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Commentary » International

Confusion surrounds the Vatican's questionnaire

Was it unprecedented? Was it even a questionnaire?

Confusion surrounds the Vatican's questionnaire

Picture: Shutterstock

Joshua J. McElwee for National Catholic Reporter International

November 7, 2013

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Nearly a week after news that the Vatican has asked for the world's bishops to distribute among Catholics a questionnaire on issues like contraception, same-sex marriage and divorce "immediately" and "as widely as possible," there is no consensus on what that direction means.

Moreover, comparing notes from recent Vatican statements, it is hard to decipher whether the call for consultation is unprecedented or something that's happened for decades.

The Vatican's chief spokesman said in an interview over the weekend that the Vatican's request for the world's bishops to survey Catholics on how certain topics affect their lives was part of a habitual "praxis."

Yet the official who sent the questionnaire said Tuesday it is part of a wide-ranging project to reform how the Vatican reaches out to bishops and faithful around the world.

The questionnaire was sent Oct. 18 by the Vatican's Synod of Bishops, which is preparing a global meeting of prelates for next October. Called by Pope Francis last month, the Oct. 5-19, 2014, meeting is to focus on the theme "Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization."

Francis and his Council of Cardinals, a group of eight cardinals who are advising Francis on reforms of the Vatican's central bureaucracy, discussed the synod on the family at their Oct. 1-3 meeting. Sources at the Vatican told NCR following that meeting that the synod on the family would not be business as usual.

The upcoming synod, those sources said, would provide for substantial consultation at the local level, involving dioceses and parishes. NCR was told in early October that Vatican officials had discussed using the Internet to allow rank-and-file Catholics to offer ideas and reactions along the way.

It would seem that the bishops of England and Wales had this idea; they put the Vatican's Oct. 18 questionnaire online.

But when Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri was asked at the Vatican press briefing Tuesday if that action was something other bishops' conferences should emulate, he said the "question answers itself" and was "not worth considering."

Full Story: No consensus on meaning of Vatican synod questionnaire

Source: National Catholic Reporter



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