Now this is interesting. A survey at the New York Times shows a significant difference of opinion between the average person in the pew and the Catholic church hierarchy. 66% favour allowing priests to marry. 79% favour the use of birth control, and my understanding is that a higher percentage of Catholics than that will actually use birth control at some point.
I’d be very interested in seeing what these figures look like on a global basis, whether this is a uniquely North American phenomenon, or whether there is genuinely a huge rift between the official teaching of the hierarchy and the Sensus Fidelium, the understanding of the faithful, of the church as a whole.
This raises questions for those outside the Catholic church, too. What happens when the official key holders of doctrine state one thing but the general population holds a different position?
From inside the system, it’s easy to say ‘we have the Truth on matters of ethics and behaviour, and those who disagree with us do so because they wish to behave immorally.’
But on matters such as the ordination of women priests, this is seen as an issue of justice and equality. The laity has considered the position of the hierarchy and said ‘No. We believe that you are in the wrong here. The right, honourable and just thing to do is to stop discriminating on grounds of gender.’
What happens when a long-held claim to divine authority encounters a groundswell sense that the hierarchy is actually in the wrong?