Unclear how bishops will survey views on family

Vatican is to poll parishes on sensitive family issues

The Vatican has issued an unprecedented worldwide survey on how parishes deal with sensitive issues such as birth control, divorce and gay couples, seeking input ahead of a major meeting on the family that Pope Francis plans for next year. However, it is unclear how Irish bishops will survey the views of parishioners.

The poll was sent to national bishops’ conferences worldwide last month with a request from the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, to “share it immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received”.

However, the Catholic Communications Office was unable to say this week whether or not Irish bishops had put in place a way of finding out the views of parishioners.

In England, bishops have posted the survey online to be filled out by a wide range of Catholics, including priests, religious and lay people. The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has also published the poll on their website.

However, a spokesman for the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference was unable to confirm the Irish bishops’ plan for the survey as The Irish Catholic went to print this week.

The survey reflects the Pope’s pledge to move away from what he called a “Vatican-centric” approach toward one where local Church leaders are more involved in decision-making.

Among the questions put to participants are whether gay marriage is recognised in their country, what pastoral attention can be given to people in same sex unions and what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith to the adopted children of same sex couples. The poll also asks “how is God’s mercy proclaimed” to separated, divorced and remarried couples.

Additional information is sought on the pastoral care of men and women who live together outside of marriage. The survey also asks parishes whether they believe married men and women tend to follow Church teaching barring the use of artificial contraception.

The lengthy introduction to the survey lays out a broad list of concerns which the document says “were unheard of until a few years ago”, including co-habitation, single-parent families, interfaith marriages and surrogate motherhood. The survey also cites as a new challenge “same-sex unions between persons who are, not infrequently, permitted to adopt children”.

The poll findings will help set the agenda for an extraordinary synod of the presidents of national bishops’ conferences in October 2014, which will be followed by another on the topic in 2015.

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