Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Jan. 27, 28 or 29
Nevertheless, it’s unclear whether Pope Francis will be able to directly hear from area Catholics about their thoughts on cohabitation, contraceptives, divorce and other questions that the Vatican has asked in preparation for an October Synod of Bishops, who’ll be discussing family topics. Unfortunately, January 31 is the deadline for the survey data to be sent to Rome, so there are mere days to try to give your feedback to Rome.
This is despite a request by the Vatican official overseeing the process directing bishops to distribute the questionnaire “as widely as possible, to deaneries and parishes, so that input from local sources can be received.” Instead, the Diocese of Peoria says it sent the survey to parish priests, who were expected to confer with laypeople.
Timing was a problem, according to Monsignor James Kruse, a Vicar General with the Diocese. “It was a very tight timeline,” Father Kruse said. “It was sent to pastors before Thanksgiving, and they were to meet and discuss it. Admittedly, it was not widely disbursed.”
Repeatedly over the last three months, bishops worldwide were told to seek feedback from the pews, not just advisers, according to Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops.
Just named Time magazine’s “person of the year” Pope Francis – the first Jesuit Pope, the first Pope from outside Europe in 1,300 years, and the first to call himself Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi – is seeking greater transparency, whether in discussions with sisters or in dealings with the Vatican Bank. Supporting existing doctrine, the Pope has criticized clergy who “obsess” over culture-war issues such as abortion and homosexuality, and “hypocritical neo-clericalism.”
He’s condemned “the idol called money” and systems of “exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” he said, and he replied to a question about his opinion of gay people by saying, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”
As to withholding the Eucharist from some Catholics, he said that Communion “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment.”
The survey has dozens of questions about church teachings on matters of family, marriage and sex, and how they are accepted by everyday people. Findings were to be published in May.
Dozens of other dioceses posted some version of the survey online to facilitate laypeople’s feedback, including many in Canada, all of England and Wales, and all four of Iowa’s dioceses.
The survey does not distinguish between what people think and what people do, nor can it gauge the opinions of ex-Catholics who might have left the Church because of disagreements with some clergy’s interpretations of Scripture. U.S. Catholics number more than 78 million, some one-fourth of the population. So Catholicism is the largest denomination in the nation, and the number of ex-Catholics would be the second largest, as 1 in 10 Americans are fallen-away Catholics.
People have left the Catholic Church because of differences with clergy on abortion, homosexuality, birth control, divorce and remarriage, according to the Pew Research Center. For example, the Public Religion Research Institute says that 58% of Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, and a 2012 National Center for Health Statistics report showed 61% of Catholic women age 15-44 use some contraceptive method.
John Ryan – a Catholic involved with the reform-oriented Doors of Hope Fellowship, active in the Diocese of Peoria and founded in part by the late Father John Dietzen, a noted author – is not unsympathetic to managing the opportunity to let Rome know what’s felt.
“The survey itself is ponderous, poorly framed, and absolutely beyond the capacity of the average pew Catholic to respond [to],” Ryan said. “I found the questions poorly worded and unclear. In the case of Bishop [Daniel] Jenky, I expect he will formulate something to send in on behalf of the diocese, but not without help from some of his clerical staff. As for the likelihood Bishop Jenky (or most U.S. bishops, for that matter) will solicit input from the laity: My strong hunch is that the chances are near zero.”
Still, some recall the line from the Old Testament. Proverbs 1:5 says, “Let the wise listen and increase their learning; let the person of understanding receive guidance.”
[PICTURED: Photo of Pope Francis from forwardprogressives.com]