We are by now accustomed to the yawning gulf in opinion between Catholics and their bishops on marriage equality, and sexual ethics generally. Some bishops are treating the possibility of justice for sexual minorities as the greatest threat to the country and the Church, but a clear majority of ordinary Catholics disagree: most support legal recognition of all (civil) marriages on a basis free of discrimination, and believe that homoerotic relationships are not a matter of morality at all. Vatican doctrine insists that artificial contraception is verboten, and opposes abortion in all cases. Most Catholics reject the prohibition on contraception out of hand, and believe that there are some circumstances where abortion should be condoned.
At the intersection of ethics and public policy, two recent polls show that Catholics disagree with their bishops’ opposition to the new regulation that will require health plans to provide coverage for contraception. Sarah Posner discusses these in two posts at Religion Dispatches:
Hot off the presses is a Public Religion Research Institute poll, which finds that a plurality of Americans (49%) think that religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should have to provide co-pay-free contraception coverage to their employees, while 46% say they should not have to.
Note: a majority of Catholics also believe these institutions should have to provide this coverage (52%).
In a second post on results of a quite separate poll by Public Policy Polling, she writes
The PPP poll finds that “a 53 percent majority of Catholic voters, who were oversampled as part of this poll, favor the benefit, including fully 62 percent of Catholics who identify themselves as independents.”
The poll also found 57% of all voters (and a 53% majority of Catholics) “think that women employed by Catholic hospitals and universities should have the same rights to contraceptive coverage as other women.”
The bishops’ argument is that the regulation impinges on religious freedom of conscience. This completely ignores the fact that refusing coverage denies freedom of conscience to the plan’s clients, and that providing coverage does not force anybody to use contraception. Once again, as in their bizarre claims that provision of same sex civil marriage is an assault on religious freedom, the bishops’ argument is not really about their own freedom of choice, but one of denying that freedom to others who disagree with them – including that of Catholics, for whom the primacy of conscience is an important part of established Catholic teaching.