Catholic Free Press, Accepting Abundance, Sept. 3, 2012
Mary Rice Hasson, J.D., a Fellow in the Catholic Studies Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C., and director of the Women, Faith, and Culture project together with Michele M. Hill of the Archdiocese of Baltimore have issued a preliminary report, What Catholic Women Think About Faith, Conscience, and Contraception, in which 824 church-going Catholic women ages 18-54 were surveyed.
While the data indicates that most Catholic women do not fully support the Church’s teachings on contraception, the results also do not show the sweeping rejection of Church teaching the media portrays either. This first report provides some useful insight.
The report shows that about one-third of church-going Catholic women incorrectly believe that couples have the right to decide for themselves the moral acceptability of contraception regardless of Church teaching. When Church teaching was explained, 44% were receptive to learning more. These results suggest the problem is in part catechetical, and that women want more instruction.
When the women were asked to list their primary sources for learning the teaching of the Church, an overwhelming 72% of all women named the homily at Mass. Yet when asked about ways they’d like to learn more about Church teaching, only 16% said from a homily. They mostly prefer to hear testimonies from couples about the health and relationship benefits.
Priests and parishioners potentially have a great deal of influence in the lives of Catholic women confused by a cultural mindset that divorces sex from procreation. Almost all (90%) of those surveyed said that faith was an important part of their daily lives. What do we do then?
Well, these results mirror my own experience. I did, and still do, highly value the advice from men of God, but my full conversion away from secular contraceptive mindset to full acceptance of Catholic teaching wasn’t based on one homily or one conversation about obedience. What opened my eyes and heart was the greater open-to-life attitude of my parish home, inspired by our priest who had an enthusiastic, fatherly love of children. I saw the words of the Catechism — that children are gifts — lived out and I understood, and embraced, the high importance of accepting these gifts and raising them in the Sacraments. And that is consistent with the conclusion of the report.
Priests and parishioners must present the teaching “frequently, positively, and without apology, from the pulpit and through Church ministries.” We can’t stop at catechesis, we need to discuss and demonstrate by example how to properly form the conscience too.