According to Prof. Gary Gutting, Endowed Chair in Philosophy at University of Notre Dame, bishops do not have the authority on moral and sexual behaviour:
“…There was, perhaps, a time when the vast majority of Catholics accepted the bishops as having an absolute right to define theological and ethical doctrines. Those days, if they ever existed, are long gone. Most Catholics — meaning, to be more precise, people who were raised Catholic or converted as adults and continue to take church teachings and practices seriously — now reserve the right to reject doctrines insisted on by their bishops and to interpret in their own way the doctrines that they do accept. This is above all true in matters of sexual morality, especially birth control, where the majority of Catholics have concluded that the teachings of the bishops do not apply to them. Such ‘reservations’ are an essential constraint on the authority of the bishops.”
I believe that Prof. Gutting assumes that the Church is guided by public opinion and, as such, whatever the majority does and wills is what matters to the Church. Well, I have a big news for him: The Catholic is not guided by popularity or fashionable trends, it is guided by the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
As I have mentioned before, the Catholic Church is counter-culture. It does not follow mainstream, it follows the mandates of the Bishop of Rome in collaboration with all the Bishops around the world. Hence, if ‘most’ Catholics (it would be interesting to know what he means by most) “reject doctrines” proposed by the Bishops, then they call themselves Catholics but in reality they are not.
The CNS blog, very wisely, indicates that Jesus did not say: “upon this poll I will build my Church.”