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Catholics and Population

Most Catholic pronouncements upon population policy acknowledge the existence of a population problem but denounce the most effective methods of birth control. It is often assumed that Roman Catholic teachings are a major obstacle to securing a lowered birthrate. This assumption is valid if one looks at ‘the effect of Catholic influence on government policies. However, if one looks at the birthrates, the situation is more ambiguous. In Europe, the highest birthrate is found in Iceland, which is only 2 percent Catholic, and the lowest in Austria or Belgium, which are 99 percent Catholic. In the United States surveys several years ago found that five out
of six American Catholics approved of “artificial contraception” [Time, 105:55, Jan. 13, 1975J. There is no longer any significant difference in birth control practices of American Catholics and non-Catholics [Westoff, 1978J.
The question of government policy is another matter. Until recently, governments of ,!’ , many Catholic countries refused to participate . in birth control programs, and Catholic influence is constantly seeking to limit the extent and effectiveness of the programs which have’ been adopted. Dissent horn Vatican policy by many priests “id bishops, as well as the laity, has not succeeded in changing the official position of opposition to any artificial
means of birth control: Currently, little is heard alout opposition to contraception and the major Catholic attack is on abortion [Berelson, 1978], with only 35 percent of American Catholics believing, in 1981, that legal abortions should be available to women who want them [Public Opinion, 4:26, April/May 1981J.

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