The church’s unwillingness to grapple with a deep and highly visible gap between official teaching and actual practice undermines Catholic vigor and unity at every level. It encourages Catholics to disregard all manner of other teachings, including those on marriage and abortion. If the church wants to restore its moral authority, it must address this gnawing question.....
Sociologists, theologians, pastors and bishops have dated a sapping of Catholic confidence in other church teachings about sexuality, and indeed in church authority in general, to the 1968 encyclical. Some researchers have linked frustration over the measure with declines in church attendance, financial contributions and parental support for sons to enter the priesthood. The prominent Catholic theologian Bernard Haring went so far as to write that “no papal teaching document has ever caused such an earthquake in the Church as the encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae.’ ”
Many Catholics now disregard the church’s teachings on premarital sex, same-sex unions and divorce. According to a recent Pew poll, 70 percent of American Catholics believe it’s acceptable for same-sex couples to live together, and 86 percent say premarital cohabitation among heterosexual couples is fine. Fewer than half say homosexual behavior or remarriage without annulment is a sin.
Meanwhile, an outspoken conservative minority insists on making opposition to contraception a litmus test for separating “faithful Catholics” from “dissenters,” and the past two popes seemed to count it far more than many other qualifications in naming new bishops. In short, the contraception issue has injected paralyzing doses of tension, suspicion, dissemblance and dysfunction throughout Catholic life.If the Catholics relaxed their strictures against contraception (which they ALMOST DID in the 60s), what else would change?