Key Catholic Obama ally shifts position, opposes contraception mandate

The White House has lost perhaps its most prominent Catholic ally in its controversial effort to expand contraception coverage, with … Continued

The White House has lost perhaps its most prominent Catholic ally in its controversial effort to expand contraception coverage, with the huge Catholic Health Association saying Friday that the mandate for most religious employers to offer coverage would not “adequately meet the religious liberty concerns.”

The change of position at the association, the country’s largest group of nonprofit health care providers, comes as polls show President Obama and Mitt Romney tied among registered Catholic voters. In the last four of five presidential races, the candidate who won Catholics won the presidency.

In a five-page letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, leaders of the association said it supports the president’s overall health care overhaul, but believes he should broaden the exemption for religious groups who say facilitating the use of contraception in any way goes against their religious belief.

Read a copy of the letter here.

The mandate that employers, including most religious ones, offer employees a variety of preventative services including contraception without any out-of-pocket charge, has been controversial among some from the start, particularly Catholic bishops. Actual houses of worship were exempted, but not other faith-based institutions like schools or hospitals that don’t primarily employ or serve people of the same faith.

The White House earlier this year attempted to allay the concerns of faith-based employers by announcing that such employers wouldn’t have to pay directly for the contraception coverage. Instead, health insurers would pay at no additional cost to the employers. But opponents, most visibly the bishops, said that still violated their faith and conscience.

In contrast, the health association, led by Sister Carol Keehan and made up of more than 2,000 health care entities, said it was comfortable with the compromise. But Friday’s letter includes the same concerns the bishops have voiced all along, that the mandate codifies in law that houses of worship are inherently “religious” — and thus entitled to an exemption — but faith-based social service groups aren’t.

The mandate as is “parses a bona fide religious organization into secular and religious components solely to impose burdens on the secular portion. To make this distinction is to create a false dichotomy between the Catholic Church and the ministries through which the Church lives out the teachings of Jesus Christ. Catholic health care providers are participants in the healing ministry of Jesus,” the letter said.

It wasn’t immediately clear what led to the association’s change of view. The letter cites “our examination and study of the proposal,” and officials at the White House and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have said private meetings about the mandate have continued in recent months.

In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll Romney is beating Obama 55-41 among white Catholic voters.

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  • thebump

    Better late than never, but shame on the CHA for its initial confusion in playing footsie with Sibelius, Oboobma and this diabolical regime.

  • persiflage

    Religious belief bots will be our undoing.

  • DavidJ9

    Only one sentence matters in that letter:

    “If The Government Insists That All Employees Have Access to Contraceptive Coverage Without Cost Sharing, Then It Should Provide And Pay for These Services Directly.”

    Let’s do it.

  • cricket44

    Funny how they never phrase it accurately: “We only think *some* folks deserve heatlh care coverage.” Guess that would be too honest.

    False piety strikes again.

  • jade_7243

    It should be clear to everyone that the Catholic Health Association, and the nuns who run it and Catholic hospitals all over the country are under siege, trying to weather all kinds of attacks from the Vatican. This has nothing to do with real policy, just the all male hierarchy putting its boot on the neck of women everywhere. If these nuns weren’t being threatened — and one can only guess that exorcism and excommunication are among the threats –they would not have changed their position.

    It is too bad that they cannot stand firm (at least not without the strong support of liberal Catholics). Religion should not be a barrier to healthcare, including contraception, in vitro fertilization and abortion. But, shame on us for allowing that interference.

  • jade_7243

    By the way, why does the banner for this article — “Under God” — contain an outdated four year old picture from the 2008 Election? Shouldn’t it be updated to show the candidates/nominee from current crop of Republicans? I mean, you’ve had four years….

  • Chip_M

    “facilitating the use of contraception in any way goes against their religious belief”

    Well then I guess they’d better stop paying their employees at all then since they might just use the money to buy contraception and then they’d be facilitating its use.

  • Starshiy1

    No matter where you stand on this issue, Obama’s timing on this is awful. Another self-inflicted wound by an administration that is proving to be politically inept.


    Relax account the Supreme Court on the current case of Obamacare will rule against it account of the number of RCs & GOPs that are members of the court and they do not want it back again by a RCC suit case.

  • practica1

    To protect the religious liberty of the institutional churches, they ought all to lose their tax exempt status that subsidizes their operations.

    And if they don’t want to comply with federal rules they should lose their contracts with the federal government and become ineligible for federal subsidies of their “faith based initiatives”.

  • MarilynManson

    Religious freedom is for individuals, not corporations or institutions that have employees. Individual Catholics have the freedom to not use contraception if that’s what they believe. But when the church, or organizations controlled by the church hire people, pay wages, give benefits etc, they should have to follow the rules that all other businesses follow. If contraception goes against church teachings, then I would think anyone who follows the church would not be using contraception, no matter if it was offered. The government should not be enforcing the church’s dogma. If people do not wish to follow the church’s rules, then the problem is between the church and its followers. The government should stay out of it. The church needs to do a better job of influencing its believers and not trying to get special treatment from the government.

  • nosscrim

    Well, maybe they are afraid of the Wrath of the Vatican. I see where Catholic League president Bill Donohue recently said of the nuns who are being so troublesome because of their supposedly liberal leanings:

    “Quite frankly I believe, as Pope Benedict the XVIth said just before he became pope, that maybe a smaller church would be a better church.”

    I call this the Ninotchka view of Catholicism. In the 1939 film, starring Greta Garbo, Comrade Nina Yakushova / Ninotchka, a true believer in the Church of Communism, says to her comrades temporarily stationed in Paris:

    “The last mass trials were a great success. There will be fewer but better Russians.”

    This kind of purging didn’t work for the Communists, and ultimately it will not work for the Catholic Church either.

  • rspct

    “The government should stay out of it.” Agreed. That’s pretty much what the Catholic organizations want: for the government to “stay out of it” and *not* force organizations to act in ways contrary to their conscience.

  • rspct

    Catholics – the Bishops, the organization at issue here, and the laity in general – have been consistent supporters of nationally-provided health care. They just don’t like a few specific aspects of this plan.

  • kodonivan

    I have been asking that question myself for some time! I would love to get rid of that photo of Nobama and keep it photos of people who are known to be religious! However, my complaints to the powers that be of this paper have ignored me! Perhaps it is because I am not a local, but a lowly Californian.

  • Marlowe28

    rspct, labor laws are the purview of the government. It was determined by a non-partisan group of health care professionals that universal, affordable access to birth control is good public policy as it leads to better maternal and infant health and it lowers medical expenses over all. Since most health insurance is provided through employers in this country, the RCC has a choice. Follow the law or stop operating huge businesses that employ and serve non-Catholics and are dependent on tax dollars to survive.

    Religious organizations do not get to veto public health policy or labor law. This is not yet a theocracy.

  • Marlowe28

    ccnl123, you have misrepresented that paticular SCOTUS decision. The plaintiff was a woman who had ministerial duties. SCOTUS agreed that religious organizations could not be forced to employ people as ministers whom they did not want to employ. That doesn’t mean that Catholic-affiliated schools or hospitals can fire teachers or nurses based in violation of labor laws.

  • Marlowe28

    “Known to be religious”? I take that would exclude anyone who disagrees with you about abortion?

  • Marlowe28

    rspct, birth control is basic health care for women. Denying women the ability to control their reproductive systems is discrimnatory.

  • SageProf

    Where was the Bishop’s conscience when Priests were molesting young children and the Church was covering this up? Institutions have no conscience, only individuals do.

  • jtaylorhou

    And get out of the practice of commerce and stick to the practice of religion.

  • jtaylorhou

    Kodonivan are you suggesting someone like….uh…the pope?

  • jtaylorhou

    We’ll be just like Iran before they’re through!

  • shanti2

    Fine , let’s exempt anyone and all organizations that have a religious or moral objection to government actions an exemption from participating in those actions, including taxes that pay for it. I don’t believe in war, and my religion believes it’s morally wrong, so I should be allowed to deduct those portions of my taxes that pay for it. In fact, I have moral objections to a whole host of things the government does. So many in fact, I shouldn’t pay any taxes at all.

  • watchtower1969

    What about the non-catholic employees? If they work for a Baptist organization, then she has full coverage. If she works for a catholic organization, she doesn’t. Who is imposing what on whom?? The vast majority of catholic women would prefer to work for the Baptist, as their coverage would be in line with their actual practice. If the church decided that the only medical treatment for all diseases it would cover was the use of leeches would it get a pass on that? Funny, I would guess the church’s insurance covers Viagra.

  • michaelarthur

    The most recent “issue” that has caused many to turn against the health care law recently is the smokescreen created over coverage of birth control. Maybe now, if the healthcare bill is repealed, all the narrow-minded anti-birth control forces will realize the frightful impact their hysterics will have had on those least able to fend for themselves: the aged, the chronically infirm, and the children. How Christian and moral is that!?


    Under the current suit on Obamacare, the Supreme Court will rule agaist it account the Supreme Court will not want it back with a USA RCC suit and note the number on the court that are RCs and or GOPs.

  • Sam Grant

    Maybe it is time for “them” to be Americans, not Catholics!