E.g., In Italy, a very Catholic country, the Church and state have been at odds for centuries. The Vatican owes its existence to Mussolini, otherwise the Pope might still be a prisoner in the Vatican. [See Concordat Watch - Italy | How the Lateran Treaty made the Catholic Church into a state.] And not surprising, or maybe it is, abortion and birth control are legal despite the Church's efforts. Are the Italian Catholics doomed to hell?
"Abortion in Italy became legal in May 1978, when Italian women were allowed to terminate a pregnancy on demand during the first 90 days. A proposal to repeal the law was considered in a 1981 national referendum, but was rejected by nearly 68% of voters; another referendum aimed at eliminating the restrictions was rejected by 88.4%. [Abortion in Italy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia].
"Birth Control has been practiced in Italy for many centuries in one form or another and currently the country has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe. In recent history the Fascist Dictatorship banned literature on birth control in 1926 in an effort to boost the population. In 1970 women won the right to unrestricted access to birth control." [Birth control - The Italy Wiki].The poll by the New York Times and CBS news sampled Catholics via landlines and cellphone. One wonders about the validity of polls, any poll. In this case, did they reach Catholics that are practicing Catholics or "lost" Catholics like myself that were born into Catholic families and often self-identify as a Catholic. Did the poll represent a valid cross section of Catholics? While this poll does have a certain truthiness, how valid is it?
While the NY Times reported that "[m]ajorities said they wanted to see the next pope maintain the church’s opposition to abortion and the death penalty, even though they themselves were not opposed to them; [n]early 8 in 10 Catholics polled said they would be more likely to follow their conscience on “difficult moral questions” than to follow the pope’s teachings."
Seems contradictory, but my experience is that Catholics have been following their conscience for decades and not adhering to Catholic doctrine on abortion, birth control and or the death penalty. I was fortunate to grow up in a Catholic environment where I felt comfortable following my conscience. I don't remember ever being told differently.
But here is the rub. The Church while giving lip service to the primacy of individual conscience require Catholics to "form their consciences in accord with the truth, which for a real Catholic means: the teachings of the Church."
Do what you think is right as long as it is what I tell you to do. Is it any wonder in the 21st century that Catholics are going astray?