Did you get the questionnaire from the Vatican?
Even saying that is sort of strange.
Has there ever been a questionnaire from the Vatican? I love Pope Francis!
If you have no clue what I’m talking about, I’ll fill you in.
A different kind of synod
In October 2014, Pope Francis will convene an Extraordinary Synod of Bishops. The theme is “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” To begin the process, the Synod General Secretary sent out a preparatory document with questions asking feedback on a number of issues surrounding marriage and family life.
You can still see it here but the response collection is all done.
I’m sure asking for consultation to prepare for a synod is pretty standard…for bishops. That I get consulted in preparation for a synod is not. The questionnaire went out to all the faithful for input. I think this is fantastic. How can you know how to serve your people unless you hear their problems and concerns?
An opportunity to hear from the people
The questionnaire was handled in different ways by different bishops around the country.
The General Secretary said he expected pastors to provide summaries for their parishioners which would then be funneled to bishop’s conferences for use by the synod.
That’s how I got it. Our diocese asked pastors to respond. My pastor asked me and few people from my RCIA team to weigh in as well. The responses were going to the diocese and then to the U.S. Bishop’s Conference for further compilation and processing.
However, individuals were welcome to respond directly with the synod, as well. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to hear from the people. One bishop in St. Petersburg, FL disseminated it across his diocese and got 6800 responses.
A different kind of questionnaire…
The questionnaire wasn’t at all what I expected.
It was actually kind of weird…almost not like a questionnaire at all. Many of the questions were more like test questions and they were very difficult to answer. One of the people I asked to help said she didn’t feel qualified to answer. Another said he needed a dictionary to figure out what was being asked.
Here’s an example:
Describe how the Catholic Church’s teachings on the value of the family contained in the Bible, Gaudium et spes, Familiaris consortio and other documents of the post-conciliar Magisterium is understood by people today? What formation is given to our people on the Church’s teaching on family life?
What place does the idea of natural law have in the cultural areas of society: in institutions, education, academic circles and among the people at large? What anthropological ideas underlie the discussion on the natural basis of the family?
How are the Church’s teachings on family understood by people? I’d say they aren’t. What place does natural law have among the people? Basically none.
My experience is that most average Catholics don’t know any of this. And I haven’t been teaching them. I asked some people in the office if they knew what Gaudium et Spes or Familiaris Consortio were. They had no clue. Really, only theology geeks like me know this.
That left me questioning
So the questionnaire really got me kind of down…and got me thinking.
Is the Vatican so out of touch with the faithful? These are very intellectual questions that assume a lot of knowledge. Do they really think most Catholics read and understand these documents and terms?
But the other thing I thought was–should I have been teaching them this stuff? I’ve never even considered having a class for families on who and what they’re supposed to be. Parents would never come.
But if we don’t somehow teach them, how will they know? How will families understand themselves and what they’re called to be?
I don’t really have answers. I mean, I know parents absolutely should understand the Church’s teaching on family. It’s beautiful. How to make that happen is another matter.
Do you ever considered educating families on their calling and being? If you’ve done it, what did you do and how did it work out? I’d love to know.