Catholic guilt is a myth and even devout believers feel no shame about ignoring the Church's teaching on sex, according to a new study.
The study - commissioned by Linda Woodhead, professor of the sociology of religion at Lancaster University - revealed that only one in 10 regular mass-going Roman Catholics in Britain feel any guilt about using contraception despite Pope Benedict's strong opposition to it, reports the Telegraph
They are also much less likely to feel guilty about committing adultery, having sex before marriage or using pornography than people from many other religious groups, the study said.
Muslims, Jews and especially evangelical protestants are significantly more likely to be plagued by guilt over sexual "sins", the study found.
On some issues, even members of the Church of England are more inclined to feelings of shame than British Catholics.
Prof Woodhead said it showed a widening gap between the Catholic faithful and the hierarchy on issues of personal morality that could prove "disastrous" for the Church.
But she added that while Catholics may not be plagued with shame, the study did identify a strain of "puritan guilt" surviving in modern Britain.
The research included a YouGov poll of more than 4,000 people of various religious persuasions, including atheists, who were asked whether they would feel guilty if they used contraception, had an affair or sex before marriage and other issues
Prof Woodhead said that while it is known that many Catholics quietly ignore the Church's teaching on issues such as contraception, it was striking how little "lurking guilt" there was. She said it does show that people have distanced themselves completely from the Catholic Church's teaching.
She added that it is particularly concerning for the Church because it has really staked it distinctiveness on sexual morality.