BY CHRISTIAN DE LISLE
A SURVEY of the attitudes and practices of Catholics towards contraception has shown that while younger Catholics are more likely to use contraception and be ignorant of Humanae Vitae most would not exclude the possibility of using natural family planning.
The survey, undertaken by Cambridge University's Von Hugel Institute. examined different age groups' awareness of Humanae Vitae the 1968 encyclical that forbade married couples from using contraception — and what contraception they do or do not use. It also examined are Catholic attitudes to marriage, divorce, pre-marital sex and homosexuality.
Those alive when Pope Paul VI published the letter were very aware of its existence and content. But those born after the publication of the encyclical were generally ignorant of it.
A mere seven per cent of those below 35 were fully aware of it and well under half had even heard of it.
This was reflected in the wider use of contraceptives by the young. The young were, furthermore, more likely to have used or be prepared to use the morning-after pill.
There was, however, a growthin socially conservative attitudes to sterilisation and fertility regulation in those below 35.
This age group rate of disapproval for sterilisation was only one per cent lower than the rate of disapproval among the over 65, with the middle-aged showing a more lenient attitude.
Similarly, those below 35 were the group most likely, after the over-65s, not to exclude the possibility of using natural family planning, with a mere one in 10 totally rejecting that method of fertility regulation.
Regarding marriage, most practising Catholics did base their moral compass on Church teaching.
Just under 90 per cent of respondents disapproved of couples deciding not to marry just because they will not have children and 95 per cent said that the mother and the father should play an equal role in the upbringing of children.
Divorce was generally frowned upon though just over 70 per cent of respondents said that they approved of a couple splitting if they had an unhappy marriage and were "incompatible people".
Accepting homosexual couples as part of the Church community was a divisive issue. Around 35 per cent supported the idea with around 36 per cent disapproving. The remaining respondents were neutral.
The survey appeared in last week's edition of the Tablet and was conducted to mark the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of Humanae Vitae.