Catholic Women and Birth Control
The Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, has released a new report on religion and contraceptive use. (Hat tip to CathNewsUSA.) The report finds that only 2% of Catholic women use natural family planning, and that this number does not vary significantly when frequency of mass attendance is taken into account. The figure rises to 3% among married Catholic women.
There may be discrepancy caused by the way in which the data was gathered: this data is for women who have been sexually active in the three months prior to the survey and who are “at risk” (a technical term) of unintended pregnancy—i.e., not pregnant, postpartum, or trying to get pregnant. I do not want to quibble about survey methodology, since even if we grant that these numbers are wrong by an order of magnitude (and there is no evidence that they are), they would still show that the vast majority of Catholic women use various means of artificial birth control. And in any event, these results are in agreement with with previous survey data and much anecdotal evidence.
What to make of these results, doctrinally and pastorally? They represent a singular failure of reception of Catholic moral teaching, one which is remarkable for the way in which it cuts across the metric of religious observance. In other areas, more frequent mass attendance is generally linked with closer acceptance of even controversial Catholic teaching—-the death penalty being a very good example of this. Are there other areas where this is not the case: that is, a rejection of Church teaching which is more or less independent of the engagement of the individual with the life of the community? (Mass attendance is the best known proxy of this—is it measured in other ways?) Thoughtful anecdotal evidence is okay, but I would much prefer survey data that would pin such a phenomenon down more precisely.