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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.

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. cate

    They are right – it's not about contraception. And they are wrong – it's not about freedom of religion. It's about freedom of choice. Just because they offer contraception as a benefit, doesn't force anyone to use it. But a family/woman should have the freedom to decide how many children to have and when. Not the church or the government.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Redstick Rep

      They do have freedom to decide; they can buy it with their own money or work somewhere else.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Peter

      And the choices of religious people don't matter? Shouldn't a pro-choicer be defending the Church's ability to choose how they practice their faith? In this case, they aren't even telling women what they can't do, only what the Church won't do for them. Who's imposing on who here?

      February 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Deb

      @Redstick, that's a very easy answer, huh. When was the last time you tried to buy birth control pills without insurance.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  2. M1sf1ts

    Is that guy in the photo wearing one of those olde Burger King crowns?

    February 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • DOG told me to do it!

      Its more like one of those old steam birds that grannies use to put on top of the pies they were baking

      February 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Redstick Rep

      It's called a Mitre.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  3. DOG told me to do it!

    TAX ALL CHURCHES! Until then, they can SUCK IT. Come to think of it, that might solve their birth control concerns as well.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  4. almostcityperson

    I feel that it would be better at this point had more to do with there being a seperation between an individual's religious rights (which I agree, should never be regulated) and a church's. CLEARLY not every individual member of the Catholic Church feels that birth control is evil. Isn't it squashing THEIR religious freedom to give their employers, of whatever religion, the right to prohibit certain presciption coverage?

    Here's the government siding with religious organizations over the individual. Just as people argue it sides with corporations instead of the individual.

    When do we get back to discussing citizens as individuals instead of as stereotype-following members of various big money/big influence/apparently all representative groups?

    February 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  5. KevinE

    JESUS CHRIST IS GOD <3

    God is the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. To know Jesus Christ is to know God.

    Like how we have water, ice, and vapor. They're all the same, but have different forms.

    John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. ......

    Skip down to John 1:10 "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not."
    ....
    John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

    Jesus Christ is the one and ONLY true God. Amen.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • KevinE

      Colossians 1:15 "Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He existed before all things, and he holds all creation together."

      February 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • sbp

      Cool story.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • steven

      and this has what to do with this topic?

      February 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Oldbear 60

      Another believer in myths and fiction heard from. Glad you believe, now leave the rest of us our beliefs and bug off!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Dan613

      kevin, really?? you know what? who the F cares about your stupid deity anyways? Jesus was probably gay, dude. And your bible is a bunch of myths. Get lost.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • anagram_kid

      By your logic (and I use the term loosely) mud is the same form as mashed potatoes and the Odyssey proves the existence of Zeus.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • KevinE

      I tell you the truth, Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to heaven. Your ticket to heaven has already been paid for. Jesus Christ paid the ticket with his precious blood he shed on the cross for our sins when he took our place for the judgment for our sins and rebellion and hatred against God. The ticket to heaven has already been paid for, but you cannot enter heaven if you never accept and receive the gift of God... ETERNAL LIFE through JESUS CHRIST. Jesus is Lord! <3

      February 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Steve

      He was a helluvah carpenter too... Pretty ironic given how he died.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  6. Jesucrisco

    The Catholic Church thinks that women should be barefoot, pregnant, servants.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Redstick Rep

      They believe nothing of the sort you liar.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  7. Oldbear 60

    Why do we let religion have ANY say in public policy. As long as Government doesn't force religions to do anything it's a moot point. IF religious groups want a say, then they must start paying taxes on property and salaries like the rest of us. Otherwise shut up!!

    February 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Jared

      This would have been a case of the government forcing something on a religious work place that goes against their beliefs.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Stan

      @Jared, which is somehow worse than a workplace forcing something on their workstaff that is against their beliefs?

      February 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • anagram_kid

      Jared,
      Gluttony is a sin. Therefore the Catholic Church must not cover any prescriptions for drugs that people have to take because they are overweight. To do so is condoling and continuing to enable a sinful lifestyle. Don’t you agree the Church should refuse that coverage as well?

      February 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Redstick Rep

      They have a say in public policy when said policy violates both our secular laws & their morality.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Mike

      I like your take on this....

      February 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  8. Mel

    OK, so when the republicans get in we can look forward to Roman Catholic laws enacted for everyone (birth control illegal) and mormon law (allowed to have more than one wife again). Marvellous!

    February 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  9. ShineOn75

    This is not about religious freedom....it's about women's health. It's funny how these "religious" leaders talk about this but none mentioned the importance of preventive health care for women. Amazing how some of these people are still living in the dark ages.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  10. TomGI

    Hey, catholic church cult, pay taxes or butt out. No representation without taxation. And what's with that funny hat, Tim? This is 2012, switch to a baseball cap worn backwards.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • DOG told me to do it!

      Hilarious! And spot on.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • point45

      typicak liberal. if someone doesn't follow your ideals, then criticize them. what an assss.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • DOG told me to do it!

      Point 45, I find your comment to be completely ironic. THAT, my friend is EXACTLY what churches DO.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  11. bostonBC

    Seriously – does anyone really think this is an issue worth discussing? The Catholic taliban in the Church hierarchy aren't going to vote for Obama anyway and since 98% of practicing Catholics in the US use birth control this is really about the Church being no longer able to force women to having more babies.

    Instead of getting their shrinking congregations to have more babies when people can't afford them – they cry about the government.

    Makes a great story for the 2% of the Catholic wackos who still follow the Church's teachings on birth control. But as I said – they aren't going to vote for Obama anyway so it's not a big deal.

    For the record I am an ex-Catholic who follows the Methodist tradition now. They don't believe in Hell which is a shamse since I am sure most of the Catholic taliban are going there for their crimes against children and women.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  12. Not Fat

    Obama is so much smarter than these conservative religious windbags.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  13. Allen in Seattle

    Why does anyone care what the leaders of the Catholic Church think? The President should not govern based on what these child molesters want! Women in this country need to wake up before the Catholic Church and guys like Rick Santorum strip away all their hard fought rights.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Steve

      Obama did alright I think. He still got the coverage for the women and managed to smoothe things over at least a little with the Catholic chruch... Good job Barry!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  14. kris in detroit

    I am Catholic and am sickened by all the disparaging remarks about my religion. What happened to religious tolerance. Not only has Obama started a class war, but he has started a religious war as well.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Jesucrisco

      He hasn't started either. But the Church is clearly waging a war against sanity.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Balls McGhee

      shut up Kris. you dont speak for all catholics. you are just a neocon catholic anyway. you should be against the death penalty, for health care, pro-welfare, and all these things yet you just listen to republicans tell you what to say. you are a shame to the catholic community. news falsh, the vast majority of women who are catholic agree with Obama on this decision . so get in line.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • sbp

      Some things are beyond tolerance. If you religion supported torturing a live goat in a sacrifice, just because it was OK 10,000 years ago, most people would not tolerate it today.

      With a world population now at 7 Billion and probably close to absolute capacity within our lifetimes, keeping the birth rates down is a critical issue for the survival of the human race. I have no tolerance for any religion that supports having unlimited children. This made sense when the world "was small." Now it's insane.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • doctororange

      More blood has been shed because religion than for any other reason. KEEP YOUR CHURCH OUT OF MY STATE. I'M TIRED OF YOU PEOPLE BULLYING YOUR VIEWS INTO MY WORLD. SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Mel

      The Roman church should cut back on child abuse and stop worrying about birth control issues.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Nique_mil

      I am catholic and embarrassed by this religious minority. FYI, 98% of catholic women have used contraceptive at some point in their lives. What a stupid, non-issue debate. Let's tatk about economic growth and jobs, jobs!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Stan

      seriously sbp? It's a goat... and they are delicious!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • sbp

      Well, Stan, I'm OK with the sacrifice (if I get a taste), I was objecting to the torture. Toughens the meat.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  15. Windy City Al

    If we had single-payer health insurance in this country instead of relying on employers to provide it, this controversy would never have occurred. Employers would never have to be faced with issues like this. A carmaker could focus on making cars, not on making cars plus having to deal with health insurance.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Giselle

      Not only a single health care system rather than the market economy system as americans have and seem to love, in Europe discussions on birth control are none of the Church's business. Unfortunately, america is too emeshed with religion and allows it to rule its country.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  16. MA

    Why are the men of the Catholic Church so quick to want to control women's bodies, but say nothing about condoms, Viagra, or vasectomy?

    February 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • DC

      What are you smoking? lol...

      February 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Central Park West

      It's a sham to say contraception aren't widely available to Catholics. In North America and Latin America Catholics are among the poorest people with the largest families, unwanted pregnancies, excessive cycles of poor access to resources to feed too many mouths.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • steven

      Religions have always tried to control women and it has never been in a good way.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Think Before Posting

      Condoms are sold over-the-counter. They are not covered by health care plans, so they are not an issue. Vasectomies are not covered by Catholic organizations' health care plans. They are treated the same as the birth control pill. That is, if individuals want them, they have to pay out of their own pocket. So, that's a poor example you've listed. Finally, Viagra? Do you even know what that is? It has nothing to do with this topic. If anything, Viagra would promote the ability to create life, which the Catholic Church would support. Please, think next time before you post.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  17. JasonP

    I think the boy rapist Church is getting a little too big for its britches.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  18. Johnson

    As a practicing Catholic I am tired of these old men trying to tell us how to behave and what to do in the bedroom when they are protecting from within their ranks guys who prey on our children. 99% of Catholic women have or did use contraception. The old men are wrong on this and I pray every time I take the Eucharist that someday soon women will be ordained and some normalcy will come to the church.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Huh

      What I can't figure out is why people like you still practice the religion. You seem to understand that the church is a political organization rather than a religious one, which is only interested in maintaining power in the hands of a few old men. It's as if you haven't been able to come to grips with the fact that you've wasted so much of your life worshiping the figment of someone else's imagination. Bummer.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Susana

      It's about freedom of religion. Who cares if 100% of catholics use contraceptiive, that's not the issue. Its about the church beliefe, Bible doctrin. This is their right!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  19. steven

    The Catholic church does not like anything that would limit the number of babies in a family and they advocate making many babies. The more babies, the more Catholics. They care about nothing else but more and more Catholics. Poor Catholic families having 5-8 children with no way to support them ... but hey, more Catholics. The Church is the primary concern not people.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Deb

      Steven, if it were really true that most Catholics don't use birth control, you would find ALOT bigger families than 5 – 8 children out there. They'd be popping them out pretty much every year. I just don't understand the hypocrisy. You can't use birth control, but you can't have an abortion either? There's something very wrong with this way of thinking. While I am not Catholic, I would make a guess that at least 80 – 90% of the Catholics out there use some form of birth control (other than the useless rhythm method), if not more. Don't see too many families like the Kennedys around.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  20. pars

    Where can I get one of those party hats in the picture. How ridiculous.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:23 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.