VATICAN CITY (CNS) — To help set the agenda for the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the family, the Vatican is sending the world’s Catholic bishops’ conferences a list of questions on a range of topics, including matters of marriage and sexuality that proved especially controversial at the 2014 family synod.
Together with the final report of the 2014 assembly, the 46 questions published by the Vatican Dec. 9 comprise a preparatory document, known as a “lineamenta,” for the Oct. 4-25 synod, which will have the theme: “The vocation and mission of the family in the church and the modern world.”
Bishops’ conferences are being asked to consult with “academic institutions, organizations, lay movements and other ecclesial associations” in preparing their responses, which are due at the Vatican by April 15. The bishops’ responses will serve as the basis for the synod’s working document, to be published by summer.
A list of 38 questions, sent to the world’s bishops in October 2013, was widely circulated on the Internet and helped generate advance interest in the 2014 synod.
The questionnaire for 2015 instructs bishops’ conferences to “avoid, in their responses, a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine,” in favor of what it describes as Pope Francis’ call to “pastoral activity that is characterized by a ‘culture of encounter’ and capable of recognizing the Lord’s gratuitous work, even outside customary models.”
Yet the questions echo the relatively conservative tone of the 2014 synod’s final report, which emphasized traditional Catholic teaching by comparison with the same assembly’s midterm report. The earlier document had stirred controversy with remarkably conciliatory language toward people with ways of life contrary to church doctrine, including the divorced and civilly remarried and those in same-sex unions and other nonmarital relationships.
Regarding the pastoral care of “persons with homosexual tendencies,” the questionnaire repeats the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s admonition against “unjust discrimination” and asks: “How can the demands of God’s will be proposed to them in their situation?”
Referring to a controversial proposal to make it easier for a divorced and civilly remarried Catholic to receive Communion, even without an annulment of his or her first, sacramental marriage, the questionnaire asks: “What is possible? What suggestions can be offered to resolve forms of undue or unnecessary impediments?”
A related question asks how the marriage annulment process can be made “more accessible, streamlined and possibly free of charge” — the mandate of a commission that Pope Francis established in August.
While acknowledging that positive elements can be present in a civil marriage or in nonmarital cohabitation between a man and a woman, the questionnaire asks how such a couple can be encouraged to marry in the church.
Consistent with Pope Francis’ emphasis on social justice, the questionnaire repeatedly solicits thoughts on the social, economic and political causes of stress on the family. But it also asks how the church should respond to the “diffusion of cultural relativism in secularized society and to the consequent rejection, on the part of many, of the model of family formed by a man and woman united in marriage and open to life.”
In asking how to “guide the consciences of married couples” with respect to contraception, which is forbidden by church teaching, the questionnaire emphasizes the practice’s impact on birth rates, asking: “Are people aware of the grave consequences of demographic change?”
The questionnaire alludes to in-vitro fertilization, which was not a prominent topic at the 2014 synod, asking how the church can uphold the “human ecology of reproduction” in its dialogue with the “sciences and biomedical technologies.” It also asks how to “combat the scourge of abortion and foster an effective culture of life.”
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103