Poll: Majority of Catholics Approve of Birth Control, Abortion

It's long been known that followers of any religion don't always agree with all of its teachings. But a new poll released Sunday shows just how profound the dissonance is between Catholic dogma and the personal beliefs of lay Catholics worldwide. The poll asked questions about abortion, birth control, and female priests, among many other controversial social issues; overall, survey respondents disagreed with the church's teachings more often than not.

The poll, commissioned by the Spanish TV network Univision, surveyed 12,000 practicing Catholics in 12 countries. It asked for opinions on contraceptives, gay marriage, married or female priests, remarried the status of divorced people in the church, and whether abortion should be legal. The results are surprising not only because of how often practicing Catholics disagree with the church but also because these opinions show a stark divide between developing and developed regions.

The poll report claims that 57 percent of respondents said abortion should be allowed in some cases, and another 8 percent said they think it should be permissible in all cases. The case for contraception was even more overwhelming: 78 percent of respondents said they support it, in contradiction to the church's teachings against artificial birth control. The average Catholic is also apparently down with divorce, with 58 percent of respondents disagreeing with the official stance that divorcés who remarry outside of the church should be denied communion.

Response to gay marriage was more tepid, but even though few believe the church should allow it, more are willing to support it as a general principle. Beliefs on priesthood for women or married men were similarly split. Overall, respondents in Africa and Asia were more likely to hew to the church's teaching in their personal beliefs. Respondents in North America, Europe, and parts of South America tended to side against the church on most hot-button issues.

Read the full results of the worldwide Catholic survey.

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