OTTAWA (CCN) — The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) released a revised set of questions Feb. 10 for the upcoming synod on the family, but the results will stay private.
The CCCB’s general secretary Msgr. Patrick Powers also stressed the questionnaire is not a survey or poll of Catholic opinion, but a way for bishops to share pastoral insights with the pope and to help them plan for their dioceses.
The questionnaire is based on the lineamenta or working document for the ordinary synod on the family this October in Rome, but the CCCB has reworked the order of the questions and revised the wordings.
“Since the extraordinary synod had worked from the perspectives of See, Judge, Act, the CCCB Permanent Council agreed this would be a helpful way to focus and clarify the questions for the 2015 synod,” said Powers said in a letter accompanying the questionnaire.
He said the changes were made: “1) to make the consultation simpler and more readily accessible for diocesan use; 2) to help encourage concrete suggestions and the sharing of ‘best practices’ for pastoral action; and 3) to elicit pertinent reflections on the reality and situation in each diocese.”
Dioceses had responded to a previous questionnaire prior to last October’s extraordinary synod on the family that set the stage for the ordinary or regularly scheduled synod next fall. A few dioceses had published the results of their consultation online.
“Given the general purpose of each synod as well as of the questions that are part of the lineamenta, the CCCB and Canadian dioceses will continue with the practice of not publishing the responses,” Powers said. “Catholic individuals, groups and organizations are welcome to use the questions in the lineamenta for their own reflection.”
The eight-page questionnaire is arranged in four sections. The first headed Better Identifying the Reality asks about the impact on the family of cultural changes such as cultural relativism and pluralism. It asks about the challenges posed by the rise of common-law unions, by children, the elderly and the care of people who are ill. The section looks at what marriage and family values they find among young people and married couples and what sense of the presence of God they have in their families.
This section also looks at present pastoral practices for reaching out to those who feel “distant” from the church, how the church is present in difficult or extreme situations. Questions also concern marriage preparation programs, Christian initiation and other forms of catechesis.
It also asks about pastoral involvement in the lives of couples in “irregular situations,” and ways those in civil marriages are guided to the sacrament of matrimony and how “our Christian communities” are “giving pastoral attention to families and persons with homosexual tendencies.”
The second section, Bringing About Pastoral Conversion, includes the controversial question regarding sacraments for divorced and remarried Catholics as well as another question on pastoral care for “family members with homosexual tendencies.”
“The synod clearly opted for a pastoral approach that accents the positive: accompaniment, mercy and the goodness of the Good News,” says an opening paragraph in this section.
The third, Proclaiming the Good News, opens with a comment that said, “Too often, the teaching of the church is understood as a set of rules imposed from without or as a code of conduct considered by many to be out of touch with modern reality.” The synod fathers “saw in this teaching a source of personal fulfilment and a path of vitality and hope.”
That section looked at how to “translate this conviction into a language that will reach men and women today.” Questions concern how to help people understand God’s plan for Christian marriage and to find strength through a personal relationship with God.
The fourth section, Paths of Action, seeks practical suggestions on a range of issues from clergy formation, marriage preparation and ministering to the divorced and remarried.
“Responses to the lineamenta are primarily a means for bishops to share their insights and pastoral experiences with the pope,” said Powers. “Any consultation a bishop may undertake can also be one approach to understanding how at least some of the faithful in the diocese see a particular question.”
“More importantly, many bishops use these consultations to assist the diocese in planning and shaping its own pastoral approach and ministry,” he said. “The questions in the lineamenta are thus not intended to serve as a kind of Catholic survey or poll, but instead are an invitation to reflect and discuss.”