Considered at face value, the statistic of nearly 50% of 7,000 respondents claiming that they “accept and live by the Church teachings on responsible birth control” (as given by The Times) is quite positive for the local Church. Indeed, in the context of the gloom and doom that many depict the current situation in Malta, Bishop Mario Grech was surprised by this conclusion of the survey.
Where I strongly disagree with the analysis is the claim that “the survey satisfies scientific criteria”. One can start finding scientific problems of all sorts with the way the survey has been carried out. Yet, the survey was never meant to be scientific in the first place – at least that is how it came across – so I will not go into its scientific merits.
Instead, a more basic question I would ask is: Does the term “scientific criteria” refer to the survey being representative of the Maltese population or of those who identify themselves with the Church? As far as I can recall, the survey was not addressed to the Maltese general public, so it would be presumptuous to assume that the survey can be used to conclude anything about the whole population.
Assuming the survey correctly represents the people who identify themselves with the Church, and given the general conviction (as confirmed by the Bishop’s surprise) that much less than 50% of Malta’s sexually active population abide by the Church’s teachings on responsible birth control, I can only come to one conclusion: the portion of people identifying themselves with the Church does not represent a cross section of the Maltese population.
This is unsurprising, really, given that most liberally minded people have long been alienated by the Church.
For those who have been harping over and over that the Church is not a supermarket where you can pick and choose the rules you like, this survey is indeed great news – they have finally managed to drive out most of the rebellious elements in Church.
However, for those whose vision of the Church is a wider one, where rules can be challenged and where membership is not limited to submissive followers, this is sad news indeed.