Friday, July 25, 2008
Feature Article, 26 July 2008
Sex and the modern Catholic
Publication of Humanae Vitae 40 years ago was a seismic moment in the history of the Catholic Church. Today most practising Catholics ignore its teaching on birth control and more than half think it should be revised. This is the central finding of a major survey commissioned by The Tablet
By the time the contraceptive pill came on the market in 1962, Catholic couples had begun to wonder if it was the answer to their prayers: a reliable and convenient method of birth control they could use with the Church's blessing. The hopes of a great many Catholics were dashed with the publication of Paul VI's encyclical, Humanae Vitae on 29 July 1968 which forbad the use of all artificial forms of contraception including the Pill.
Exactly 40 years later, a major study conducted by The Tablet has found that its teaching is ignored by the great majority of Mass-going Catholics. This is one of the main findings contained in part two of our survey of 1,500 Catholics from parishes across England and Wales. Although almost half have never heard of Humanae Vitae, a large majority is aware of the Church's ban on artificial birth control and more than half believe it should be revised.
Part two of the survey asks a broad range of questions surrounding sex, relationships and contraception and the Church's teaching. It has found that a large proportion of otherwise faithful Catholics are using a range of artificial contraceptives, especially condoms and the contraceptive pill. More than half the adults aged 18 to 45 lived with their partner before getting married and a majority would not consider discussing their family's size and contraception with their priest. The latter point may well be related to modern Catholics' reluctance to go to confession, as confirmed in part one of our survey.
Though the study reveals overwhelming support for marriage as a life-long commitment, nearly three-quarters of Catholics believe separation or divorce is better than an unhappy marriage and a similar number feel divorced people who remarry should not be excluded from Holy Communion. The findings of part two of our survey are set out below.
[Read the rest, here.]