Saturday, November 2, 2013

Survey says...

Perhaps by now you have heard that the Vatican is soliciting people’s input regarding the church’s teachings on family and sexuality.  In the United Kingdom, you can take the survey online.  Here in the U.S., though, the bishops have not yet figured out how they will obtain people’s input. 

I decided not to wait for the U.S. bishops and took the online survey offered by the U.K. bishops.  Thanks guys!

Whilst taking the survey I copied the questions into a Word document before submitting my responses.  I offer them here so that you can prepare yourself for when your bishop comes seeking your opinion.  Or, you can just take the survey offered by the U.K. because we are after all a catholic (universal) church.

Be forewarned though - this survey is not for the faint of heart.  It involves writing 39 essays in response to the 9 multipart questions.  And the questions are written as though you have a master degree in theology.  Not to worry…after I give the questions as written by the clergy, I provide a simplified version of each.  

Also be forewarned that in the 1960s Popes John XXIII and Paul VI sponsored a pontifical commission and asked its members to give guidance regarding the church’s teachings about birth control.  However, Paul VI completely disregarded their recommendations to lift the church’s ban on artificial birth control and issued Humanae Vitae instead which just re-entrenched the church’s teachings…and consequently led to the largest exodus from the Church to date at that time. 

Thus, do not place too much hope that the Vatican seeking your opinion means the Vatican will actually heed your advice.  It might again just inspire the Vatican to write another really long document in Latin explaining why you are wrong.  The good news is that if that happens, so many people have already left the church in disgust regarding mishandling of clergy child rapists that another mass exodus would be difficult to notice.

But, with those warnings issued, I encourage you to participate.  If nothing else, you will learn the Latin term for “shacking up together.”  

Question 1 – actual text

a) Describe how the Catholic Church's teachings on the value of the family contained in the Bible, Gaudium et Spes, Familiaris Consortio and other documents of the post-conciliar Magisterium is understood by people today? What formation is given to our people on the Church's teaching on family life?

b) In those cases where the Church's teaching is known, is it accepted fully or are there difficulties in putting it into practice? If so, what are they?

c) How widespread is the Church's teaching in pastoral programmes at the national, diocesan and parish levels? What catechesis is done on the family?

d) To what extent — and what aspects in particular — is this teaching actually known, accepted, rejected and/or criticized in areas outside the Church? What are the cultural factors which hinder the full reception of the Church’s teaching on the family?

Question 1 – My simplified version

a) Do any Catholics listen to us when we teach about homosexuals or birth control?

b) Why do people ignore us on these topics?

c) Is it that we haven’t explained ourselves clearly?

d) Do even any non-Catholics listen to us?

Question 2 – actual text

a) What place does the idea of the natural law have in the cultural areas of society: in institutions, education, academic circles and among the people at large? What anthropological ideas underlie the discussion on the natural basis of the family?

b) Is the idea of the natural law in the union between a man and a woman commonly accepted as such by the baptized in general?

c) How is the theory and practice of natural law in the union between man and woman challenged in light of the formation of a family? How is it proposed and developed in civil and Church institutions?

d) In cases where non-practicing Catholics or declared non-believers request the celebration of marriage, describe how this pastoral challenge is dealt with?

Question 2 – My simplified version

a) Are Catholics the only people on the planet still clinging to Aristotle’s incorrect 4th century B.C. teachings about human biology, reproduction, sexuality and psychology?

b) Oh, wait, do any Catholics besides us in the Vatican still cling to Aristotle’s incorrect 4th century B.C. teachings about human biology, reproduction, sexuality and psychology?

c) What is the new word on the street about these topics?

d) If lapsed Catholics or non-Catholics want to get married in a Catholic church, how are they treated by the clergy and church staff?

Question 3 – actual text

a) What experiences have emerged in recent decades regarding marriage preparation? What efforts are there to stimulate the task of evangelization of the couple and of the family? How can an awareness of the family as the "domestic Church" be promoted?

b) How successful have you been in proposing a manner of praying within the family which can withstand life’s complexities and today’s culture?

c) In the current generational crisis, how have Christian families been able to fulfil their vocation of transmitting the faith?

d) In what way have the local Churches and movements on family spirituality been able to create ways of acting which are exemplary?

e) What specific contribution can couples and families make to spreading a credible and holistic idea of the couple and the Christian family today?

f) What pastoral care has the Church provided in supporting couples in formation and couples in crisis situations?

Question 3 – My simplified version

a) When people want to get married in the Catholic Church how do you use this opportunity to try to teach them the virtues of Aristotle’s incorrect 4th century B.C. teachings about human biology, reproduction, sexuality and psychology?

b) Do you pray during difficult times?

c) Since the younger generation seems to be fleeing the church at record pace (and we’re sure it’s not because we allowed priests to rape children and then lied about it, or that we tell them their gay friends and relatives are devil-spawn) what are the families that actually keep their kids coming to church doing differently?

d) How have blindly obedient Catholic elitist groups that give the Vatican shitloads of money like Opus Dei, Familia (Legion of Christ), Communion and Liberation Movement and Neo-Catechumenal Way been good examples to all the other lousy parents who let their kids ask questions and don’t give us nearly as much money?

e) Since we have somehow lost our credibility with kids (and again, we’re sure it has nothing to do with letting priests rape children), what can parents and families do to get kids to join us clinging to Aristotle’s incorrect 4th century B.C. teachings about human biology, reproduction, sexuality and psychology?

f)What kind of marriage preparation is required before couples can marry in the Catholic Church and what kind of counseling is available when married couples have difficulties?

Question 4 – actual text

a) Is cohabitation ad experimentum a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage?

b) Do unions which are not recognized either religiously or civilly exist? Are reliable statistics available?

c) Are separated couples and those divorced and remarried a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage? How do you deal with this situation in appropriate pastoral programmes?

d) In all the above cases, how do the baptized live in this irregular situation? Are they aware of it? Are they simply indifferent? Do they feel marginalized or suffer from the impossibility of receiving the sacraments?

e) What questions do divorced and remarried people pose to the Church concerning the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation? Among those persons who find themselves in these situations, how many ask for these sacraments?

f) Could a simplification of canonical practice in recognizing a declaration of nullity of the marriage bond provide a positive contribution to solving the problems of the persons involved? If yes, what form would it take?

g) Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases? Describe this pastoral ministry? Do such programmes exist on the national and diocesan levels? 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?

Question 4 – My simplified version

a) Do Catholics in your area shack-up together before getting married?  What percent do this before getting married?

b) Do Catholics in your area get married outside the church or enter into same-sex unions of some sort?

c) Do you have Catholics who are separated, divorced and/or remarried in your area and if so, how are they treated by the clergy and parish staff?

d) Regarding the abominations mentioned above, how on earth can a baptized person do that?  Don’t they know they are doing something that’s an abomination?  Don’t they care about our rules?  Do these losers feel that we don’t want them around or do they suffer because we won’t let them participate in sacraments like marriage, communion or maybe even deny their kids baptism?

e) How many separated, married or divorced people ask if they can go to confession and communion and what other questions do they ask about those two sacraments?

f) If we simplified the annulment process, would that help make things easier for those people?  How so?

g) Do you have ministries that tell these people that God is merciful enough to overlook their colossal sin?

Question 5 – actual text

a) Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?

b) What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?

c) What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?

d) 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?

Question 5 – My simplified version

a) Is gay marriage legal where you live?

b) What do the local clergy and bishop think about the government for allowing gay marriage and what do they think about gays who get married?

c) How the heck are we supposed to act around gays who get married?

d) What are we supposed to do about their kids?

Question 6 – actual text

a) What is the estimated proportion of children and adolescents in these cases, as regards children who are born and raised in regularly constituted families?

b)  How do parents in these situations approach the Church? What do they ask? Do they request the sacraments only or do they also want catechesis and the general teaching of religion?

c) How do the particular Churches attempt to meet the needs of the parents of these children to provide them with a Christian education?

d) What is the sacramental practice in these cases: preparation, administration of the sacrament and the accompaniment?

Question 6 – My simplified version

a) How many kids are raised in abnormal families such as ones with separated, divorced, remarried or gay parents versus in normal families?

b) Do these kids’ parents ever even interact with the Church?  Do they just want us to let their kids receive sacraments or are they willing to send us their kids for religious education so that we can explain to them what an abnormal situation they live in?

c) How are parishes trying to help gay parents so that the kids of gay parents come to religious education or Catholic school?

d) If you do let kids of gay people receive the sacraments, how are you doing that?  Is it in a back alley or in the light of day?  Do you mainstream kids of gay parents or hold special “kids of gay parents” religious education sessions?

Question 7 – actual text

a) What knowledge do Christians have today of the teachings of Humanae vitae on responsible parenthood? Are they aware of how morally to evaluate the different methods of family planning? Could any insights be suggested in this regard pastorally?

b) Is this moral teaching accepted? What aspects pose the most difficulties in a large majority of couple’s accepting this teaching?

c) What natural methods are promoted by the particular Churches to help spouses put into practice the teachings of Humanae vitae?

d) What is your experience on this subject in the practice of the Sacrament of Penance and participation at the Eucharist?

e) What differences are seen in this regard between the Church’s teaching and civic education?

f) How can a more open attitude towards having children be fostered? How can an increase in births be promoted?

Question 7 – My simplified version

a) Have Catholics and other Christians read Humanae Vitae, which bans artificial birth control?  I mean if they read that brilliant piece of translated Latin about marital sex written by unmarried men who aren’t supposed to have sex, wouldn’t they be able to see how sinful using birth control is?  Wouldn’t they be able to see how much better it is to use Natural Family Planning that requires record keeping on a woman’s body which rivals security camera monitoring at an airport?

b) Doesn’t anybody besides us supposedly celibate guys believe that birth control is a sin?  Why don’t people believe this?

c) Are both the rhythm and natural family planning methods taught in your parish?

d) Do people even confess the use of birth control as a sin anymore?  Just look at the size of families…we know they’re using artificial birth control because despite what we say, natural family planning doesn’t work worth a darn.  And if they aren’t confessing it are they still having the audacity to receive communion?

e) How do people view our teachings about birth control that are based upon Aristotle’s flawed 4th century B.C. understandings of human biology, reproduction, sexuality and psychology versus that scientific stuff being taught in the public schools?

f) How can we get people to have more kids?  We need replacements for the parishioners bleeding from our ranks.

Question 8 – actual text

a) Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the human person. How can the family be a privileged place for this to happen?

b) What critical situations in the family today can obstruct a person’s encounter with Christ?

c) To what extent do the many crises of faith which people can experience affect family life?

Question 8 – My simplified version

a) I cannot decipher this…  If you can, send me a note.  If you can’t, don’t answer it in your essay.

b) Since we know it’s nothing we did to make the people flee the Church, what is causing them to leave?

c) When people have a faith crisis, how does this impact the rest of their family?

Question 9 – actual text

What other challenges or proposals related to the topics in the above questions do you consider urgent and useful to treat?

Question 9 – My simplified version

Have we left out any relevant, important or urgent topics pertaining to gay marriage and/or artificial birth control?


  1. This survey is not necessary. Surely the bishops already know the answers to these questions. What's needed is not talk but action

  2. Question 8a: I think that is a very cumbersome way of asking how the familial relationships can help transmit the faith to the children while reinforcing it for the parents. Using the example of Christ as the prime example of who/what a human person is supposed to be. Or perhaps the local parish priest since he stands in persona Christi. Pushing this a half-step further, they want to know how to use the family to propagate more vocations to the priesthood.

    1. Dear Ewe
      Thank you for alerting me - as a UK Catholic who attends Mass every week - to something I knew nothing about!
      Although - having looked at the survey, I am not sure I want to know much about it - although I do have a Masters in Theology, I really don't have the time to deal with all this! As Fr John above says, the Bishops *should* already know the answers. However, I suspect they don't... Perhaps counting the numbers of children in modern Catholic families might give them a clue.

  3. you are a clever, clever woman..whether I respond or not, it was enlightening to read your understandable version rather than spiritual narcissistic think, someone in a black suit or dress actually wrote this drive

  4. Actually, the hierarchy concern with these concepts and any response they have to them is totally irrelevant to my Catholic faith. My conscience leads me, not someone stuck in a 14th century theology, and certainly moral guidance comes from within, not from those who seem to have no morality except to place burdens on the faithful. Can you say, "hypocritical hierarchy?" Today's Pharisees have no effect on religious life.

  5. As Ewe points out, this is a very badly written questionnaire in which the those asking the questions are clearly not very familiar with the English language ( and not even all that familiar with life on planet Earth.)
    I mean: "How can an increase in births be promoted?" Seriously?
    I also have serious doubts about their response to anything they don't want/ expect to hear but we can but try.

    Fran Grubert (UK)

  6. I have completed this questionnaire - every bit as bad as I feared and it took me over an hour. I pointed out at the end that I only found out about it via
    a 'US based blog' (I am in UK) and not via my own churches. Thank you for alerting us to it. I also pointed out that the language is impenetrable (and I have two degrees in Theology) and that consultation needs to be wider and at the level where people are.

  7. Sorry for the delay posting your comments. I was in a country that blocks access to my blog.