Catholic ideology is really in the news this week, mostly as a result of the HHS policy that requires employers to provide birth control at no cost. As it stands now, Catholic and other churches are exempted, but Catholic owned hospitals and universities are not. The premise is that churches employ members of their own religion, but hospitals do not, and their employees (like everyone else) should have access to contraception.
Also in the news was the overturning of Prop 8 in California by a Federal Appeals Court. This is being framed by conservatives ( including Republican presidential candidate and Catholic Rick Santorum) as a split court decision overturning the will of 14 million voters in California.
What do Catholics think about these issues?
Several reports state that 98% of Catholics use or have used in the past some form of birth control.
Now we learn that most Catholics support the White House position on the issue.
Public Religion Research Institute released a poll yesterday which asked participants to respond to the following:
All Employers should be Required to Provide their Employees with Health Care Plans that Cover Contraception or Birth Control at No Cost
Fifty eight percent of Catholics agree. That is higher than the percentage of “All Americans" (55%) that agree with the requirement.
At the same time 59% of all Catholics (and 57% of all Americans) agree with the exemption for Catholic churches and other places of worship.
The same polling group also reports that the majority of Catholics (52%) as well as mainline protestants (51%) now favor allowing same sex couples to marry. White evangelical Protestants and African American Protestants still oppose same sex marriage (76% and 60% respectively).
I don’t believe that the Catholic Church is in danger of losing its position as a worldwide power of religion.
But it does look like the Catholic church is losing its influence over Americans.
In the same poll, 69% of Millennials (18-29 year old) agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.
And Catholic women are ignoring Church teaching in their use of birth control.
Here's the deal. Many religious leaders, including the Pope and other Catholic Bishops, ignore hard science and social science in their policy development.
Science and sociology tell us that birth control is necessary and warranted in this country (and world wide) to help prevent unwanted and unplanned pregnancies as well as for population control in other overcrowded countries.
Science also tells us that gay people are here because of natural reasons and not by choice and that acceptance of LGBT people contributes to better mental and physical health for the group.
Religion needs to catch up with its followers in living in the 21st Century. This can be done while still holding to the core values of their faith traditions. This applies not just to the Catholic Church, but to the United Methodist Church and other denominations as well.
Religion by its very nature tries to adhere to the status quo. But all one has to do is look back at the early Christians or Christianity in the Middle Ages or Christianity in Early America or Christianity at the turn of the 20th Century to realize that the Church can, and does, and will, change.