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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. dave

    Maybe now the Catholic Bishops can work on convincing the remaining 98% of Catholic who never practice their form of birth control.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  2. RonB

    Great for women. But, how about my blood pressure medication. I want it for free too.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  3. robot

    Just wondering, how does this work if the insurance company is run by a catholic board? That will need a tricky solution alright.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  4. Gregg

    Obama is a true dictator.....whatever he desires his cronies will manipulate the system so he can so he can further erode the truths of our founding fathers.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • jimtanker

      Yes, the first and only dictator who was elected by the people of his country and will serve only 4 years. (Until he gets reelected this Nov that is.)

      February 10, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • maine liberal

      Please let me know when you are forced to take birth control.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:16 pm |

    • I'd kind of like to see a huge picture of Obama on every block and street corner. Kind of Che Guevara-like, but with a more button-down look.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • OBAMA2012

      really? A dictator? Do you know what that word means? Someone that gives healthcare to people in need, and compromises with those who don't agree would not be historically categorized as a dictator.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Real christian Perspective

      Gregg, you are a serious idiot if you think the Founding Fathers were against birth control. The Dictator here is the Catholic church who dictates to the people something that they couldn't defend with scripture if they tried. My advice to the sad old men in the Vatican.. "if you don't play the game you don't get to make the rules".

      February 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Liv21

      Um, I don't think you know what "dictator" means. I don't think you know how the US Government works either. Google before you post in the future please.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • REal American

      You seriously need an education

      February 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  5. jimtanker

    As someone said earlier, if there is a McDonalds in a catholic hospital can they supersize the meal? If gluttony is a deadly sin should there even be a McDonalds in a catholic hospital at all?

    February 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm |

    • Watch: MacDonalds will cave. Only fish on Fridays.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  6. Oblabla

    Nice timing, Oshama. If this were Romney, he'd be labled a flip-flopper, so let's do the same here, ya bunch of farter starters!

    February 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Liv21

      I find it so intriguing that those with the least articulate, most juvenile comments are from some of those in support of the GOP or Catholic Church. Why is that?

      February 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Brad

      Let's be kind and assume that they are normal folks trolling as Republicans.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Liv21

      That's very nice of you Brad. OK. I'll go along with it and pretend that's the case. It'll help me sleep better at night. I can't bear to think people out there really think like this!

      February 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  7. robert

    Ok so religion is supposed to be exempt from the laws and congress isn't supposed to be able to make laws that go against religious beliefs. Boy does that make me want to start my own church. We will eat, drink wine, smoke pot and hashish, wear wierd garments and hats and celebrate our lord our way lord.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  8. jimtanker

    The one and only reason that the catholic church created those rules about abortion and contraception is so that they can breed more catholics and therefore have more warriors and receive more money in tlthe. NO other reasons.

    There is nothing in the bible about preventing abortions but a lot in there about god and his gang kiIIing babies, women, and children.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  9. johnmenacherjr@rocketmail.com

    All this excercise was for the catholic bishops to line up the members for a hot button fight. If you are into the no birth control thing that is your faith and live it. However just becuase you are drunk with money , influence and power like the Conferences bishops dont shove it down the whole countries throat. You do not have that right period. All this was done by the bishops instead of working together but then there s no money in that? Just a clear conscience. I think they should make it mandatory that all catholics HAVE to be republican calvinists.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • John

      Dear Rocketmail,

      Please disable the following email account johnmenacherjr@rocketmail.com. I inadvertantly posted it on the CNN Belief Blog and I can n o longer keep up with the spam I am receiving.

      Thanks
      John Menacher Jr.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  10. paul

    Why are the Republicans against women???? They voted against "equal pay for equal work", they tried to defund Planned Parenthood (where most young women get their healthcare since they have no insurance), they are now against contraception. Where does it stop???

    February 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Momof3

      When we're at home, barefoot and pregnant and most of all seen, but not heard!

      February 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • sam

      The religious right likes women to be good for two things: making sandwiches, and making little right wingers.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  11. mamivaqui

    That the churches are tax exempt is highway robbery. Let them PAY and then they can have an opinion.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  12. olga79

    I am a Catholic and had the most serious endometriosis problem. I was given a prescription of birth control pills. If I didn't have a coverage for that pill it would have cost me hundreds of dollars and I would have suffered agonizing pain every month if I can't afford it.

    Obama's policy is right on the issue. Let it be covered and have each Catholic make their decision. God gave us free will why is the church imposing this issue to women. The priest don't seem to understand women's issues. I also don't understand how they snowballed this issue and have everybody up in arms. Wouldn't the best thing to do as an adult and leader of the church to sit down with the White House on the issue?

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

      DId you expect the priests to be adult about this? (This next comment in no way insults Christianity, just the priests). Those idiots are all to self-righteous, nosy, intolerant jacka$$es with no respect for anyone that doesn't think exactly like they do.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      olga79 I am glad things worked out for you. Unfortunately you have chosen to belong to a church that does not valve all human beings equally. This is not unique to just the Catholic Church .You would do well to leave such an organization and become a freethinker.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Vic

      You hit the nail on head with that one, it is a choice, no is forcing anything on anyone, but the choice for women should be there. These are the types of problems you have when the leaders of the church are men and don't understand anything abou tthe female body. If you don't believe in taking BC, that's fine, but don't attempt to eliminate that option for everyone else.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Liv21

      Sorry for what you're going through. Unfortunately, they don't give a sh-t about you. Sorry to say that, but it's obvious now. All that matters is what a book from thousands of years ago says. Sad, isn't it?

      February 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  13. mamivaqui

    Wenski would love to manipulate this situation so that he does not offer health care to the Miami employees and he has more mony for his pedophiles.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  14. sayer

    They pay for viagra which also allows man to interfere with God's plans. The church doesn't have any problem with paying for that.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Michael

      I don't think it says anywhere in the Bible what the limitations are on the "be fruitful and multiply" command.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Skyler

      But maybe the god doesn't want the worshipper to have an erection. Wouldst thou be goingeth against what the almighty has teacheth?

      February 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Flinders, the butler

      Exactly. It's the "Natural Law" BS. They say it's "natural" to conspire with your wife to prevent a pregnancy, but it's NOT "natural" to walk to the drug store. Time to grow up.

      Tea time is at 4 PM. Anyone for crrrrrrumpets ?

      February 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  15. Skyler

    A minor issue. It'll blow over quickly. Love how most of the people talking are men. Absurd.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  16. The Prophet Mohammed

    Time to make organized religion pay taxes on all their property.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Ahmed K

      Why do you mock the Prophet Mohammed? Do you understand how that makes me feel?

      February 10, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  17. maggie

    Of course the reaction is mixed. You give them a hand, they want the entire arm.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Liv21

      And then they want your first born. But only if it's a boy. And if he's under 12.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  18. Brad

    How will easy access to contraceptives contribute to the destruction of Christianity? What other evils has Obama brought to bear?

    February 10, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Liv21

      First, preventing unwanted babies and next thing you know "teh gehz" will be able to marry! Oh noes!

      February 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Brad

      Sorry – that was meant to be a sardonic reply.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Liv21

      Oh I know, I speak it fluently. 😉

      February 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Vic

      Too funny! Love it!

      February 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  19. The Prophet Mohammed

    The majority of Catholics are hypocrites when it comes to contraception. Look at Archbishop Dolan all dressed up for a costume party while millions of people are starving in the streets. That plump porker has never missed a meal in his life.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      You are so uniformed. The Catholic Charch and Charities is one of the largest provider of social services, providing real health care, shelter, crisis pregnancy assistance and feeding the poor second only to the government. What have you done to help?

      February 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • The Prophet Mohammed

      You missed the entire point. The charities get the money from people not this fat porker who lives like a king.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  20. XtianNation

    I don't like the Catholic church but lately they've been on the right side of every issue from ab0rtion to this nonsense about forcing churches to pay for contraceptives!!!! O-Dahmer is trying to destroy Christianity so that people will worship the state and then he can easily make this a communist country!!!!

    February 10, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Liv21

      Glenn? Glenn Beck? Is that you? You were told to stay 500 yards away from CNN. Back to Foxnews you go!

      Seriously. You're not helping your cause. Stop. Just stop.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • not that fred

      please tell me you're trolling

      February 10, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Brad

      How will easy access to contraceptives contribute to the destruction of Christianity? What other evils has Obama brought to bear?

      February 10, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • maggie

      You are unbelievably clueless on any number of levels XtianNation.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      We should stop this nonsense of churches, including yours, getting a free tax ride.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • KdmQ

      XtianNation you're a fool – Obama is a Christian, goes to church every sunday – has for years....perhaps you don't like his brand of Christianity b/c its not filled w/ hate like yours? Ignorance of it all..........no wonder our country is going down the tubes with the likes of peeps like you!

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

      While reading your post, all I could hear was banjoes. And not the good kind.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:17 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.