John Zmirak breaks down widespread resistance and dissent among Catholics on the issue of contraception in “The Shame of the Catholic Subculture” for The Catholic Thing. The most salient facts of the situation:
On a grave moral issue where several popes have invoked their full moral authority short of making an infallible declaration, 95 percent of U.S. Catholics (the number is surely higher in most of Europe) have rejected the guidance of Rome. They are not “bad Catholics” so much members of a new, dissenting sect – which happens to occupy most of the seats in most of the churches, and many of the pulpits and bishop’s offices, too.
I’m not sure that I agree that they are not “bad Catholics.” To the extent that they have been poorly catechized, this might be the case. Many of us know from personal experience however that there are plenty of people who say that they are Catholics, understand that Catholics must abide by the dogmatic teachings of the Church, and simply don’t. However they rationalize it is really not important to me.
On the other hand, Zmirak makes a convincing case for extending a tolerant and understanding olive branch to well-meaning dissenters (and that does not include all dissenters, mind you); they’re over 90% of the Church, perhaps over 95%, at least in the developed West. H also makes a good point about conservative/traditionalist circles that, while doctrinally orthodox, suffer from ideological stagnation and social isolation. The 90-95% need those who believe that truth is not optional to speak boldly for it, but not in a way that is alienating or unsympathetic to their concerns.
If, for instance, the problem with contraception is that an otherwise willing Catholic family feels it simply can’t handle the financial burden, then those of us who would have them hold to the teaching of the Church should be devising creative solutions to that problem. Perhaps living as self-contained nuclear families in a mass consumer society is not the way to live as Catholics. Perhaps local, voluntary, and bold projects are needed to unite people who wish to live the faith authentically, to share burdens and responsibilities – something beyond the mere handouts so often advocated by leftists. The pro-life movement has had great success with crisis pregnancy centers and other forms of relief for pregnant women; I see no reason why we can’t take it a step further and devise forms of relief for struggling parents.