Press Releases 1999

Majority of Young American Catholics Challenge Pope’s Teachings

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reveals new research in Catholic newsjournal Conscience

 Washington, DC—Groundbreaking new research in Conscience, the newsjournal of Catholics for a Free Choice, reveals that as many as 76 percent of Catholics between the ages of 18-29 think “an individual should follow his/her conscience, even if it disagrees with papal teaching.” The research reveals a significant increase in support for individual choices than those among older Catholics.

Only thirteen percent of young Catholics felt that they must always obey the pope’s formal teachings, while 36 percent of those over 60 felt this was necessary. The author William D’Antonio explains that, while the Vatican still claims complete authority, it is no longer blindly accepted. “More and more, educated Catholics may be expected to look at papal documents with a critical eye, demanding intelligent, compelling arguments. Assertions of authority or tradition will be met with suspicion and challenged.”

Another element of the research considered specific issues on which individual Catholics felt they should have the final say on moral issues. Among those aged 18-34, 62 percent felt that they should have the final say on birth control, 51 percent on homosexuality and sex outside of marriage, 50 percent on abortion and 42 percent on divorce and remarriage. All of these findings were considerably higher than those for older age groups.

Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, said of the research, “Surveys consistently find that Catholics reject official church teachings on issues to do with private morality. The Vatican and bishops are consistently completely out of step with the views of those they purport to represent.”

 

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Catholics for Choice shapes and advances sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to women's well-being and respect and affirm the capacity of women and men to make moral decisions about their lives.