There was little startling about a statement last month from the Roman Catholic hierarchy in America recording its opposition to public assistance for promotion of artificial birth prevention. The declaration was only a logical extension of Catholicism’s well-known stand against use of contraceptives. But timed for release on Thanksgiving morning, the 1,516-word statement (formulated a week earlier at the 41st annual meeting of U. S. Catholic bishops) won headlines across the country.
Within hours birth control had become a major U. S. controversy which soon took a political turn. Senator John F. Kennedy, leading Catholic presidential aspirant, said he thought it would be a “mistake” for the United States to advocate birth control in under-developed countries. President Eisenhower said this would never happen while he is in office.
Reaction from Protestant quarters found a division of opinion on the morality of birth control itself.
Among evangelicals, the hullabaloo perhaps served to crystallize some convictions. Prodded by controversy, many went anew to the Bible for a re-examination of views on the legitimacy of sex severed from its procreative role. Most evangelical leaders were willing to state beliefs even when these conflicted with convictions of fellow Christians.
What advice do Roman Catholic physicians give to married women who request contraceptives?
Among 244 U. S. Catholic physicians who responded to a survey, 29 per cent flatly disagree with the dogma of their church and say they recommend contraceptives.
Another 24 per cent say they agree with Catholic teaching that such methods of birth control are immoral but will give advice to a patient who asks.
The remainder—47 per cent—say they refuse to give ...1
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