An Assessment of Long-Term and Contemporary Attitudes towards ‘Sanctity of Life’ Issues amongst Roman Catholics in Britain

In: Journal of Religion in Europe

The Roman Catholic Church has long-standing and steadfast positions on ‘sanctity of life’ issues. This article examines the views of Catholics in Britain on two of these issues: assisted suicide and abortion. It looks at whether Catholics still retain distinctive views on these issues compared to wider society and then examines which socio-demographic and religious factors underpin their attitudes. Catholics tend to be more likely than the general population to oppose assisted suicide and abortion in particular circumstances and to view them as less morally justifiable. Amongst Catholics, socially-conservative views on these issues are associated with various socio-demographic factors and both believing and behaving aspects of religiosity.

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  • 4

    Mark Chaves, “Secularization as Declining Religious Authority,” Social Forces 72/3 (1994), 749–774; William V. D’Antonio, Mary Dillon and Mary L. Gautier, American Catholics in Transition: Persisting and Changing (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013); see also Jenifer Hamil-Luker and Christian Smith, “Religious Authority and Public Opinion on the Right to Die,” Sociology of Religion 59/4 (1998), 373–391.

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  • 5

    Clive D. Field, “Another Window on British Secularization: Public Attitudes to Church and Clergy Since the 1960s,” Contemporary British History 28/2 (2014), 190–218, 211.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6

    Clive D. Field, “No Popery’s Ghost: Does Popular Anti-Catholicism Survive in Contemporary Britain?” Journal of Religion in Europe 7/2 (2014), 116–49, 145.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 12

    David Gerard, Roman Catholic Opinion. A Summary of the Joint University of Surrey and Gallup Poll Survey 1980 (London: Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, 1980), 13.

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    • Export Citation
  • 15

    Jelen, “American,” 407.

  • 18

    Bjarnason and Welch, “Father,” 115.

  • 21

    Ben Clements, “The religious sources of opposition to abortion in Britain: Assessing the role of ‘belonging’, ‘behaving’ and ‘believing’,” Sociology 48/2 (2014), 369–386; Bernadette C. Hayes, “Religious identification and moral attitudes: The British case,” British Journal of Sociology 46/3 (1995), 457–474; Jenny Chapman, “The political implications of attitudes toward abortion in Britain,” West European Politics 9 (1986), 7–31.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 24

    Hornsby-Smith, Roman, 90.

  • 25

    Clive D. Field, “Measuring religious affiliation in Great Britain: the 2011 census in historical and methodological context,” Religion 44/3 (2014), 357–382

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 28

    Ted G. Jelen and Clyde Wilcox, “Causes and Consequences of Public Attitudes Toward Abortion: A Review and Research Agenda,” Political Research Quarterly 56/4 (2003), 489–500.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 36

    Jelen, “American,” 407.

  • 37

    Hornsby-Smith, “The,” 90–91.

  • 42

    Unnever, “God,” 318.

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