The Vatican has launched a worldwide survey to find out what Catholics really think about its teaching on marriage and family life. Pope Francis is calling bishops to Rome next October to discuss possible reform that considers modern social realities.
The questionnaire asks for local views on premarital cohabitation, birth control and gay marriage. Correspondents say it shows a greater interest in issues previously considered taboo. The questionnaire contains 39 questions couched in non-judgmental terms. It aims at finding out, for example, what percentage of the Catholic flock is cohabiting with a member of the opposite sex without any intention of seeking the marriage bond. It asks whether local laws on same-sex civil unions equate this with marriage between a man and a woman. And it tries to find out what knowledge 21st century Catholics have about the controversial Vatican ban on artificial contraception issued back in 1968.
Since his election, Pope Francis has displayed a much more open attitude than his predecessors towards church teaching – a position not shared by some of his top advisers. While he is unlikely to change any basic Church doctrine, the Pope clearly wants to sound out the opinions of grassroots Catholics about new family situations. And this is something of a revolution. Among the “many new situations requiring the Church’s attention and pastoral care”, it lists single-parent families, inter-religious unions and divorce.