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Catholic guilt is a myth – other religions feel far more shame

CATHOLIC guilt is a myth. Even devout believers feel no shame about ignoring the Church's strict teaching on sex, a study has found.

Only one in 10 regular Mass-going Catholics feels any guilt about using contraception, the survey – conducted in Britain – says.

They are also much less likely to feel guilty about committing adultery, having sex before marriage or using pornography than people from many other religious groups.

Muslims, Jews and evangelical Protestants are more likely to be plagued by guilt over sexual "sins".

On some issues, even members of the Church of England are more inclined to feel shame than British Catholics.

Prof Linda Woodhead, professor of the sociology of religion at Lancaster University, who commissioned the study, said it showed a widening gap between the Catholic faithful and the hierarchy.

These issues of personal morality could prove disastrous for the Church, she said.

While Catholics may not be plagued with shame, the study identified a sense of puritan guilt.

The findings emerge from research at the university's Religion and Society Programme.

The research included a YouGov poll of more than 4,000 people of various religious persuasions, including atheists, who were asked whether they would feel guilty if they used contraception, had an affair, engaged in sex before marriage and other issues.

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Only 12pc of practising Catholics and 9pc of nominal Catholics said they would feel any guilt about using contraception, despite the Church's strong stance on the issue.

By contrast, a quarter of Muslims said they felt ashamed to use contraception. A total of 57pc of Catholics said they would feel guilty about having extramarital sex, 1pc higher than the general population.

By contrast, almost nine out of 10 Baptists and Pentecostals and about seven out of 10 Jews and Muslims polled said they would feel guilty about adultery.

Prof Woodhead said it was striking how little "lurking guilt" there was. She said: "Most Catholics are taking authority more from their own reason than from the church's teaching." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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