Data Shows Vast Majority Of US Catholics Disagree With Church Teachings On Sanctity Of Life Issues

A recent analysis by researcher Ryan Burge associate professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University reveals that less than 1% of American Catholics agree with all three of the Catholic Church’s teachings on the sanctity of life issues. This finding highlights the widespread existence of “cafeteria Catholics” in the United States who pick and choose which parts of the faith to abide by rather than accepting all the teachings of the church.

Using data from the General Social Survey dating back to 1988 Burge found that the share of U.S. Catholics who aligned with church teaching on abortion capital punishment and euthanasia reached an all-time low of 0.9% in 2022. This percentage has fluctuated between 2.6% and 7% since 1989 with the highest point of agreement at about 7% in that year.

The Catholic Church teaches that direct abortion is gravely contrary to moral law and opposes the death penalty and euthanasia. However, Burge’s analysis shows that the overwhelming majority of U.S. Catholics support legal abortion in various circumstances and consistently favor the death penalty and assisted suicide in cases of incurable disease.

These findings suggest a significant disconnect between the official positions of the Catholic Church and the beliefs of its followers in the United States. The phenomenon of “cafeteria Catholics” poses a challenge for the church as it seeks to maintain its moral authority and influence in an increasingly secular society.