So it seems that Pope Francis' interview with Rev. Antonio Spadaro in September may have been a sign of future transition within the Catholic Church. In preparation for a major meeting on family next year, the Vatican has made an unprecedented move. Pope Francis has sent out survey to every national conference of bishops with a request to "share it immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received." The Pope is hoping to gain information about how parishes, worldwide, deal with sensitive issues such like birth control, gay marriage, divorce and remarriage, cohabitation, same-sex couple adoptions, and abortion. The poll reflects Pope Francis' pledges to move away from what he called a "Vatican-centric" approach toward one where local church leaders are more involved in decision-making.
The survey explains that by answering the questions, it allows each Church to actively participate in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod, whose mission is to proclaim the Gospel in the context of modern family pastoral issues. The Pope wants to find out how Catholics think about matters facing modern families.
Among the questions/topics being polled:
- How priests minister to same-sex couples Pastoral care of men and women who live together outside of marriage
- Whether gay marriage is recognized in their country
- How can churches respond to and meet the needs of same-sex couples seeking a religious education or Holy Communion for their children
- "How is God's mercy proclaimed" to separated, divorced and remarried couples, and how does the Church support these couples
- Whether the parish believes married men and women accept the moral teachings of the Humanae Vitae on prohibition of artificial contraception
Pope Francis has already urged pastors to focus on being merciful and welcoming rather than emphasizing only divisive issues. The Vatican is leaving it up to each bishop to decide the most useful way of gathering information to provide to Rome. Some have already posted the survey online, so that it can be filled out by a wide range of Catholics, including priests, lay people, parents and nuns. It should be interesting to see what comes of these results. Is it possible that Pope Francis will lead the way to true Vatican bureaucracy reform? All we know, as of now, is that he seems resolute in advancing the participation of local church leaders and their parishioners. I guess only time will tell.
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