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Survey shows gulf between RCs and church teaching

22 November 2013

by a staff reporter


Seats at the top: Cardinals  gathered for a ceremony at the Vatican, in 2003

Seats at the top: Cardinals  gathered for a ceremony at the Vatican, in 2003

THERE is a widening gulf between Roman Catholics in Britain and the doctrine of their Church, which is at its most stark over teaching about personal morality, including contraception, assisted dying, and abortion, new research suggests.

Surveys by YouGov for the Westminster Faith Debates found that only 36 per cent of RCs viewed the Church as a positive force in society. Their biggest disagreements with Vatican teaching are over contraception and family make-up.

Of those questioned, almost 90 per cent agreed that an unmarried couple with children constitutes a family, and two-thirds that a same-sex couple with children is a family. Only nine per cent said that they felt guilty using contraception.

Only 19 per cent of those polled supported a ban on abortion; 58 per cent supported assisted dying; and 53 per cent were in favour of allowing same-sex marriage.

The YouGov poll found this week that despite the gulf between practice and teaching, Roman Catholi-

cism remains relatively strong in Britain, with up to ten per cent of the population declaring themselves RC. Belief in God also remains high - 70 per cent - compared with 62 per cent of Anglicans.

Three separate surveys were carried out in January and June this year. Two are representative of adults aged 18-plus in Great Britain, excluding Northern Ireland, and each was completed by more than 4000 people, including 350 RCs in the first, and 260 in the second. The third was completed by a nationally representative sample of 1062 RCs.

The director of the Westminster Faith Debates, Professor Linda Woodhead, said: "What these findings show is a widening gulf between what the Vatican thinks a Catholic should be, and what Catholics in Britain really are. . . There is now a major divide in British Catholicism between a minority who obey their leaders, and a majority who do not."

To prepare for an extraordinary synod on the family, to be held next year, the Vatican has released a questionnaire on issues such as divorce, same-sex couples, and cohabitation. The secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, said that parish priests would "pass on their local information based on the reality of that parish and its parishioners". Each Bishops' Conference around the world is collecting responses in its own way. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has posted the survey on its website.

Paul Vallely

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