Page last updated at 07:44 GMT, Sunday, 27 July 2008 08:44 UK

Catholics 'ignore rules on sex'

Contraceptive pill
The Catholic church forbids the use of the pill

Most practising Catholics ignore the church's teaching on contraception and more than half think it should be revised, a survey has suggested.

It comes 40 years after Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical Humanae Vitae which forbade birth control use.

Catholic publication The Tablet surveyed 1,500 Mass-goers in England and Wales on their attitudes to sex and contraception.

More than half of those who were aged 18-45 had cohabited before marriage.

Many Catholics had expected the Pope to revise the church's teaching on contraception when the encyclical was published in 1968.

But he ignored the recommendations of a pontifical commission and upheld the ban on contraception.

Revisit teaching

In the Tablet's survey, 82% of respondents said they were familiar with the church's teaching.

A total of 15.7% regarded the teaching as right; the same proportion thought it was wrong, while 54.3% thought it should be revisited.

The survey found 68.8% had used or would not mind using condoms, while the contraceptive pill is used by 54.5%.

On marriage, 88% agreed or strongly agreed that "marriage is a lifelong commitment despite any difficulties."

But at the same time 71% agreed or strongly agreed that "separation or divorce is better than an unhappy marriage between incompatible people."

Francis Davies of The Von Hugel Institute at Cambridge University conducted the survey.

He said: "What is surprising is the scale of which people in the survey decided not to follow the teaching.

"The majority cohabited before marriage; the majority use contraception."

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