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The unruly 90%: What's a professor to do?

In a recent op-ed piece titled “The Church needs a contraception reality check,” Linda Haller criticizes the Diocese of Pittsburgh for submitting a SCOTUS brief that claims faith-based agencies (such as the Little Sisters of the Poor) are “more likely to hire people who agree with the church teaching on contraception.” She scoffs at this, reminding us that “up to 90 percent of even regularly practicing Catholics politely ignore this teaching.”

So statistically speaking, the odds of any Catholic organization employing predominantly faithful Catholics is low at best. The implied message: if the majority of Catholics dissent, the church is obliged to accommodate them. Kind of like setting speed limits based on how fast 85% of people drive.

To begin, it seems generous to describe widespread dissent among Catholics as “polite.” Are we equally generous with other sins?

The majority of people lie. A 2002 University of Massachusetts study found that 60% of participants lied at least once during an ordinary 10-minute conversation (the average being 2-3 lies).

Should we describe these people as “politely ignoring” the 8th commandment? Should we go a step further and revise section 2464 of the Catechism to accommodate this majority?


What about gluttony? Nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight, with half of those falling in the obese category. Since ever-increasing numbers of people “politely” ignore the fact that gluttony is one of the 7 deadly sins, should the church amend its stance?


Why, then, apply this logic to contraception?

It’s interesting, this tunnel vision. A commenter named Bob Proctor offered this in support of Ms. Haller’s piece:

“It can hardly be said to be of no consequence that 90% of the Catholic laity ignores the Church's teaching on artificial birth control. Why teach if 9 out of 10 students have walked out of class? And to claim that their absence is ‘inconsequential’ because it's up to them to be there, not the responsibility of the Church to make the class meaningful to them, is theologically and psychologically surreal.”

Sounds like Bob Proctor has served hard time in academia. He’s comparing the Catholic magisterium to an untenured professor, who would surely be removed if 90% of their students dropped their classes. Basically, Bob Proctor is saying the Catholic Church isn’t tenured.

Man. I’ve heard the road to tenure can be demanding, but if 2000+ years isn’t enough…

In this scenario, the university administration is apparently fine with Associate Prof. Catholic Church’s poor student retention in Honesty 101. Yet poor student retention in Sex 101… now that’s a deal-breaker. Time to overhaul the curriculum!

Never mind the majority of students never even cracked open their Sex 101 textbooks:

They glanced at the book covers and said, “nope.” Is it the professor’s fault we judge books by their covers? That we approach many subjects (especially those with strong emotional undercurrents) with preconceived notions, biases, and misinformed opinions? How can any professor hope to overcome this if their students refuse to open the teaching materials?

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

Why is the Catholic Church expected to defy the odds and make all horses drink water?

And when it fails to make them all drink water, why is it asked to give them Coke instead?

And why only in relation to sexual teaching? Why not with lying and gluttony as well?

These are the answers worth pursuing, rather than the exact percentage of faithful Catholics the Little Sisters of the Poor currently employ.

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