U.S. bishops reject Obama contraception compromise
March 14th, 2012
09:40 PM ET
11 years ago

U.S. bishops reject Obama contraception compromise

(CNN) – An adjustment to a controversial federal rule requiring employers cover contraception in their health insurance plans was labeled "dubious" by an influential group of Roman Catholic bishops on Wednesday.

The rule in question mandated all employers, including religiously affiliated organizations like hospitals and colleges, provide free contraception to employees through health insurance plans. Churches were exempted from the law.

After uproar from conservatives and religious groups, President Barack Obama announced an accommodation to the rule. Under the new plan, insurers will be required to offer complete coverage free to women instead of the religious institutions themselves.

On Wednesday the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said the new rule remained "unspecified and dubious," and said they would seek to engage in conversations with members of Obama's administration to seek a more attractive alternative.

"We will continue to accept any invitation to dialogue with the executive branch to protect the religious freedom that is rightly ours," the bishops said. "We will continue to pursue legislation to restore the same level of religious freedom we have enjoyed until just recently. And we will continue to explore our options for relief from the courts, under the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws that protect religious freedom."

The group also attempted to push back on criticism from liberals that their opposition to the contraception rule was akin to restricting access to forms of birth control.

"This is not about access to contraception, which is ubiquitous and inexpensive, even when it is not provided by the church's hand and with the church's funds," the group wrote.

The statement continued, "Indeed, this is not about the church wanting to force anybody to do anything; it is instead about the federal government forcing the church - consisting of its faithful and all but a few of its institutions - to act against church teachings."
Responding to the bishops, Catholic League President Bill Donohue said the statement "leaves nothing on the table."

"It debunks many myths about this issue: it is not about contraception; it is not just about Catholic religious rights; it is not about the Catholic Church trying to impose its will on others," Donohue wrote. "It is about the federal government trying to impose its agenda on us."

Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest at Georgetown University, said the bishops' statement used "strong and uncompromising" language while not becoming inflammatory.

"The statement's reference to the administration's adaptation as 'unspecified and dubious' highlights the bishops' distrust of the White House and HHS," Reese said. "The bishops do not believe the administration's promises to fix the problem for faith-based organizations and self-insured plans."

Reese pointed out a flaw in the bishops' argument that employers who feel their conscience was violated by providing contraception coverage should be exempted from the law.

"The statement infers that religious liberty is an absolute right that cannot be restricted," Reese said. "If this were true, Mormons and Muslims could practice polygamy and those who believe God demands the separation of the races should be exempted from civil rights legislation."

-CNN’s Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

Filed under: Religion
soundoff (93 Responses)
  1. HenryB

    I was a Catholic and worked in a Catholic school, an excellent school. I respect the church and even can appreciate the position of the bishops. It has now gotten to the point where the bishops have squarely inserted themselves into politics and all on the side of the Republicans. They don't even pretend to be anything but a voice for that dysfunctional and extreme party. I always liked the Catholic church because it tended to stay away from these Republican "culture war" issues. When these Republicans now say "We are all Catholics now" they really really don't mean they have suddenly taken a liking to the Catholic church. They say this so they can get these political position advanced. And these bishops are being led by the nose. I think they realize this and relish their position of influence. Sad!

    March 15, 2012 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  2. wgf

    The Catholic church continues to have its religous freedom. What it does not have is the right to impose its religous beliefs on the people it employs outside of the church.

    In supporting the Catholic church in this matter, the GOP has taken the position that the rights of organizations trump the rights of individuals. This is, of course, the logical position for the party that believes "corporations are people".

    March 15, 2012 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  3. Fla Pete

    The religious leaders are rubbing the issue of church and state in our faces.Every election cycle these religious dinosaurs,called bishops,rear their heads on cue to complain because the rightwing radicals provoke them to do so.Maybe instead of taking up issues pertaining to women,maybe they'd like the government to intercede on their pedaphile problems.There's an issue of seperation of church and state that needs to be addressed a little more sternly to the religious right.If they want to interject on issues pertaining to women's rights and such,and make these issues political,then maybe they should lose their tax exempt staitus.That would more than certainly SHUT their sanctumonious mouths for at least an election cycle or two..I myself a Catholic is getting tired of religious rules that are hundreds of years old shoved down my throat.My upbringing helps me thru many a cross roads,but this is too extreme,enough is enough...Stay in the church and fix your own problems,unless you want government like England does to metal in yours...

    March 15, 2012 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  4. diridi

    These are bunch of idiots. They do not use these? I don't think so. Why child molestation is rampant in Churches? Don't they use all these devices? Stop this religious zealotry. Nonsense in the nation of Secular. Total stupidity. o.k, Stay away from Government affairs. Just cut all the deduction of Taxes to these charities. Decease is cured.

    March 15, 2012 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  5. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I reject the catholic church and its medieval teachings. What a bunch of fools. The contraception compromise has nothing to do with the church, it is about women and federal and state laws.

    March 15, 2012 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  6. David Medina

    Well then ask them to pass on tax exempt status. They don't want government interference then they shouldn't get benefits.

    March 15, 2012 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  7. Namejkane fl live from teapublican moon base no taxes, no regulation no health care, free gas.

    Butt out of government or start paying taxes. You can't even run the church properly and expect Catholics to listen to you. I'm catholic and I see your selective enforcement of rules, that's why American Catholics don't pay any attention to you.

    March 15, 2012 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  8. kevin

    I was raised catholic. I have one thing to say to the bishops. Pat taxes or shut up.

    March 15, 2012 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  9. Greg

    At this point, it seems the priests are just whining. They want more, they think they can get it, so they are purposfully acting like this. Going beyond the compromise Pres. Obama offered is a bigger step than a reasonable person would take.

    March 15, 2012 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  10. Rudy NYC

    I wonder if these intellectuals who call themelves Bishops realize that Jesus would judge them as hypocrites because they are using faith, Jesus' faith, as a shield to ignore the "things which are Caesar's" [ Matthew 22:17-22 ]

    March 15, 2012 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  11. Perter Franks

    To the "influential group of Roman Catholic bishops" because of you – my Catholic church no longer receives my 10%, and let me tell you it was a tidy sum, I will not allow you, a group of men who are no closer to God than I am, to disrespect the health of my children. In addition, my children's life is not to become the church's clown cars.

    Your agenda is rooted in the dark ages, and I myself refuse to go back to that time. My children's life are just as important as your children's life, wait – you do not have children that you are responsible for.. so you would not know how that feels in the "Real world"

    The only reason you do this now, is because you know that in 10 to 15 years you will not have the kind of support as you do now, your "Base" will not be as strong as it is now. I am on the board of my local church, a Knight, and my wife at one time was a secretary for several churches – so we know of the inner working of the church. And we know why the push now, versus doing this years from now, we know your base is shrinking. And I ask you, why are your counterparts in Europe not doing the same?

    IA woman's health is important, my wife's, children, mothers, aunts, and friends, they are NOT your pawns to play with.

    I, a life long Catholic will not follow you blindly. Clean your own shop, before you try to clean someone else.
    You try to put the fear of God in people, but once we learn that you are mere man, just like the rest of us, we are not afraid of you, and I do not stand alone.

    Matthew 18:20 – and there is plenty of room at my house.

    March 15, 2012 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  12. Dennis Freeman

    Before the bishops worry about this stuff, I would suggest they get priests to keep their hands to themselves around youngsters. Until they do, they have no standing to do much else.

    March 15, 2012 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  13. Mitt Romney Is Soo Plastic he Makes Mannequins Looks Real

    The religious rights & freedoms of Mormons and Muslims is to practice polygamy; that is marrying plenty wives or more than one wife!

    Now if the Catholic Bishops are citing religious freedom as grounds for not wanting to cover contraception in their health insurance plans, then it's only fair to let Mormons and Muslims practice their religious freedom and be allowed to marry several wives!!!!

    The United States is a nation of laws, but the extremists on both ends want govt. out of lives...and practically want the United States to end up being a lawless country. The Catholic Bishops obviously wants a free reign and a free ride to do whatever they want; but I'm sorry this is America, a nation of laws!!!!!

    March 15, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  14. Kenneth the VI of Minneapolis

    I would think that the Catholic Church have bigger problems than women issues.

    March 15, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  15. Kenneth the VI of Minneapolis

    It appears that men over 60 are making decisions for women in the 21st Century....are they not going backwards?

    March 15, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  16. Anonymous

    These people who committed or allowed pedophilia to occur to so many should not be allowed to speak with a 'moral' voice, particularly on the health care of women. If you want to participate as an employer, you must provide the same access to health care as other employers. As this is being reviewed, you have to consider that their tax exempt status should also be reconsidered. This is America, not Afghanistan and you are not to discriminate against women with tht excuse of 'religion'

    March 15, 2012 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  17. ziegfeldf

    Can just any religion opt out of federal laws because they offend the religion's morals? Or is it only *officially recognized* religions? That's where the First Amendment is violated.

    Besides, the Catholic Church's religious functions are exempt. What are they complaining about? Why should Catholic-Church-run *businesses* be exempt? (If they had objected on the basis of being non-profit organizations or some other non-religious grounds, that would be different.)

    March 15, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  18. king

    Instead of rejecting the president policies, why don't you guys fight against 90 percent of the women you teach, not to use birth control. Stop using your ineptness to control your flock and push it on to this president. You've got your job to take care your flock, just like the president have his job to take care of working Americans. He has made a big compromise not to hold you guys accountable by pushing the responsibility of contraceptives to the insurance companies, yet you allow yourself to be motivated by the repubs not to accept this compromise. Do your job with your flock and allow the president to do his job with his American people.

    March 15, 2012 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  19. Marcia Greenwood, IN

    The US does not tax churches-but when the church is running a business or charity and employing people it is not a church-it is an employer and should be taxes and provide benefits as such.

    March 15, 2012 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  20. Rudy NYC

    ziegfeldf asked:

    Can just any religion opt out of federal laws because they offend the religion's morals?
    No, they cannnot. That's already settled law. The entire "war on religion" argument is pure politics, designed to mislead people into believing something that is entirely false.

    March 15, 2012 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  21. Eric

    So if I work for a company owned by Jehovah's Witnesses will they have the right to exclude blood transfusions from being covered by my insurance?

    March 15, 2012 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  22. coy4one

    The experts are those who have wives and children. Catholic priests are no experts on reproduction! If the Catholic church wants this rule to exclude Catholics, then they should be required to cover the costs of all Catholic women who are victims as a result of having no other option. The Catholic church needs to become more than just a mouth piece.

    March 15, 2012 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  23. anagram_kid

    I know for a fact that nuns use contraception for medical reasons. I guess the bishops don’t care about their health.

    March 15, 2012 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  24. Chumlee

    It is time for the IRS to cancel the non-profit, non-tax (look at this US taxpayers) status of the Catholic church.

    Start paying your taxes. Your are violating the 501 C regulation.

    Obama 2012

    March 15, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  25. lyn

    I have no faith in the catholic church they should be ashame to talk, when those old men molested those kids.How there they reject the President, a woman have the right to do what is best for her and not what the catholic church want.

    March 15, 2012 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
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