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Islamic precepts and family planning: the perceptions of Jordanian religious leaders and their constituents.
International Family Planning Perspectives. 2000 Sep; 26(3):110-7, 136.Two nationally representative surveys, one of 1000 married women aged 15-49 and the other of 1000 men married to women aged 15-49, and a census of all Muslim religious leaders in Jordan collected information on knowledge, attitudes and beliefs regarding family planning, and sources of information about it. 80% of men, 86% of women, 82% of male religious leaders and 98% of female religious leaders believe that family planning is in keeping with the tenets of Islam. Among religious leaders, 36% reported that they had preached about family planning in the year preceding the survey. 75% of women and 62% of men in the general public said that they had spoken about family planning with their spouse, and 9% and 17%, respectively, reported having spoken with a religious leader. On a scale of 0-10 measuring agreement with statements regarding the benefits of family planning (with 10 being in complete agreement), women averaged 9.4 and men 8.8, while male religious leaders averaged 6.5 and female religious leaders 7.2. Among the general public, 74% of women and 58% of men said that deciding to practice contraception is a joint decision between husband and wife. About 90% of religious leaders agreed or agreed strongly with the statement that contraceptive decisions should be made jointly by husband and wife. Women were significantly more likely than men to believe that specific contraceptive methods are permitted under Islam, and male religious leaders were more likely than were men in the general population to find specific methods acceptable. Only 26% of men cited interpersonal communication as a source of family planning information, compared with 66% of women, 73% of male religious leaders and 89% of female religious leaders. Almost three-quarters of men and women said they want to know more about family planning. Although Islamic religious leaders in Jordan cite different reasons than the general public to justify the use of contraceptives, they are as likely as others in the population to approve of family planning. (author's, modified)
Critic. 1977 Spring; 14-25.The lack of acceptance of the Catholic Church's teachings on birth control on the part of the devout laity of the church raises the possibility that the teachings are wrong, i.e., they do not reflect Catholic truth as manifested through the sense of the faithful. According to a study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, 87% of the Catholics in the US do not accept the church's position on birth control. Catholic tradition supports the position that infallible Catholic truths can emerge from the sense of the faithful, i.e., that God speaks through the faithful. The church is, therefore, confronted with a dilemma. The leadership, claiming divine guidance, is at odds with the sense of the faithful. Conservative elements in the church dismiss the dilemma by claiming that only those who accept the teachings of the church are true Catholics. Many church leaders believe that the dilemma stems from inadequate pastoral work. They maintain that more intensive pastoral work will eventually convince the laity of the validity of the teachings. Another explanation should at least be considered. Perhaps the teachings are wrong. Perhaps they were arrived at through inappropriate means. This possibility is explored using sociological knowledge about the decision making process in voluntary organization and the study of the historical reception of Catholic teaching by Father Pere Congar. The church can be viewed as a voluntary organization since membership is optional. In a voluntary organization the function of a leader is to promote consensual decision making. Divine guidance is, in reality, the process of promoting a consensus. The leader draws the truth, the Word of God, out of the sense of the faithful. The church is infallible not because it has automatic access to a set of right answers, but because it has the capacity to identify inadequate answers and to work until it has drawn out the truth from the faithful. Furthermore, the work of Father Congar demonstrates that histoircally the council of the church has become effective only after it has been received and accepted by the whole church. If it is not accepted it is eventually abandoned. In summary, ecclesiastical authority may be viewed, not as some automatically given addition ot the Word of God, but as the spiritual discernment of the sense of God in the total community of the faithful. If this argument is applicable to infallible truths then it should also be applicable to the authentic teachings of the Catholic Church, including the birth control encyclical, i.e., the Humanae Vitae.