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Bishop’s ‘surprise’ at Vatican poll findings

Nearly 50 per cent of Maltese accept and live by the Church’s teachings on responsible birth control but find it difficult to follow, according to a survey that forms part of a worldwide Vatican initiative.

Just over a quarter disagree with the Church on its natural family planning method that considers abstinence morally correct during a woman’s fertile period.

Nearly 20 per cent ignore the Church’s stand on birth control and act according to their conscience. The Sunday Times of Malta got a preview of the local study carried out last year at Pope Francis’s request to gauge opinion on the Church’s teachings on thorny moral issues ahead of October’s Bishop’s Synod.

More than 7,000 Maltese completed the questionnaire, which was simplified by the Church’s research institute Discern and distributed to most households and posted online.

Discern is confident the survey satisfies scientific criteria even though the respondents were not selected randomly. It remains unclear, however, whether the sample size is truly representative.

Gozo Bishop Mario Grech, president of the Episcopal Conference, has just been handed the report that will be sent to the Vatican.

Mgr Grech was surprised, yet cautious, by the picture painted by the study. “When you observe the changes the family is experiencing in Europe the survey shows our family is still whole,” he said.

“We were expecting the worst, but it’s not time for complacency. We have to remain prudent in the face of the cultural tsunami the society is facing, from divorce to same-sex unions, which will affect individuals and families. The figures are consoling. I feel that although the indications aren’t negative, we have to remain hands-on and vigilant to continue offering a good service and improving.”

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