll get your free toaster!
      We do that for all new members!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  5. Delta

    I say we ought to let only the 4% of our country who are atheists run everything. It worked so well in Vietnam and Cambodia!

    February 11, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • really?

      Yes! Umm! Just to let you know! Whitney Houston died from a drug over dose!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Delta

      I hold the Catholic Church, and it's position on abortifacients, personally responsible for her death!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • really?

      You would!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • really?

      At delta!
      I bet her family prayed and prayed, but yet again it didnt do a damn thing!
      if only she were a religious woman god would have shown her the light!
      She would have corrected the error of her ways! Found Jesus, and would have come through this!
      Oh!, wait a minute, she was a religious nut, just like you Mr delta blue!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
  6. WDinDallas

    We should go back to the attiitudes of the founding fathers of our country. Burn the atheists, they can't be trusted.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • really?

      Athiest are kind, decent loving human beings!

      Its you that has me worried!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • So?

      How well do they burn?

      February 11, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  7. Delta

    I've decided that if a "scientist" or a "doctor" can do it, it's moral and ethical! Won't you join me?

    February 11, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • really?

      Yes! 😀

      February 11, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  8. Delta

    I'm against the taking of human life ..... Unless it's innocent and most vulnerable

    February 11, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • really?

      I can't get on board with that!
      What else do you got?

      February 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  9. Delta

    I say the more people who are forced to do things against their conscience, the better a nation we are!

    February 11, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • really?

      If their conscience has been polluted by religion! Then yes! 😀

      February 11, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  10. Delta

    Let's take back America and kill all religious people!!!! Won't you join me?

    February 11, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • really?

      We dont need to kill them. But they could use a good lesson in science!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      Science...like Fr. Georges LaMeteria....the "father" of the Big Bang theory about the creation of the universe? Now that is ral science.

      February 11, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  11. Delta

    Dude, where's my country? It used to be pure, pro-abortion, feminist, with free health care, and no religion. Then all these freaks came in and changed everything.

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

      Umm! You can go to one of those 3rd world countries if your looking for ideas and a life from 2000 years ago!

      ALSO, THE VATICAN IS THAT AWAY! ->

      JUST STAY AWAY FROM CHILDREN!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  12. really?

    Lets make it mandatory, that all religious nuts get reprogrammed, to think logically!

    February 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  13. really?

    GET OUT OF MY WOMB, AND SHUT THE DOOR!
    TAX ALL CHURCHES AND RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS!
    MAKE IT A LAW THAT NO-ONE UNDER 18 IS ALLOWED IN A CHURCH!
    PLEASE PROTECT OUR CHILDREN, FROM THESE VILE DISGUSTING RELIGIOUS PEDOPHILES

    February 11, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  14. Delta

    I say let's do away with choice! I'm for anything, so long as it's mandatory.

    February 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • really?

      We know you dont people having choice!
      You've made that abundantly clear!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  15. really?

    GET OUT OF MY WOMB, AND SHUT THE DOOR!
    TAX ALL CHURCHES AND RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS!
    MAKE IT A LAW THAT NO-ONE UNDER 18 IS ALLOWED IN A CHURCH!
    PLEASE PROTECT OUR CHILDREN, FROM THESE VILE DISGUSTING RELIGIOUS PEDOPHILES!

    February 11, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  16. Delta

    I say our national policies ought to align with whatever NARL and NOW want. No exceptions!!!

    February 11, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • really?

      Dumb!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  17. Delta

    I say, if you set up a homeless shelter, or a school, or a university, you darn well better be prepared to pay for abortions. This is America after all

    February 11, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • really?

      You're just being stupid, and thoughtless!
      Well stupid and thoughtless is kinda the same thing. I guess I should have said that youre just being you!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  18. Delta

    I say every doctor and hospital ought to be forced to do whatever their patients demand, regardless if it goes against the doctors opinion or conscience

    February 11, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • HONESTLY!

      Why are you sooo disgruntled?
      Cuz everyone doesn't want to think, or live like you do?

      February 11, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  19. Delta

    I say federal funding for any university ought to be contingent on whether or not they do animal testing for humans.

    February 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • really?

      Only if they can test on you moron!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  20. Delta

    I say the most American thing to do is to ban all religion. It's why our country was founded.

    February 11, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • really?

      Finally!
      You've said something I can get on board with!
      Now your talking! 😀

      February 11, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      It was founded on the freedom of religion. That the State should stay out of religion. Read up!

      February 11, 2012 at 8:16 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.