May 28, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Mere days after 43 Catholic dioceses and organizations launched an unprecedented mega-lawsuit against the Obama administration over its contraception mandate, a new Gallup poll found that 82% of Catholics in America believe contraception is “morally acceptable.”

While critics say the poll is more evidence that the Church hierarchy is out of touch with its people in its fight against the Obama administration, Catholic commentators have responded that the data doesn’t affect the debate over the mandate, which is about religious freedom.

The poll, released May 22nd, found that 89% of all Americans believe contraception is morally acceptable. Overall, 8% of all Americans and 15% of Catholics said they believe contraception is morally wrong.

“Catholic leaders are no doubt aware that many of their parishioners use birth control, but these data underscore the divide between official church teaching and Catholics’ day-by-day behaviors,” write the pollsters.

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At the same time, they noted the backlash against the Obama mandate has centered on “the broad separation of church state” rather than the morality of contraception, and point out that their polling in February showed 56% of Catholics sympathized with the bishops and only 39% sympathized with the Obama administration.

In April, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, admitted that Church leaders failed in recent decades to teach Catholic doctrine on contraception, which he said means they “forfeited the chance to be a coherent moral voice when it comes to one of the more burning issues of the day.”

“I’m not afraid to admit that we have an internal catechetical challenge—a towering one—in convincing our own people of the moral beauty and coherence of what we teach. That’s a biggie,” said Dolan. “We have gotten gun-shy ... in speaking with any amount of cogency on chastity and sexual morality.”

Numerous Catholic commentators have observed that priests and bishops across the country have been stepping up in homilies, statements, letters, and even Youtube videos in recent months not only to defend the Church from government intrusion, but also its teachings on contraception.

“It is a lamentable fact that most Catholics have never heard contraception mentioned from the pulpit. And now, thanks to President Obama, they have!” wrote famed moral theologian Dr. Janet Smith at CatholicVote.org in February. “How very, very devious of the Holy Spirit to use the insidious HHS mandate as a means of getting the Church’s teaching on contraception not only before the public, but before Catholics,” she added.

“Now would be a great time for priests, bishops and cardinals to preach about why contraception is morally unacceptable,” wrote Matthew Archbold of Creative Minority Report. “Let’s use this government overreach as an opportunity to spread the message of the Catholic Church. We must remember that winning politically is great but winning souls is what we’re all about.”

Gallup surveyed 1,024 American adults by telephone from May 3-6.