Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Catholic Church and Catholics: A Moral Disconnect

Despite the Roman Catholic Church's official opposition to abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, a Gallup analysis finds almost no difference between rank-and-file American Catholics and American non-Catholics in terms of finding the two issues morally acceptable.

And those are not the only two issues on which the average Catholic differs from the Church. On several issues -- death penalty, sex outside of marriage, divorce, embryonic stem cell research, and gambling -- the majority of even regularly practising Catholics do not share their Church's moral perspective. This Gallup survey did not ask about artificial contraception but we know that this is another area where Catholics fall into line with their non-Catholic brethren rather than their hierarchy.

Some may view this as a symptom of growing secularization; others may perceive it as the increasing irrelevance of the Church in the lives of modern Catholics; and still others might be wringing their hands and lamenting the Church's inability to get its message across. My question is: How do we teach supposedly eternal truths in an environment where those truths are considered by the majority of the faithful to be outdated and not applicable to their lives? How long is the Church going to proceed like a person who thinks if they repeat the same thing the same way often and loudly enough they will be heard? In other words, how are we going to deal effectively with this moral disconnect?

Moral Acceptability of Issues Among Catholics and Non-Catholics (% morally acceptable):

Abortion
Catholics: 40%
Churchgoing Catholics *: 24%
Non-Catholics: 41%

Death penalty
Catholics: 61%
Churchgoing Catholics: 52%
Non-Catholics: 68%

Sex between an unmarried man and woman
Catholics: 67%
Churchgoing Catholics: 53%
Non-Catholics: 57%

Divorce
Catholics: 71%
Churchgoing Catholics: 63%
Non-Catholics: 66%

Embryonic stem cell research
Catholics: 63%
Churchgoing Catholics: 53%
Non-Catholics: 62%

Having a baby outside of marriage
Catholics: 61%
Churchgoing Catholics: 48%
Non-Catholics: 52%

Gambling
Catholics: 72%
Churchgoing Catholics: 67%
Non-Catholics: 59%

Homosexual relations
Catholics: 54%
Churchgoing Catholics: 44%
Non-Catholics: 45%

*"Churchgoing" is defined as "those who attend church weekly or almost every week"

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