Opposition to birth control represents the beliefs of a small minority of highly religious men, and not the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Being Catholic has no statistically discernible influence on the likelihood of a woman using contraception. It is only the Bishops and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that oppose the use of birth control, calling it a part of the ‘culture of death.’ 98% of sexually active Catholic women use birth control, the same as the national average.
This is important to keep in mind in light of the recent controversy over the Obama Administration’s ruling that Catholic Schools and Hospitals will be required to provide birth control as part of their insurance coverage. While most analyses of the decision have focused on religious liberty, I think this is also a good time for the Catholic Church to rethink what it means to be a church.
The Catholic Catechism section 777 says that, “The word ‘Church’ means ‘convocation.’ It designates the assembly of those whom God’s word ‘convokes’ i.e. gathers together to form the People of God, and who themselves, being nourished with the Body of Christ, become the body of Christ.”
The church is first and foremost a gathering of people who have been called by Christ. In the case of the Catholic Church in the U.S. that group of people does not oppose the use of birth control. Like most non-Catholic Christians they see no contradiction between following Christ, and using birth control to prevent pregnancy. If the leadership of the Church wants opposition to birth control to actually be considered a Catholic position then the first group they need to convince are their fellow Catholics.
On a public policy note this matters in terms of the Churches ability to sway politicians. President Obama knows that there simply is not a large bloc of swing voters that is going to vote against him based on opposition to birth control.