Dioceses and lay groups survey Catholics on issues of family life

Last week Brian Starks discussed the Vatican’s interest in lay input concerning pastoral challenges facing the family in preparation for the 2014 extraordinary synod on “the pastoral challenges for the family in the context of evangelization.” Since then, the Vatican’s announcement has been widely discussed in both the secular and Catholic media outlets with great interest.  The news has also led to discussions in the Catholic blogosphere over what exactly the Vatican questionnaire means and how Catholics are to interpret it (see here and here for two takes on the questionnaire).  For those interested in reading the preparatory document for the synod, it is also now posted on the Vatican’s website.  It discusses the reasons for the synod and ends with 38 questions pertaining to how Church teaching on marriage and family is understood by Catholics in one’s diocese and how pastoral care regarding certain family issues is addressed.

Since the announcement that the Vatican is interested in lay input regarding these questions, many have wondered how such data would be collected.  While the Catholic Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales (CBCEW) have created an online survey, according to the National Catholic Register the USCCB has noted that the survey is being handled at the diocesan level, and that “each bishop determines what is the most useful and reasonable manner of consultation to assist him in preparing his report for the Vatican.”  At least one diocese, the Diocese of Rockford, has created a way for individual Catholics to respond to the Vatican questionnaire.  Nonetheless, some lay Catholic groups have taken it upon themselves to create their own surveys.  For instance, the liberal Catholic group Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has created a survey which can be found at www.papalsurvey.com.  Likewise, Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR), a collation of liberal Catholic groups (e.g., Call to Action, DignityUSA, FutureChurch, and Women’s Ordination Conference), have put together a survey titled “The Extraordinary Synod on the Family 2014: A parish-level survey for US Catholics,” which mirrors the format used by the CBCEW.

It is interesting to compare the above two surveys created by the lay organizations with the questions listed on the Vatican website.  Some noticeable differences exist, for instance on the topic of homosexuality and the term “marriage equality” employed by COR.  Below, you can compare the questions provided by the Vatican and the survey by Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR).  Important to note, COR does say in its survey description that “questions marked with * have been added for additional information, and were not part of the original Bishops’ survey.”

With at least two surveys by lay organizations in existence, it will be interesting to see if more groups come up with their own questions related to family life in the coming months.

Some questions readers of the Catholic Conversation might consider:
1)      Has your diocese and/or parish talked about the upcoming synod and asked for lay input on “the pastoral challenges for the family in the context of evangelization.”
2)      What do you think is the best way for dioceses to collect information on pastoral challenges facing families?
3)      Are you aware of how you might contact your diocese?

Survey questions regarding homosexuality
Questions on Vatican website:

5. On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex
a) Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?
b) What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?
c) What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?
d) In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?

Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR) questions:

29. Is there a law in your state recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples?
30. What is the attitude of the following towards marriage equality?
31. What pastoral attention can be given to people in same-sex relationships?
32. In the case of same-sex couples who have children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?
33. * How important is marriage equality to you?
34. In your diocese, what is the estimated proportion of children and adolescents who are born and raised with parents in a same-sex partnership?

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