Have the bishops succeeded in stirring an outcry against the contraceptive mandate?

You may have heard by now that the U.S. Catholic bishops aren't too thrilled (to put it mildly) with the Obama administration's refusal to grant a broader religious exemption to the mandate that employee health care plans include coverage of contraception. In fact, you might have heard about it during Mass this weekend.

Letters like this one were read during Mass in parishes around the country, calling on the faithful to contact their legislators to express their outrage over the ruling. This was part of a national campaign coordinated by the USCCB, with bishops being provided a template letter that they could adapt and sign their name to. Some chose to take an even stronger tone with their letters, like Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, and the bishops of North Carolina went a step farther by setting up a handy online form with a prepared message that Catholics can send to their representatives in Congress.

And in case Catholics needed more information, there have been plenty of editorials in the Catholic and secular media criticizing the decision as well.

So how has the bishops' message to the Catholic faithful been received? One Wisconsin bishop reportedly received a standing ovation upon reading his letter. But aside from this, I haven't seen much yet today about parishioners reacting strongly to their bishops' call to action. In my own parish here in the Archdiocese of Chicago, there was no letter read, nor any mention of the ruling either during Mass or in the parish bulletin.

This morning on our Facebook page, I asked if others heard the letter and how parishioners responded. We received a tepid response, with only one person sharing that they'd heard the letter, saying, "It sparked some healthy debate. But if the church is expecting lay people to rise up against contraception, it might be wise to first look around at all the 2- and 3-child families of today and face reality."

I wonder how many other Catholics had that reaction, and simply shrugged rather than display the outrage at the Obama administration's actions that the bishops are counting on.

Time will tell how the majority of Catholics react to the ruling, and we may never know how much influence it has on their vote come November. In the meantime, let us know what you saw and heard in the pews on Sunday–are Catholics ready to take up the fight for religious liberty or do they seem unconvinced that the mandate is a threat to Catholics?

About the author

Scott Alessi

Scott Alessi is a former managing editor of U.S. Catholic.