home
RSS
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. ldsmom02

    Regardless of some in the Catholic Church and their behavior, this is not about contraception and all about Religious Freedom and the trampling of 1st Amendment rights. You can argue, call people names, act like babies about it, but it will never be about anything other than Religious Freedom. Anyone can get contraceptives from Planned Parenthood and the like, in this country no one has the right to force anyone to go against their religion.

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

      It has nothing whatsoever to do with that. Educate yourself.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      No, this is all about politics. If it was really about first amendment rights, then we'd have been hearing about this for a long time since many states already have this requirement. Get your head out of the sand and get over yourself.

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

      no one was forcing anything on anyone. u own a business u r not allowed to treat your employees like dogs unless u r a catholic company where u do not care what religion your employees are, they must do as u do
      yet it is ok for the christian taliban to force their messed up beliefs on others.

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

      Good comment. This is about religous freedoms and to think of it as anything else is just inane

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

      There is a lot of catholic prejudices going on here. Catholics are used to this type of treatment (that doesnt OK it), but as a liberal, you are supposed to be more understanding and tolerant of others. You prove you are not that. Prejudices are everywhere.

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

    If the Catholic Church could be trusted not to molest children, perhaps they could make a serious case against birth control.

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

      Amen!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • notfromtheisland

      Gosh u r really dumb! It is not a right to have free contraception! I should not have to pay for your choices! Pregnancy is not a disease. You can get free contraception fr any public clinic. Why should I have to pay thru higher premiums for someone else responsbility?

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

      what a silly comment.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Natfka

      if women could be trusted not to kill the infants and children then I would agree with you...
      What, you mean not all women kill their children? If you can take a couple bad priests and apply it to the entire faith, then I can single out a single black man, woman, jew or any other group for that matter to represent them all.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Justin

      "Jesucrisco" is nothing but a troll.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  3. Tom Wyckoff

    Men in funny hats should not be telling anyone anything.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  4. Mike

    CNN proves over and over again that it is trying to outliberal MSNBC. This is one of the most ridiculous articles yet. Talking to splinter Catholic groups who hold no authority or say in the Catholic Church is not a controversy. Having the US Goverment telling the Catholic Church who and what they have to support is the hieght of hypocrasy. O'Bama has lost any chance at a second term.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  5. Windy City Al

    No doubt most Catholic women of childbearing age use birth control. How can they complain of Obama trampling on their religious beliefs when they don't follow them themselves?

    February 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  6. Alex

    I know, how about this novel Idea, How about if we have a country where people can make thier own choices about thier religion and way of life. I think they have a word for that..... Oh yeah Freedom.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      Then I, as an employer, don't want to cover anyone's health insurance. Or maybe I only want to cover health insurance for single, white, middle-aged, males. Let's say I'm a national company? Are you cool with that?

      Looks like it's time for Civics 101.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Natfka

      sorry, but we don't get freedoms like "freedom of religion" under this administration. Maybe next time.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  7. gardens1

    obama's original contraceptive plan is good, no revision is necessary. obama is for womens' health, career opportunity and advancement, good marriage and family life with less divorce, while with more freedom for women, for better children and growth and for better financial securuty and prosperity. any revision or republican party based plan would move this country and catholic faith and other religious faiths will bring sharia laws, honor killing, subjugation of women and slavery to women. all these will work against the principlles of founding fathers. obama should not be influenced by politics but should be concerned only for american independence and prosperity and maintaining world leadership as foreseen by obama. majority of americn women faith based or secular based are with obama and they should not be misled republicans or any other political or religious parties.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  8. Henry

    What did they think was going to happen?

    'Oh, you're angry that we mandated that you provide contraceptives as part of health care? Let's just ban them outright to make you happy'

    February 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  9. Moravian

    Who give rat's ass what so called "religious leaders" think??

    February 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  10. Jesucrisco

    The history of the Catholic Church should bring nothing but shame on church leaders. There is no more ungodly organization on the face of this earth.

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

      Keep on trolling.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  11. mudbone9

    The Catholic Church needs to clean up its own house before attempting to force their religious extremist views on the rest of us. They tried to pull this same kind of unwanted influence during a proposed merger of two hospitals in Louisville Kentucky. We are not Iran...please keep your religious views to yourselves.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  12. MASTRODAMUS

    Now they can move on back to their alter boys.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  13. James

    Michele needs to get laid!

    February 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  14. Ieat

    gr the administration is not getting this. Religious groups don't compromise. They have a doctrine that they have to follow. Stop trying to cater to special groups and just call it health care plan for woman. Because BCP is used for variety of issues other than contraceptives. It's so silly they have to highlight the one thing that the church can't agree upon. If the admin says that it's necessary for those with certain issues like endometriosis, or hormonal imbalance, it's treated as medicine and this won't be an issue.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  15. Harald

    Church and State must be separated. Period !
    This time the catholic church intervenes about contraception, next time Islamist might request alcohol prohibition, while Jews perhaps will ask for laws that prohibit food that's not kosher and Jehova's witnesses will ask for a ban on blood transfusions.
    The government has an obligation to do what is in the best interest of its people and not giving in to particular groups, whether they are religious or not.
    Although the revision of the contraception rule at the end doesn't really change much, the govt. is still sending the wrong message.

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

      Excuse me? Obama is violating 1st amendment rights and somehow, it's the Catholic Church who is doing so?

      The reason the Catholic Church called "foul" was because their rights were being trampled! Separation of Church and State? Tell that to Obama & Sebelius!

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

      @Justin: this is nonsense. The contraception rule has nothing to do with the first amendment and all with women's rights to have the same access to contraception whether the work for for the church or a secular company.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      That Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion doesn't mean that people who are religious can do anything they want, laws of the land be damned. Get a clue.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Justin

      @Harald: Actually, the government is doing what they think is right for women and everyone else be damned. Do you realize what certain contraceptives and abortifacients do to women? Do you realize how many women die every year from these medications? The Catholic Church cares about women more than you think. Plan B can kill. Abortifacients kill. And this is in a woman's best interest?

      February 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Justin

      Sorry, that was meant for *facepalm* – but to Harald as well, while I'm at it.

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

      @Justin: try sticking to facts and support them. Contraception doesn't kill women any more than other medicines.
      But that's not even the point. The point is that the church has no business in meddling in affairs of the state.
      And another critical point is that every woman should be able to decide on her own when it comes to contraception or even abortion. Again, this is not supposed to be the church's business.

      February 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  16. allens

    i know what will sell the compromise to the catholkc priests, promise they can go on molesting kids without prosicution. what a rediculous group of people they are. they should be hiding their faces, not pushing their morals

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

      I'm sure you meant prosecution and ridiculous. right? lol

      February 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  17. Interested48

    Who cares what they think!

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

      I'm glad that I'm not the only one that feels the way you do.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  18. Jack

    It must be so tough when you whine and complain and then you get what you want. What's the problem? Spoiled idiots. They want everything. They want a Theocracy. Beware Catholics–all those conservative Protestant fundamentalists hate papists almost as much as communists. Notice how the nuns in the Church get it and the Bishops (all male) don't. In all this debate it was the males who were the most outspoken and upset by this. Hmmm.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  19. Jesucrisco

    After all the horrible, sick thing the Catholic church has done to children, they have no moral authority whatsoever. Why does anyone even pretend that they do?

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

      Your judging an entire religion based on a few bad apples. How moronic.

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

      You/re

      February 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  20. doctororange

    What happened to separation of church and state? And how about people that don't believe in contraception pay for welfare?

    February 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36
Advertisement
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.