Priests say Church out of touch on family planning

In spite of the Vatican’s stance, two thirds of priests here believe the availability of contraception is very important to their parishioners and three quarters admit the Catholic Church’s stance on family planning is not accepted.

The figure emerged in a survey by the Association of Catholic Priests on the Church’s teachings around family life. Overall, that survey found that the church hierarchy is extremely out of touch with the lives of even traditional, church-going Catholics, according to ACP founder Tony Flannery.

“Those who participated consider the Church’s teaching on family life, sexual practice, and sexual unions to be little understood, not relevant, of low influence and not agreed with, whether understood or not,” the ACP said.

“These findings are consistent across all age groups and religious role [clergy, lay, etc] where identified.”

Last October, a questionnaire was sent out by the Vatican as it sought to prepare a Synod on the family. The hope was that the survey would attract the widest possible response from Catholics around the world. However, the questionnaire was so complex the ACP decided to put a simplified version on its website.

The refined questionnaire attracted answers from 1,500 people, including 173 priests. The ACP was not surprised that the majority of respondents (71%) were aged 46-75 and were church-goers.

Nonetheless, the survey showed that even church- goers found ecclesiastical teachings outdated.

When asked how well the Catholic Church’s teachings on the value of family was understood by Catholics today, 73% who replied ticked “poorly understood”.

Just under 70% felt Humanae Vitae, the document which outlines the Church’s teaching on family planning and rules out artificial contraception, was not accepted today. That figure grew to 76% among priests.

Furthermore, 76% of respondents consider the availability of contraception “extremely” or “somewhat” important to themselves or to their community. The 66% of priests who responded (113) also ticked one of those two options.

There was a widespread acceptance (89%) among respondents, that separated, divorced, and remarried couples were a reality in their Church. Furthermore, 98% considered co-habitation “to be a pastoral reality”.

Two thirds considered dioceses to be “negative” or “hostile and condemning” toward same-sex couples. Just 11% considered them “somewhat” or “highly” supportive. That is in spite of the fact 47% considered marriage equality “extremely” or “very important” and a further 23% considered it “somewhat important”.

Fr Flannery said intolerance increased going up the authority line in the Church, but that at a local level priests were much more liberal. Fr Flannery said the Vatican would be much more negative.

“Running through this whole survey, there is a clear message that the teaching of the Church is seriously out of touch even with the church-going traditional Catholics,” he said.


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