Further Update- Vatican Asking For Lay Opinion on Pastoral Challenges to The Family


An open letter from Basque theologian José Arregi, was published in Spanish on his blog on 11/6/2013. Thanks to the English translation by Rebel Girl.
  Here's the introduction
Dear Pope Francis:

"As everything goes so fast today, the questionnaire on the family that you just sent to the bishops all over the world has already come into our hands -- 38 very specific questions organized into 8 thematic blocks. We understand that we are not just the subjects, but also the ones to whom these questions that affect -- and hurt -- us, even more than the bishops, are addressed. Therefore we are allowing ourselves to answer them directly, because of the affection we have for you and the trust you inspire in us. Thank you, Pope Francis, for asking us about so many uncomfortable issues that have been, and still are, taboo. And thanks for listening to us, for receiving our voices speaking from the soul, with their certainties and doubts."

 Click here to read the rest.

Last week I posted here on the invitation from the Vatican to lay people to respond individually online to a questionnaire on Marriage, Relationships and Family.

Since posting today, a new article has been posted from Iglesia Descalza here with some useful stats from the USA, relevant to completing some of the questionnaire.(You need to scroll down to the bottom of the article for stats.)

I would expect the stats results to be similar for the UK , but I don't know where I can find any - if anyone does know, then please put a link in the comments section or e.mail me.

This continues to generate interesting headlines and comments in the wider media around the world. Many have commented on the flaws in the design of the questionnaire. Clearly there's a lot to mull over and as many people might feel overwhelmed at the thought of tackling these questions I thought I'd do another post, just to highlight some key points and add a few useful links.

The guidelines from the UK here say that "the response will be forwarded to your Diocese or Ordinariate for inclusion in their collated report. The Extraordinary Synod will take place from October 5 until October 19 next year in Rome and will be attended by 150 Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences from around the world.

According to Canon Law, an “extraordinary general session” of the Synod is held to “deal with matters which require a speedy solution,” suggesting Pope Francis may be seeking to move the Church forward on social issues.

 Pope Francis said “We have to find a new balance,” adding, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.” It is the third extraordinary synod since 1965 when synods were reinstated by Pope Paul VI. The last was held by Pope John Paul II in 1981. 
 “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the Pope told La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican. He said: “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church are not all equivalent. The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,”

The questionnaire is an expression of Pope Francis’s desire for a collegiate church of consultation and dialogue and is a first attempt at accepting that the Catholic Church needs to strive hard if it is to connect with a broad range of people with diverse views. At Religion News here it says, "In preparing for past synods, Rome has asked bishops to discuss the issues with their flocks and provide feedback. 

But bishops say it was largely a pro forma request often carried out in a perfunctory manner.

The synod meetings, which were begun years ago as a way to improve churchwide consultation, have turned into ponderous, unwieldy affairs that generally rubber-stamp pre-set conclusions. 

As blogger Rocco Palmo put it, for participating bishops “the greatest benefit of the experience has been a healthy amount of nap-time during the sessions.” But Francis and his top aides have said that they want to overhaul the synod to turn it into a truly consultative meeting that will be shorter in duration — two weeks instead of nearly a month — and encourage debate and input from all Catholics.
Next October’s meeting will be the first major test for Francis’ pledge to develop a more “horizontal” church.

Just as notable are the questions the Vatican is asking: Rome wants to know how churches are reaching out to divorced and remarried couples, to cohabitating couples, and to gay couples and their children. The document also asks whether the church’s ban on artificial birth control is accepted and if not, why not.

The Vatican also has requested detailed statistics on the makeup of families in each diocese, including the percentage of couples who are divorced and remarried — a topic that Francis has spoken about in terms that have prompted widespread speculation about potential changes in church teachings or practices.

As the document says, “vast expectations exist concerning the decisions which are to be made pastorally regarding the family.”
 Download the full preparatory document of 7 pages and read further information here. It includes 39 questions ranging over 9 areas:  
1.The Diffusion of the Teachings on the Family in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Magisterium
Marriage according to the Natural Law
3. The Pastoral Care of the Family in Evangelization
4. Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations
5. On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex
6. The Education of Children in Irregular Marriages
7. The Openness of the Married Couple to Life
8. The Relationship Between the Family
and the Person 

9. Other Challenges and Proposals

Responses to these questions are now being received by the dioceses in the UK. 
Dioceses are asking people to respond as soon as possible so that reports can be compiled by December 20th. There is an opportunity to make a response online here.
The site also says "If you are responding from outside England and Wales, please feel welcome here. We will endeavour to forward your response to the appropriate contact in your country. " There is an opportunity at the end of the form for you to provide your name and contact details but there is no need for you to do so. Neither do you need to answer every question posed here"

The excellent Australian site Catholica has set up a useful open forum to tackle issues arising in the questionnaire. Brian Coyne has made a start at trying to get to grips with some of the answers and has made some comments and invited an open forum for responses from people. A few answers are trickling in and the thread will be left open for more responses.

Vatican Questionnaire on the Family

Bear in mind that any statistics cited in the Australian forum may
 differ for other countries.

Below are the ten Questions
 from the Vatican Questionnaire

1. The Diffusion of the Teachings on the Family 
 in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Magisterium 

a) 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?

b) In those cases where the Church's teaching is known, is it accepted fully
    or are there difficulties in putting it into practice? If so, what are they?

c) How widespread is the Church's teaching in pastoral programmes at 
    the national, diocesan and parish levels? What catechesis is done on the family?

d ) To what extent — and what aspects in particular — is this teaching actually
      known, accepted, rejected and/or criticized in areas outside the Church? 
      What are the cultural factors which hinder the full reception of the Church’s
      teaching on the family?

2. Marriage according to the Natural Law 

a) What place does the idea of the 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? 
b) Is the idea of the natural law in the union between a man and a woman 
    commonly accepted as such by the baptized in general? 
c) How is the theory and practice of natural law in the union between man 
    and woman challenged in light of the formation of a family? 
    How is it proposed and developed in civil and Church institutions? 
d) In cases where non-practicing Catholics or declared non-believers 
    request the celebration of marriage, describe how this pastoral challenge is 
    dealt with?

3. The Pastoral Care of the Family in Evangelization 

a) What experiences have emerged in recent decades regarding marriage 
     preparation? What efforts are there to stimulate the task of evangelization 
     of the couple and of the family? 
     How can an awareness of the family as the "domestic Church" be promoted?

b) How successful have you been in proposing a manner of praying within
    the family which can withstand life’s complexities and today’s culture?

c) In the current generational crisis, how have Christian families been able to 
    fulfil their vocation of transmitting the faith?

d) In what way have the local Churches and movements on family spirituality
    been able to create ways of acting which are exemplary?

e) What specific contribution can couples and families make to spreading a 
    credible and holistic idea of the couple and the Christian family today?

f) What pastoral care has the Church provided in supporting couples in 
    formation and couples in crisis situations?

4. Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations 

a) Is cohabitation ad experimentum (meaning: as a way of trying out 
    marriage before making the commitment) a pastoral reality in your particular
    Church? Can you approximate a percentage?

b) Do unions which are not recognized either religiously or civilly exist? 
    Are reliable statistics available?

c) Are separated couples and those divorced and remarried a pastoral reality 
    in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage?
    How do you deal with this situation in appropriate pastoral programmes?

d) In all the above cases, how do the baptized live in this irregular situation? 
    Are they aware of it? Are they simply indifferent? 
    Do they feel marginalized or suffer from the impossibility of 
    receiving the sacraments?

e) What questions do divorced and remarried people pose to the Church
    concerning the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation? 
    Among those persons who find themselves in these situations, 
    how many ask for these sacraments?

f) Could a simplification of canonical practice in recognizing a declaration 
    of nullity of the marriage bond provide a positive contribution to solving
    the problems of the persons involved? If yes, what form would it take?

g) Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases? Describe this pastoral ministry?
    Do such programmes exist on the national and diocesan levels? 
    How is God’s mercy proclaimed to separated couples and those divorced
    and remarried and how does the Church put into practice her support 
    for them in their journey of faith?

5. On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex 

a) Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the
    same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?

b) What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the 
    State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex 
    and the people involved in this type of union?

  What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in 
     these types of union?

d) In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, 
    what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?

6. The Education of Children in Irregular Marriages
a) What is the estimated proportion of children and adolescents in these cases, 
    as regards children who are born and raised in regularly constituted families?

b) How do parents in these situations approach the Church? What do they ask? 
    Do they request the sacraments only or do they also want catechesis 
    and the general teaching of religion?

c) How do the particular Churches attempt to meet the needs of the parents
    of these children to provide them with a Christian education?

d) What is the sacramental practice in these cases: preparation, administration of the sacrament and the accompaniment?

7. The Openness of the Married Couple to Life 

a) What knowledge do Christians have today of the teachings of 
    Humanae vitae on responsible parenthood? Are they aware of how
    morally to evaluate the different methods of family planning? 
    Could any insights be suggested in this regard pastorally?

b) Is this moral teaching accepted? What aspects pose the most difficulties 
     in a large majority of couple’s accepting this teaching?

c) What natural methods are promoted by the particular Churches to help 
    spouses put into practice the teachings of Humanae vitae?

d) What is your experience on this subject in the practice of the Sacrament
    of Penance and participation at the Eucharist?

e) What differences are seen in this regard between the Church’s teaching
    and civic education?

f) How can a more open attitude towards having children be fostered? 
   How can an increase in births be promoted?

8. The Relationship Between the Family and the Person

a) Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the human person.
    How can the family be a privileged place for this to happen?

b) What critical situations in the family today can obstruct a person’s
    encounter with Christ?

c) To what extent do the many crises of faith which people can experience
     affect family life?

9.  Other Challenges and Proposals 

What other challenges or proposals related to the topics in the above
questions do you consider urgent and useful to treat?

10: If you have any further comments to make about this consultation
      please do so here. If you would like to leave your name and contact email
      please do so.

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