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Poll finds Canada Catholics at odds with church doctrine.

OTTAWA -- A major religion poll reveals the lack of the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Canada's Catholics, according to Archbishop Marcel Gervais, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"They feel that they no longer have a role to be a light to the world," Gervais said in a recent interview.

The survey of 4,510 adults, conducted between January and March, indicated that 78 percent of Canadian adults still defined themselves as Christians even though fewer than 25 percent attended religious services weekly. Only 30 percent of Catholics said they attended religious services every week.

The poll results -- first published in the April 12 issue of Macleans' magazine -- also revealed that many Catholics are at odds with church doctrine. "If I were a bishop in the Roman Catholic Church, I'd be scared skinny," said Queen's University historian George Rawlyk, who assisted in the poll, conducted by the Angus Reid Group, one of Canada's leading pollsters.

Gervais said the results show that more and more Catholics are "acquiescing to the opinions of society" and "are not listening to the church."

He noted that 91 percent of Catholics approved of the use of contraceptives but said the figure would be lower if the church's teaching -- that every act of intercourse should be loving and life-giving -- were presented better. The teaching "has tremendous potential but has never really been developed properly," he said.

For Gervais, the biggest disappointment in the religion poll was in the figure revealing that 80 percent of Catholics would allow divorced people to remarry in the church. Many Catholics will not defend the church's teaching on remarriage, he said, because they know of "nice" people who have been divorced and remarried. That attitude "just keep eroding at the institution of marriage so that there is very little left."

The archbishop was also disappointed with the poll's revelation that 82 percent of Catholics approve of sex outside of marriage. "Once again, it shows that we are not really keeping up with the education needed to make people understand and appreciate chastity in the single life," he said.

Lauding the efforts of groups who actively promote chastity, Gervais said: "I think that people are beginning to get fed up and are beginning to see the results of the kind of promiscuous behavior that they are allowing."

The poll also revealed that 84 percent of Catholics would allow priests to marry, 78 percent favored allowing women to become priests, 55 percent said homosexual behavior is morally acceptable, 41 percent accepted abortion "in certain circumstances," 36 percent said a woman should be able to have an abortion "whenever she wants," and 37 percent said their faith was shaken by revelations of sexual abuse in the church.

The only force that can rescue Catholics from the pull of society is that of the Holy Spirit, said Gervais. "I believe that the Holy Spirit can change hearts and make people prize the life of faith," he said. He added that only the Holy Spirit can "make them appreciate that being Christian is a call to change society and to resist the negative forces of society."
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Author:Babych, Art
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Apr 30, 1993
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