Poll finds many U.S. Catholics breaking with church over contraception, abortion and L.G.B.T. rights.

Does going to Mass each week make American Catholics fall in line with church teaching on issues like contraception, abortion and L.G.B.T. rights? Not necessarily.

That’s according to a Pew Research Center report released Sept. 28, which measured the attitudes of Americans on three culture-war fronts that in recent years have clashed with religious liberty: whether vendors like bakers and florists can refuse to cater to same-sex weddings; whether transgender people can choose which bathroom to use;  and whether employers can opt out of providing insurance plans that cover contraception.

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Most American Catholics, including those who go to church on a regular basis, have no moral problem with contraception, the survey found.

Just 8 percent said contraception is morally wrong, with 89 percent saying it was either morally acceptable or not a moral issue at all.

The Catholic Church teaches that artificial contraception, such as condoms and birth control pills, is morally unacceptable.

RELATED: Catholic Scholars Duel Over Contraception

This teaching is rejected even among Catholics who attend Mass at least weekly, who tend to hold views on other social issues that fall more in line with official teaching when compared to the wider Catholic population. About one in 10 (13 percent) in this group said contraception is morally wrong, with 87 percent saying it is either acceptable or not a moral issue.

In recent years, many Catholic institutions have sparred with the federal government over a rule that requires employers to provide insurance plans that cover contraception. Some Catholic leaders have argued that doing so would make them complicit in behavior they find sinful, thus violating their religious freedom.

The Pew poll found that a majority of U.S. Catholics seem to reject that argument.

Sixty-five percent of Catholics say employers should not be able to opt out of the law based on religious objections, while 32 percent say they should. Those numbers are nearly identical to the views of the U.S. population as a whole.

On the issue of abortion, about half of all U.S. Catholics say it is morally wrong, though that number shoots up to 83 percent among Catholics who attend services regularly.

Another issue that has spawned numerous court cases, pitting religious liberty against advances for gay and lesbian Americans, is whether or not business owners with religious objections to same-sex marriage can withhold services for gay weddings.

There have been a handful of lawsuits in recent years by Christian bakers, florists and photographers who say they should not have to provide services to same-sex couples getting married. They say doing so infringes on their religious liberty, while critics contend such views discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Overall, Americans are split on the question, with 49 percent saying businesses should be required to provide services and 48 percent saying they should have the right to refuse.

But Catholics seem slightly more supportive of the rights of gay couples, with 54 percent saying businesses should be required to provide services and 43 percent saying they should be able to refuse.

RELATED: Federal Civil Rights Report Dismisses Religious Liberty Claims

When it comes to views on homosexual behavior, church attendance affects what Catholics believe. The church teaches that gays and lesbians should not face unjust discrimination, but it condemns both same-sex marriage and sexual acts.

About two-thirds of all U.S. Catholics (64 percent) say that homosexual behavior is either morally acceptable or not a moral issue at all, while 32 percent say it’s morally wrong.

But Catholics who attend Mass weekly are more evenly split, with half labeling homosexual behavior as morally wrong. Overall, 35 percent of Americans say that homosexual behavior is morally wrong.

Then there’s the issue of bathroom access for transgender people. Last year, some states considered legislation that would require people to use bathrooms corresponding to their birth gender. Supporters said such laws were needed to protect people who felt uncomfortable sharing facilities with people of another biological sex, while critics said they were largely unnecessary and discriminatory against a small minority.

A slight majority of Americans (51 percent) said in the survey that individuals should be able to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender with which they currently identify, while 46 percent say people should use facilities that correspond with their gender at birth.

Among Catholics, however, 47 percent said people should use the bathroom of their choice and 50 percent said people should use bathrooms corresponding to their gender at birth.

Church leaders have generally not been as vocal on this issue as they have on contraception and same-sex marriage. But just this week, in response to threats by the N.C.A.A. to punish colleges and universities that don’t offer gender-neutral facilities, the president of the University of Notre Dame, Father John Jenkins, penned an essay in The Wall Street Journal calling for understanding between those with differing views on the issue.

That may be easier said than done.

The Pew poll found that only about two in 10 Americans could sympathize with both sides when considering the questions about contraception insurance, wedding vendors and bathroom access.

Catholics, however, fared a bit better on the understanding front. Still, only about a quarter said they could see where both sides were coming from.

The survey polled 4,538 Americans earlier this summer. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

Michael O’Loughlin is the national correspondent for America. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.

 

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William Rydberg
1 year 1 month ago
I don't get it. Who is setting the Agenda now at America Magazine? The newspapers are discussing DNA manipulated births...
William Atkinson
1 year 1 month ago
If ROBOTS are part human and part machine can they be baptized. Can a Robot become Bishop and baptize other Robots. Well that's a problem for 2150. Oh! I forgot theologians are still trying to figure out how many angles fit on the head of a pin. From the sublime to the ridiculous.
Henry George
1 year 1 month ago
William, That is Angels, not angles. William do you know your theology, do you know the history of theology ? If you did you would not toss out the "how many angels..." so lightly.
Richard Booth
1 year 1 month ago
I'm not sure it is important to correct his spelling of angels. Notwithstanding, pondering the number of non-material beings on the head of a pin seems like someone needs less time on his hands. This is a non-issue.
Lisa Weber
1 year 1 month ago
The Catholic Church developed its stance on contraception without asking women. It also did not look at the teachings of Jesus on sexuality. Jesus made sexuality private in the stories where sexuality was an issue. The Church simply got it wrong and refuses to take another look, despite the fact that Catholics as a group mostly ignore the Church's teaching on contraception. Abortion is wrong and there is not much else to say with regard to the morality of abortion. The social issue is whether it should be illegal - that is a discussion too polarized for this commentary. The Church needs a feminine counterpart to priests so that the view of women who have lived in marriages and raised children is expressed in its teaching about sexuality. I would suggest that the feminine counterpart to the role of priest is that of grandmother. Grandmothers are revered in other cultures and should receive more respect in this culture. The role of grandmother is sufficiently different from the role of mother that the two should not be confused. When the Church develops its wise woman role to balance the role of priest, many of these issues related to sexuality will be addressed with greater wisdom and nuance.
Alfred Chavez
1 year 1 month ago
So you find no wisdom and nuance in *Humanae Vitae*? There have been so many well-respected and holy women in the Church that have accepted its teachings that I've lost count. How does that fit into your narrative? They were all duped?
Cody Serra
1 year 1 month ago
Let's remember that a group of scholars assembled by Paul VI to advise him on the contraception issue advised him not to issue the encyclical Humanae Vitae as he did.
Kevin Murphy
1 year 1 month ago
Polls mean nothing. When an errant Catholic stands before the Lord, I doubt saying "but polls showed" will merit a "get out of Hell free" card. Truth is not subjective. Deal with it.
Bill Mazzella
1 year 1 month ago
The proclamation of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is what constitutes the church, the people of God, The Royal Priesthood. When the bishops learn to serve rather than dominate they will understand what the church is.
John Linton
1 year 1 month ago
As a long-time supporter of gay rights, I'm still rather nonplussed that it's such an issue to force the Catholic Church to abide by the latest trendy social justice positions like transgender bathrooms or recognizing gay marriage, let alone abortion. At some point, it just seems like people are trying to get their parent to approve their own personal morality. The Catholic Church is facing a far more existential threat than bathroom rights. Namely, in the Western world, religious belief per se is dying out. I fail to see how Social Justice Warriors are going to save the Church by trying to make it ever more Protestant -- especially when the Protestant mainline is dying out. I'm on the fence about abortion, being reluctantly pro-choice, but I really can't believe there are pro-choice Catholics who seek the Church to change its teaching on abortion. I mean, if the Catholic Church isn't to bear a witness for the unborn in this world, who is? It's not like the near entirety of secular society the globe over isn't on the pro-choice side. Isn't that enough for you? People should think very carefully about stripping the lest vestiges of authority from a Church in a time of collapsing belief.
Jim Lein
1 year 1 month ago
On abortion, apparently the question was not asked how many Catholics think it morally wrong to have voted for the party that strongly favored previous welfare safety-net cuts and wants more cuts, thus literally taking food from pregnant women and intrauterine nourishment from their unborn. The demographic of women who lost such benefits in the major 1996 cuts are now the group with the highest abortion rate. And it could get worse. In scriptures we are asked to follow Jesus, to be like his apostles who put all money in common to ensure the neediest are taken care of. In a large society like ours, taxes are our pooling of some money for the common good, especially those most in need, like the fragile, developing life in a woman's womb. We are also asked to not judge others but to be loving and merciful and to leave legal matters to Caesar. No one but the pregnant woman knows her immediate reality. We are called not to judge but to offer support so that she feels able to bring new life into the world.
John Linton
1 year 1 month ago
In general SJWs need to wake up that the major spiritual crisis of the Catholic Church in 2016 is not the latest secular social justice warrior agenda but whether traditional faith can still be saved for sufficient numbers or whether Bishop Shelby Spong's atheism is the future of Christendom. It's a remarkable sign of the solipsism of the religious Left that they do not grasp this is the real issue and not their constant agenda-making. There may not be a Church worth saving very soon.
Henry George
1 year 1 month ago
This article is rather un-balanced as immediate mention is made if Catholics oppose the Church's Teaching on x or y or z, but then we find out that Mass going Catholics usually favour the Church's teaching. The Ten Commandments are not up for a Vote folks, what Polls say about how well we live them out or want to live them out or believe we should live them out - does not change the fact that they are Commandments. The fact that only God can create life from nothing is not unclear. A babe in the womb is an human as anyone else. Gays may have deep affection for one another but they cannot enter into what God deems a Marriage. If you really do not believe any of the above might I suggest you consider the Episcopal Church in America or other Protestant Churches that are quickly dying out.
William Atkinson
1 year 1 month ago
The "Ten Commandments", sounds very much Old Jewish, Maybe Jesus had something to say about "The Law".
Henry George
1 year 1 month ago
William, If you think all of the Ten Commandments need not be followed, perhaps you could let us know which ones. When Jesus refers to the hyper-strict observance of the Law he is speaking of the hundreds of quasi-commandments that the Pharisees insisted must be followed. Where does Jesus say the 10 Commandments should not be followed ?
William Atkinson
1 year 1 month ago
Just the title of this article, "The Church", "The People" as if there is a huge divide and difference between the two. I was brought up that the Church were "The people". Maybe the authors need to look good and thoroughly at what they think The Church is?
Tim O'Leary
1 year 1 month ago
Some comments on this poll Same caveats from other polls like this (in the pdf details): a. Small numbers of Catholics in a larger poll (only 817 (18%) identified as Catholic) b. Only 1/3rd of these (308) said they attended weekly mass. c. Identification of Catholics purely by self-identification (1 Question identifier “what religion are you”) d. Questions phrased to be most supportive of a secular and non-Catholic viewpoint (no mention of the Little Sisters of the Poor having to buy contraceptive insurance, or of middle ground ways for handling men or people who look like men in women's bathrooms.) e. Even using the questionable assumptions of the Pollsters, the margin of error is +/- 2.4% for the whole sample of 4538 people, but is +/- 5.6% for all self-identified Catholics, and +/-12.6% for weekly massgoers. f. Does anyone really believe that only 8% Catholics believe artificial contraception is wrong? Certainly not my experience, although perhaps I am biased to speaking with more faithful Catholics. Despite these caveats, if we take the responses as indicative of US Catholics 1. Most Self-Identifying Catholics are more American Firsters and only Catholic Seconders or Thirders, since they “fall in line” (O’Loughlin’s term) with the non-Catholic secular culture on so many of these issues. While some of this is mis-education and some is indifference, I think it undeniable that a cafeteria culture of selective faithfulness, partially promoted or acquiesced to by the clergy since VCII has had some unfortunate consequences. The media also plays a big role is highlighting dissident opinions and making it sound “OK” to dissent on key doctrinal issues. 2. Since the disagreement with the Church is in so many areas (they only asked questions on the moral controversies), I don’t think it can be reasonably argued that this is primarily due to well-thought-out dissent for the vast majority of self-identifying Catholics. For example, the Church teaches it is a serious sin not to attend weekly mass, yet 2/3rds are monthly, seldom or never there. 3. Church attendance (even weekly) is no guarantee of doctrinal faithfulness. This too probably has more to do with mis-education, at least for those not just there for the family (the cultural Catholics). A more detailed poll of what Catholics know about their faith and what the Church teaches is badly needed before effective solutions can be formulated to respond to this infidelity. 4. While almost everyone accepts that Church doctrine shouldn't be led by opinion polls, the sheer departure from Church teaching would be astounding if it wasn't so common. How can one believe the Church is the True Church and still believe that abortion is acceptable or not even a moral issue (47%), or homosexual sex (64%). Have they ever even opened a Catechism or had a frank discussion about why they are Catholic? No wonder we have so many epidemics of venereal disease, divorce and infidelity (many think none of this is morally a problem). My guess is that, as with previous polls, over half would not believe in the Real Presence, Original sin, the need for the Sacrament of Confession, or the idea that the Catholic Church is the True Church. So, how exactly are they even Catholic? A much more comprehensive evaluation of their beliefs is needed.
ed gleason
1 year 1 month ago
" Only 1/3rd of these (308) said they attended weekly mass." 7/8th of attendees at most weekly Masses are beyond ever getting pregnant So what's your next poll question?... .
Marie Haener-Patti
1 year 1 month ago
I always quote the catholic mother of only two who was interviewed in the Nat Geo article about Brazil's dropping birth rate: "in some matters, the male clergy is perhaps not wholly equipped to discern the true will of God". Enough said.
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
The Pew Research Center is a professional research and polling organization. This recent poll is similar to other polls of Americans and Catholics about their opinions on a host of moral teachings. All polls have some bias, but the Pew Research Center uses professional survey methods in order that survey findings are statistically significant. All polling findings have a margin of error. Nevertheless, I would suggest that one should not rely of a single survey to draw absolute conclusions about the opinions of Catholics. It is far better to consider trends and the consistency of polls over time. Having said this, the findings of this recent poll are not significantly out of kilter with other polls. Some might constantly cast dispersions and doubt about poll findings that cast a light on the profound problem of non-reception. However, this recent poll realistically demonstrates the degree of the non-reception of many moral teachings and is indicative of the problems that our Church faces in today's world. I call for more survey comparisons with earlier poll findings in order to denote trends, as well as the differences between the opinions of all Catholics and those who attend weekly Mass. Whether 89% American Catholics who attend weekly Mass disagree wth the teaching on birth control is consistent with other polls, or if 70% is more accurate or not, does not take away for the problem with the encyclical HV. Interestingly, but not surprising, this survey also found that about 50% of Catholics who attend weekly Mass do not think homosexual behavior is morally wrong. It was not clear whether 50% of Catholics who attend weekly Mass consider homosexual behavior outside of a same-sex marriage was not morally wrong, or that homosexual behavior in a permanent, loving and faithful relationship (e.g., a civil marriage or in a non-Catholic Christian marriage) is not morally wrong. I suggest it is the latter. As to how the Church should better address these issues, I would like the Church to put forth a more convincing theory and rationale in support of many moral teachings. It is clear that for the past 50 years the current rationale does not ring true to the deepest levels of the minds, hearts and souls of most Catholics throughout the world. It is also obvious to most older and younger Catholics that teachings like contraception or in vitro fertilization or homosexuality are never a topic that one hears in any detail from the pulpit or are seminars or talks by experts on these topics sponsored by local parishes. Most of the pulpit sermons and sponsored talks by experts, based on my experiences, are mostly limited to how to doing charitable things (e.g., loving thy neighbor) or talks about devotions and Bible studies. I pray for Divine enlightenment for the leaders of the Catholic Church and for all of its members. We need to find realistic solutions to our pressing problems.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 1 month ago
Michael - 8% of faithfulness to the Church's teaching on contraception is way too low a figure to explain why all recent Catholic journals, radio stations, the one Catholic television station (EWTN) and publication houses like Ignatius Press, Ascension Press or Catholic Answers are all growing and orthodox and no new pro-contraception Catholic media outlets have even been formed. Also, the +/-12.6% Error rate (25.2% spread) for the subset of what weekly attending Catholics believe is way beyond the norm in statistical acceptability. It also doesn't jive with experience. Nobody would be turning up for World Youth day if it was only 8% who were vocally orthodox about their faith. Nevertheless, I accept that lots of self-identifying Catholics (maybe 1/3rd to 1/2) do not believe what the Church teaches on contraception, homosexuality or abortion. But, you may have put your finger on it above. Since VCII, homilies are mostly about the social Gospel, and very few about living the fullness of the faith in personal morality. Very few Catholics have spent the time you have thinking about why you disagree with the Church on these issues. Most do not even know why. I agree we need to find solutions to the disconnect between the teaching of the Catechism and the living of the faith for many nominal Catholics. I believe that HV teaches a beautiful image of man and woman and a message different from anything in the secular world. I believe adherence to HV results in a much happier and holier life, avoids many of the curses and suffering and ennui of the modern world. I have met many people who agree with this vision, including a majority of priests I have discussed this with. Note also that every Protestant Church held the same belief only a few decades ago on many of these items. Were 1900 years of Christians of all denominations so wrong and so far from what you now think the good life demands? I understand that living the fullness of HV is counter-cultural and even radical. It even seems a heavy burden, or even an impossible standard (as Marie Haener-Patti implies below). To paraphrase St. Paul (1 Cor 1), to some Catholics it is considered a major stumbling block, and to many secularists complete foolishness, even laughable. But, it produces converts and saints. So many converts have credited HV as a major reason for their conversion. Jesus taught a radical faith. He said "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)
Michael Barberi
1 year 1 month ago
Tim, The problem with the profound non-reception of certain moral teachings is not a problem among the general laity. It is a problem among priests and theologians as well. You can't expect an average Catholic to have an epiphany and embrace every moral teaching when a significant percent of younger and older priests and moral theologians disagree with the teachings on contraception, divorce and remarriage, etc. Until Popes and Bishops find a solution to this crisis in truth, the non-reception of our younger and future generations will continue. Simply repeating the same old rationale for certain moral teachings that does not ring true to the deepest levels of minds, hearts and souls of most Catholics is another huge issue that must be adequately addressed. It is my opinion that when we have such profound disagreements, it is time for these teachings to be the subject of a re-thinking or to put forth a convincing moral theory in support of such teachings. While your experiences are different from mine, we have to look to many polling surveys in order to understand the collective opinions of Catholics and Priests and accurately determine the findings and trends. The non-reception of many moral teachings have been an increasing trend for past 20+ years as many polling surveys consistently demonstrated. You may questions the margin of errors, and differences between one poll and the next, but this does not make the overall collective findings and trends false or misleading.
Tim O'Leary
1 year 1 month ago
John Allen in Crux discusses this Pew Poll "A new poll by the Pew Research Center finds that two-thirds of Americans believe employers should be required to cover birth control, conflicting with a Marist poll showing that a majority say the government is being unfair to the Little Sisters of the Poor -- showing it's all about the question being asked." "A tongue-in-cheek definition of polling once described it as the fine art of phrasing questions the right way to get the result you want." He does not address the very high statistical error rate for subsets of Catholics and weekly mass-goers but his point about question phrasing and the motives of pollsters is also very important. His full article can be read here. https://cruxnow.com/analysis/2016/09/28/contraception-mandates-polls-pivot-question-asked/
J Cosgrove
1 year 1 month ago
Richard Epstein has a new column on religious liberties with the title
The Government’s Civil Rights Bullies The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ . . . remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy, or any form of intolerance
http://hvr.co/2cVOhAg There is also a podcast from last night of the John Batchelor Show, the most eclectic show in US media. The show leans center right but will have people on from all over the political spectrum. Batchelor interviews Epstein on this topic. If anyone should listen, there is a second segment after the music, his closing theme music is a 1934 hit song and always precedes the last segment of the night. The second segment is on the "All Comers policy." Religious liberty is now a term of bigotry and the bullies are enforcing their one sided point of view mainly through the American Civil Liberties Union which is not for anything that are civil liberties. http://bit.ly/2dKxMGc

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