Here in the papal interregnum, rumors fly about a shady cabal of Vatican officials who may—or may not—be subject to blackmail for sexual misbehavior. UK Cardinal Keith O’Brien resigns and admits to sexual misconduct. The church is reeling from a clergy sex abuse scandal that continues to unfold worldwide. America’s Catholic bishops continue to raise objection to HHS’ policy that requires employers to cover birth control.
It seems like every media mention of the Catholic Church involves sex, sexual abuse, or cover-ups of sexual abusers.
Yet most Catholics seem underwhelmed by church teaching on sex: the vast majority of Catholics reject or simply ignore church teaching against contraception. In vitro fertilization, even fertilization of a woman’s ova with her husband’s sperm, is forbidden by church teaching, yet Catholics pursue those procedures nonetheless. Catholic leaders fiercely oppose gay marriage and talk of homosexuality as “intrinsically disordered,” but now most Catholics now support marriage equality and say same-sex relationships are not always sinful. Catholics cohabitate before marriage, and far fewer Catholics are getting married in the church: there were 8.6 marriages per 1,000 U.S. Catholics in 1972 to 2.6 marriages per 1,000 Catholics in 2010 And it’s not just a lay issue: a 2002 LA Times poll found that only one-third of priests “’do not waver’ from their vow of celibacy, while 47 percent described celibacy as ‘an ongoing journey’ and 14 percent said they ‘do not always succeed in following’ it.” The report also found that two percent of priests admit they are not celibate.