Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Catholic Church and Catholics: The Moral Disconnect Continues

Two years ago we wrote a piece in this blog called The Catholic Church and Catholics: A Moral Disconnect reporting on the results of a Gallup survey that showed Catholics differing significantly from the teachings of their church on the moral acceptability of things like abortion, divorce, and homosexuality.

This moral disconnect continues. According to a survey released this month by the Public Religion Research Institute, 54% of white Catholics and 51% of Hispanic Catholics believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Fifty-eight percent of white Catholics want abortion services to continue to be available in their communities despite their denomination's best efforts to close abortion facilities and outlaw the procedure. This is the same as the general public. Only 38% of Latino Catholics support keeping abortion available but Hispanic Catholics tend to be more socially conservative and many have come here from countries where abortion has never been legal so they have not become used to its availability as an option.

While they want abortion to continue to be legal and available, 58% of Catholic respondents also said that abortion was morally wrong. This means that 42% thought it wasn't wrong, a remarkably high percentage given that this is perhaps the most emphasized area of Catholic moral teaching in the Church today. There isn't even uniform consent that abortion is sinful. According to the survey, "white Catholics are evenly divided, with 46% agreeing that having an abortion is a sin, and 46% disagreeing." Latino Catholics fared better on this catechetical test -- 65% of them agreed that abortion is a sin. In Church teaching, not only is abortion a sin but it is a grave delict punishable by automatic excommunication under most circumstances as long as the woman is canonically of age.

The survey also asked about the morality of other issues. While it didn't break all issue areas by denomination, the survey reported that 68% of Catholics surveyed said that divorce is morally acceptable to them. The Church teaches that divorce is morally wrong.

And it's not that the priests aren't talking about abortion. Seventy-two percent of white Catholics and 63% of Latino Catholics who attend church once a month or more reported that they had heard about the issue from the pulpit. Fewer -- 35% of white Catholics and 49% of Latino Catholics -- had heard their priest talk about homosexuality. Eighty-six percent of white Catholics heard their priest say that abortion is morally wrong while only 64% heard that homosexuality is morally wrong. Both are morally wrong according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In the end, 68% of Catholics said they believe you can be a good Catholic while disagreeing with the official Church position on abortion and 74% said the same with respect to the Church teaching on homosexuality. One quarter of the Catholics gave their Church a low mark on the way it handles the abortion issue with 44% saying that it is too conservative. They are even more dissatisfied with how the Church handles homosexuality. As for the Church's political agenda, 58% of Catholics surveyed opined that it is wrong for the Church to put public pressure on politicians on the issue of abortion. That would include such tactics as denying communion to Catholic politicians who vote pro-choice.


  1. If the Catholic Church wants to really help in this issue, should ease up the rules about the use of contraceptives and preservatives. The Ogino system may work, but it has its unpredictable flaws. Also so many not even used it, but they feel prevented from using other ways to prevent pregnancy because of the Church’s rules. There is a little lady (Little because she looks like a child herself) in my parish that has so many kids…at least 5 or 6, not sure if more, that I think that she and her husband must not be using anything. Off course, for her abortion is unthinkable, but at least they should be using some sort of contraceptive. If this little lady has another kid, I feel that she may disappear from exhaustion and lack of resources.She comes to mass faithfully but she looks always very tired and exhausted . She is Hispanic. ♦

  2. I agree. I (and most modern Catholics) don't accept the theological reasoning behind the prohibition on artificial contraception, particularly the barrier methods. Why does every sexual act have to be open to the possibility of procreation? Does God not accept making love for the sake of love without necessarily making babies too? (let's say we're just talking married heterosexual couples here so we don't mix issues).

    Incidentally, the Church has used the same reasoning to not permit people with disabilities who are incapable of having intercourse to marry in the Church even when both partners are aware of and accept this limitation and still love each other enough to want to be husband and wife. Rarely an exception is made but it involves getting permission from the bishop.

    I understand your point with regard to the woman with lots of kids but I wouldn't rush to judge. Some couples want to have large families, even with the fatigue and economic hardship it brings. In Spanish, there is a saying that every child comes with a loaf of bread in his/her arms and Hispanic families are more likely to simply accept as many kids as God gives them. We're in America, not China, so we let each family decide how many kids they want to have according to their values.

  3. And 'anonymous', this exactly the kind of contraceptive mentally that this world needs less of. Iam young, tired and pregnant with my 5th and 6th child and I dont need you or anyone else to feel sorry for me or to dictate how many kids YOU think I should have. Absolutely ridiculous and completely and totallt insulting. So hypocritical of you to in one breath get mad at the catholic church for disallowing the use of contraceptives, and then in the next breatj, try and control how many kids other people are open to having. But oh so very typical of people like you! God gave women a naturally occurring infertile time that can be known with nearly 99% accuracy, so if i want to enjoy the marital embrace but yet there is a serious reason for me not to get pregnant, we can do so at this time while not having to introduce any barrier methods, artificial contraceptives or abortafacients into our marriage. The sexual act is one in which we are to give everything to the other and hold nothing back! Contracepting negates this selfless giving be retaining one's fertility to themselves and holding back. This is not true love and it ceratinly doesn't signify trust, either in one's spouse or in God! The church WILL NEVER change their teachings on artificial birth control being used to prevent new life because it is an intrinsic evil. Every other church has folded and turned suit on an issue that was universally taught by christians up until 1930 as morally impermissable, but the rcc will not do this the Holy Spirit will not allow Christ's Church to fall into error, despite your best efforts of wanting it to do excatly that!

  4. I think that I have to take an aspirin after reading this outpouring of mental thought on my behalf for what I wrote Mr. or Mrs. Nwright, because you seem to read so much into what I wrote that don’t even know myself I was capable of so much deep thinking. I am not mad at anyone, but you are.
    Family planning is being responsible, I am not dictating how many kids anyone has to have. If this lady wants to have 20 more kids is up to her and her husband, but I guess that you and I will have to help pay through the welfare system , but the problem is that perhaps some of this children were not planned for and you know what? In her last pregnancy she had twins. I am not trying to put her or anyone as an example, I am trying to say that planning a family is not a bad thing. Having many kids and loving them is good if you want to, many families do, but how about if you just can’t have anymore ?
    Abstinence? Is a solution too.
    I don’t favor abortion, so all I am saying is that family planning is the solution and if some of the medical or pharmaceutical tools that are available can help, why not? To prevent a pregnancy is not to kill a baby. Is the same thing that you are doing with the Ogino system but with aid,
    The Catholic Church gives moral guidelines, but every family and individual ought to make their own decisions and determine how best they can live and what they can do to have a meaningful intimate relationship and be able to manage a house hold, which includes to give to the children what they need and having enough time and strength to be there for them.
    Well, many Catholics don’t even have an outspoken option about this, because they don’t contradict the church’s teachings openly, but in their homes they do what they have to do. An if you want to have the last word, go ahead, blast me away. I am stopping here. ♦