In preparation for the Synod of Bishops in October, the Vatican is calling for responses from local Catholics around the world to an extensive questionnaire on marriage and family life. It follows a similar unprecedented consultation from local faithful around the world in the fall of 2013.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia posted the document on its website today, Jan. 29, and invited all Catholics to complete it online by Monday, March 9. They also have the option of emailing it to 2015SynodofBishops@archphila.org or printing and sending it by postal mail to: Office for Divine Worship, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, 222 North 17th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103.
Last year’s Synod of Bishops discussed the topic, “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization” and used the worldwide consultation during the bishops’ discussions. The synod’s final document forms the basis of questions in the current survey, summaries of which will be used in discussions at the Oct. 4-25 Synod of Bishops titled, “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World.”
That synod in Rome follows the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia Sept. 22-25, followed by the visit of Pope Francis to the city.
Although the survey asks respondents their name, parish and whether they are married, single, divorced, clergy or religious, individual responses will not be forwarded to the Vatican. As in 2013, the archdiocese’s Office for Divine Worship will collect and collate all responses, and “form a general response of the clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” the document said.
The survey poses 46 questions covering many areas of marriage and family. They are organized in 16 topical sections in three broad areas. Part One (questions one to six) examines the church’s pastoral response to challenges facing families in contemporary societies. Part Two (questions seven to 22) delves into the vocation and mission of the family rooted in Christ, referred to as the “Gospel of the Family.”
Part Three, titled “Confronting the Situation,” contains half of the survey’s questions. They address weighty issues such as the church’s pastoral care for couples unmarried and living together; care for homosexual persons and for “wounded families” including separated and divorced couples; sexuality and “the declining birthrate;” and transmitting the faith while raising children.
The document begins with an overarching question for the entire survey: “Does the description of the various familial situations in the Relatio Synodi,” the final report of last year’s Synod of Bishops, “correspond to what exists in the church and society today? What missing aspects should be included?”
The question indicates that respondents, and the dioceses and national bishops’ conferences that organize them, are being asked to think about the issues of marriage, family life and their relation to society in broad ways.
The document asks bishops conferences around the world – in this country, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will coordinate the responses to the Vatican synod – to use the responses to develop pastoral care programs not merely by applying doctrine but by recognizing “the idea of a ‘field hospital,” a term coined by Pope Francis, “which is very beneficial in proclaiming God’s mercy,” it read.
The wording of some of the questions in the survey might give people pause, as in this question about marriage preparation programs: “What emphasis is given to the character of the catechumenate and mystagogy which is often a part of marriage preparation?”
Nonetheless, the Philadelphia Archdiocese is inviting as many people as possible to answer the questions in order to help the world’s Catholic bishops provide more effective pastoral care to families.