News

    Many US Catholics Out of Step with Church on Contraception, Abortion

    Recent surveys of American Catholics indicate that many are out of step with the Vatican's teachings on contraception and abortion. With Pope Benedict visiting the United States beginning April 15, some Catholics are asking the church to take another look at these issues.  VOA's Jeff Swicord reports.

    The views of many American Catholic women on sexual issues seem clear. The National Survey of Family Growth says 97 percent of them have used modern contraception.  The National Catholic Reporter shows that 58 percent believe they do not have to follow the teachings of their bishop on abortion.  Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, says he hopes the pope is listening.

    "I hope that he uses the opportunity of being here in the United States to hear from people about some of the difficulties, some of the problems, and the challenges that we face in the Catholic Church," O’Brien said.

    The Roman Catholic church has been opposed to any form of artificial birth control since the 1930s.  The church teaches that sex should only take place within the context of marriage using natural methods of birth control.

    Law professor Helen Alvare is former legal council for the National Conference of Bishops, and works on pro-life initiatives. She says, "Natural family planning is Catholic Church's sort of research and response to this.  It is a scientifically based process for a woman tracking her fertile and non-fertile periods.  People use it just as much to achieve pregnancy as they do to avoid one."

    O'Brien says natural contraception is not realistic in today's world.  He says it often leads to unwanted pregnancies, and an abortion rate for Catholics that is equal to the general public. "Where Catholics have access to contraception, they use it in spite of what the church says,” O’Brien said. “And that causes an alienation of most ordinary Catholics from the institution"

    The church's policy of abstinence before marriage and natural contraception has also drawn criticism from groups dealing with HIV and AIDS. O'Brien says  the church's policies are inhibiting the fight against the epidemic. "When the United States government was deciding to spend billions of dollars in some of the poorest parts of the world on HIV and AIDS prevention, the church, the Catholic hierarchy, lobbied hard to stop family planning from being included in that.  And they won," he said.

    There is evidence that the abstinence message has helped in some cases.  Helen Alvare says it is no time for the church to tone down its message. "Do I think we should shut up, absolutely not.  Do I think we will get an absolute win, absolutely not.  But I know our message is true and it has evidence that supports it," she said.

    Abortion has long been a controversial issue in the United States.  Rev. Arne Panula is a priest in Washington and a member of Opus Dei, a conservative Catholic organization.  He says the church's teaching on abortion is very clear.

    "The principle that the church is upholding here is that it is never right to take an innocent life,” Panula said. “No matter how that life is conceived, once you have a human life here, once you have life, the church holds the sacredness of this life to be invaluable."

    The position of Catholics for Choice is that abortion is a private issue of conscience. It says a woman has a right to follow her conscience within church doctrine.

    "If a woman decides after really thinking and examining her conscience that having an abortion is moral and the right choice for her at that particular time, she is in Catholic teaching entitled to do it.  It doesn't mean abortion is a good thing to do within the Catholic church.” O'Brien explained.

    Since being installed as Pope, Benedict has consistently upheld the church's policy on abortion and contraception.  Vatican watchers say his views are unlikely to change. 

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora