As the Catholic hierarchy and its Religious Right allies fight on against the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) birth control mandate, it seems increasingly clear that they are engaging in a war their flock doesn’t support.
In a recent survey of 12,000 Catholics in 12 countries, 78 percent said they don’t oppose the use of birth control. The poll, which was conducted on behalf of U.S.-based, Spanish-language television network Univision, included respondents from France, Brazil, Spain, Argentina, Uganda, Colombia and the United States.
Most surprisingly, not one country participating in the survey showed overwhelming opposition to the use of birth control. In fact, more than 90 percent of those polled in France, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Spain favor the use of contraceptives.
In the United States, 79 percent of Catholics said they support birth control. In the Philippines, which is more than 86 percent Catholic, 68 percent of survey respondents said they don’t take issue with contraceptives.
Even the African countries surveyed, which are often more conservative on issues of sexuality, were not as opposed to birth control as one might expect. Congo supported contraceptives to the tune of 44 percent, and Uganda came in at 43 percent.
This poll suggests the bishops refuse to let go of a position that virtually all of their “faithful” supporters don’t agree with. Why, then, does the hierarchy continue to fight against the ACA mandate, which requires most businesses to provide their employees with health insurance that includes access to no-cost birth control?
Perhaps it’s out of an obsession with tradition. Perhaps it’s about a refusal to accept that times change. Or maybe it’s because the bishops really like the idea of controlling the lives of as many people as possible, regardless of what individuals want or need.
Whatever the reason, the survey revealed the bishops are out of touch on issues beyond birth control. Worldwide, 68 percent of Catholics said abortion should be allowed in at least some cases; in the U.S. that number jumped to 76 percent. Among U.S. Catholics, only 40 percent oppose same-sex marriage. (That number is higher worldwide, at 66 percent.)
Given these survey results, it would seem the bishops are fighting a losing battle against modernity. They know they can’t stem that tide by themselves so they’re hoping to hijack the U.S. court system, praying it will help them impose an agenda they haven’t been able to persuade even their own members to adopt.
That’s why this battle over birth control isn’t really about “corporate conscience” or forcing Catholics to pay for so-called “abortifacients,” as some have said. It’s really about whether an individual’s religious dogma should be imposed on masses of unwilling people, in this case through health care plans.
No one should be able to use something as fundamental and important as health care to impose their will. It’s clear that even most U.S. Catholics don’t want that, and we hope U.S. courts won’t allow it to happen.