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Religion and ethical issues


The distance taken from many of the Catholic Church’s requirements regarding sexual and family ethics is another characteristic of the situation in Italy, even though – as we saw above – more than 85% of the population still considers itself Catholic today. The 2007 survey tells us that 71% of Italians consider divorce acceptable and that half of them are accepting of homosexuality. In recent years, this tolerance appears to have been continually on the rise (Table 1) because of the spread of a culture that is more respectful of the varied living conditions and options in Italian society. Many Italian Catholics, therefore, share neither some of the positions of the Catholic hierarchy in this field nor the battles it is waging to defend the values of religious life, family and marriage in a society which it believes is losing its bearings. This openness to a libertarian culture on the part of Italians can be seen in part through a complicated subject that has triggered major public debate, namely euthanasia, which is accepted by 37% of the population, when 15 years ago, only 22% of individuals aligned with that opinion. In contrast, it appears that the attitude of the Italians with regard to abortion is more restrained, insofar as, at least partially, it seems to pay heed to the frequent statements and denunciations of the Catholic Church. Based on the 2007 survey (whose data are not very different from that of 1994), more than 50% of Italians accept abortion only in very specific cases (foetal malformation, danger of the mother’s dying, etc.), while 24% still say they are hostile to this choice and a comparable part of the population accepts it in all cases.

Table 1 – Ethical Attitudes

EVS 1994* Survey 2007**
Justifiable behaviour:
- divorce 63 71
- homosexuality 38 50,6
In favour of euthanasia 22,5 37,3
Abortion: Is it morally acceptable?
- never 20,7 23,9
- only in certain cases (fetal malformation, risk of death to the mother, etc.) 61, 5 52,9
- when both parents decide to do so 9,6 10,6
- when the woman alone decides it 8,2 12,5

* Vincenzo Cesareo, Roberto Cipriani, Franco Garelli, Clemente Lanzetti, Giancarlo Rovati, La religiosità in Italia, Mondadori, Milano, 1995 (sample of 4,500 individuals)
** Source : Indagine sulla nuova religiosità in Italia, Apsor (Associazione piemontese di sociologia delle religioni), 2007 (sample of 3,160 individuals).

D 3 November 2015    AMariachiara Giorda

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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