New study: Catholic women interested in Church’s contraception teaching

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A new survey of Catholic women's acceptance of Church teaching on contraception shows that while adherence to it is not high, young female believers are interested in learning more about the Church's beliefs.

“There are many Catholic women out there who don’t fully accept the Church’s teaching but are open to learning more about it. Two-thirds of these women are already involved in parish life. In short, they are receptive and reachable. This is good news,” said Mary Rice Hasson, a co-author of the report on Catholic women and contraception.

The results are presented in the report “What Catholic Women Think About Faith, Conscience, and Contraception”, co-authored by Hasson, a Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Michele Hill. The data were gathered by an online survey of more than 800 Catholic women aged 18-54.

According to the survey, though only 13 percent of church-going Catholic women fully accept Church teaching on family planning, this figure rises with more frequent participation in Mass and confession. Acceptance of Church teaching on family planning rises to 27 percent among those women who attend Mass weekly, and to 37 percent among those who have gone to confession within the past year in addition to weekly Mass attendance.

Forty-four percent of Catholic women accept portions of Church teaching on family planning. And a majority of those who accept portions of Church teaching say they would be receptive to learning more about those beliefs and how they can benefit them and their families.

At the same time, the survey reveals that 85 percent of Catholic women believe they can be “good Catholics” even if they reject some or all of Church teaching on human sexuality. In a related finding, 53 percent of those who reject the Church’s teaching on contraception claim a personal right to decide about it.

Researchers Hasson and Hill concluded that since most Catholic women are receptive to learning more about Church teaching on family planning, more should be done to help Catholics in the pews understand those beliefs.

The study's authors noted that one-third of Catholic women are mistaken about what the Church teaches on family planning and contraception, and recommended that priests and deacons use Sunday homilies to teach their parishioners about human sexuality and other issues.

“Nine out of ten Catholic women say their faith is important to their daily lives. They want to be good Catholics. And they are a far more diverse group than they are given credit for,” Hill observed. “Many of them will be receptive to Church teaching, given the right message and the right approach. I can’t encourage our priests enough to present the Church’s beautiful teachings—gently, but with conviction.”

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