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A new global poll conducted by Univision finds that Catholics around the world are divided on Church doctrine.

According to the poll, which surveyed 12,000 Roman Catholics in 12 countries, Catholics tend to break from the Church on issues related to contraception and birth control.

Despite the Church’s longstanding anti-abortion doctrine, an overall 65 percent of Catholics said that abortion should be allowed: 8 percent say that it should be allowed in all cases and 57 percent say in “some” cases, like when the mother’s health is at risk or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

The poll finds that in the United States, a total 76 percent of Catholics support women’s abortion rights: 66 percent in some cases and 10 percent in all cases.

Catholics voiced the most support for abortion in European and Latin American countries. In fact, overwhelming majorities in the eight countries surveyed throughout Latin America and Europe — France, Spain, Poland, Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico — voiced support for abortion at least in some cases.

A similar trend is seen on the issue of contraception. Majorities of Catholics in the surveyed European and Latin American countries say they support the use of contraceptives. And in the Philippines, 68 percent also break with the Church to support contraceptive methods. Catholics living in the Democratic Republic of Congo are split on the issue, with 49 percent saying they oppose the use of contraceptives and 44 percent saying the opposite. In Uganda, a 54 percent majority backs the Church’s position.

In the United States, a whopping 79 percent of Catholics support the use of contraceptives.

Though the United States lags behind several European and Latin American countries when it comes to support for abortion rights and contraceptive methods, the nation does, however, show the second-highest support rate for same-sex marriage — 54 percent of Catholics in the U.S. support same-sex marriage, second only to Spain’s 64 percent. Spain and the U.S. are the only two countries in which a majority of Catholics split with the Church on the issue of gay marriage.

Even so, the poll’s findings reveal a Church following more divided on issues that have come to dominate political discussions and define political parties all across the world.

The Washington Post cites leading sociologist of religion at Georgetown University Jose Casanova, who says the Church “may be in a period of moral evolution.” And chances are he is right; even though the poll’s findings in no way guarantee that a new doctrine will emerge in the coming years, the changing attitudes of Catholics and even the unprecedented handling of those same issues by the Church’s leader, Pope Francis, do signal a necessary change that must come from within if it hopes to survive in later years.

And for a country like the United States, the poll’s findings may have greater implications. When issues like abortion rights and same-sex marriage are often addressed and opposed on the basis of religious doctrine and morality, arguments made against either issue appear increasingly outdated, invalid, and unsound.

Photo: Catholic Church (England and Wales) via Flickr

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