The Vatican has enlisted its bishops to conduct a worldwide poll asking Catholics their thoughts regarding the church’s stance on the controversial subjects of birth control, same-sex marriage and divorce.
Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, sent the poll in mid-October to the many national bishops’ conferences to be distributed "immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received," the National Catholic Reporter said.
According to the NCR, the poll is being conducted in preparation for the Vatican Synod on "Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization" announced by Pope Francis earlier this month. The conference is set to take place Oct. 5-19, 2014. It marks the first time the Vatican has asked for such input from local Catholic parishes since the formation of the synod system after the dissolution of the Second Vatican Council.
The NCR obtained a copy of the document the Vatican sent to presidents of bishops’ conferences worldwide.
One of the issues Catholics will be asked about is the church’s stance on “the value of the family” in the modern era. "In those cases where the church's teaching is known, is it accepted fully or are there difficulties in putting it into practice?" the document reads. "If so, what are they?"
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The Vatican also wants to ask parishes if divorce, remarriage and same-sex marriage are a “pastoral reality” in their local church. "Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases?" the document reads. "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?"
Regarding same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption, the Vatican asks how these issues may be addressed in the church. "What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live these types of union?" the document reads. "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?"
On the matter of married couples becoming parents and whether they obey Humanae Vitae, the famous 1968 encyclical issued by Pope Paul VI that rejects the use of birth control by Catholics: "Is this moral teaching accepted?" the docment asks. "What aspects pose the most difficulties in a large majority of couple's accepting this teaching?"
As the NCR points out, the document also names mixed or interreligious marriages, single-parent families, polygamy and “forms of feminism hostile to the church” as issues requiring the attention.
The poll must conducted by the end of January. According to the NCR, Pope Francis wants to use the answers to these questions at the October 2014 synod as a stepping stone to another synod in 2015 which will "seek working guidelines in the pastoral care of the person and the family."