News

Vatican Seeks Input from Catholics Worldwide for Second Synod on Family Life

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
7 Jan 2015

Next year's Synod of the Bishops will focus on the Vocation of Mission of the Family of the Church and the Modern Family

For the second time in just two years the Vatican has asked bishops conferences worldwide to seek input from Catholics of all levels, including lay men and women from all walks of life, about how the Church should respond to the sometimes difficult and controversial situations faced by modern families.

The detailed questionnaire is part of a global consultation process by the Vatican prior to the 2015 Bishops Synod on Family Life to be held in Rome from 4-25 October.

Along with priests, religious, deacons, seminarians, youth ministers, chaplains and pastoral associates, the Director of the Archdiocese of Sydney's Life, Marriage and Family Office, Chris Meney is urging lay men and women from across Sydney to complete the questionnaire and give their own insights and input to this all important survey. Parishioners, parents, teachers, catechists, members of lay associations and ecclesial movements are encouraged to respond.

To make the 46 questions released by the Vatican in December more-user friendly, Australia's bishops have consolidated these into a comprehensive set of 30 questions.

"The online questionnaire should only take between 5 and 20 minutes to complete with people welcome to respond to as many or as few of the questions as they wish," Chris says.

The only proviso, he adds, is that all those wishing to take part in the Vatican survey on marriage and family, complete the online questionnaire within the next three weeks.

Determined to obtain as broad a picture as possible of issues confronting today's families, and the best way the Church can support and give families the pastoral care and guidance they need, the Vatican has asked bishops conferences worldwide to consult with academic institutions, organisations, lay movements and other ecclesial associations.

Chris Meney Director of the Life Marriage and Family Centre with Pope Francis at October 2014's Synod on the Family

In a break with tradition, the Vatican has also instructed bishops to "avoid, in their responses, a formulation of pastoral care based simply on the application of doctrine." Instead there is an encouragement for what the Vatican describes as Pope Francis' call to "pastoral activity that is characterised by a 'culture of encounter,' and capable of recognising the Lord's gratuitous work, even outside customary models."

"The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World" has been chosen as the theme for the 2015 Synod and follows on from the theme chosen for the 2014 Synod: "Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelisation." And just as the 2015 Synod will be preceded by a questionnaire, a questionnaire was sent out ahead of the 2014 Synod.

Chris Meney who was appointed by the Holy Father to be one of the 16 experts at the historic 2014 Synod convened by Pope Francis, predicted on his return that the Synod on the Family was an initial step in a much longer process to place the family front and centre in terms of the Church's wider engagement.

On the opening day of the 2014 Synod, Pope Francis told delegates from 14 religious traditions and 23 countries that "family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation."

Describing the family as an anthropological fact "that cannot be qualified based on ideological notions or concepts important to only one time in history," Pope Francis encouraged all those attending the Synod to engage in further conversation around the family and the challenges facing today's families.

Controversial issues discussed at last year's Synod included homosexuality, divorce, remarriage, co-habitation outside of marriage and whether divorced Catholics should be permitted to receive the Eucharist. In the secular world this gave rise to the erroneous belief the Church was about to change its long-held teachings on the indissolubility of marriage and other important teachings.

Pope Francis puts marriage and the family front and centre

In 2015 the wording in the Vatican's questionnaire makes it clear that while input on these issues is sought, the basics of Catholic doctrine remains and will remain unchanged.

The Church's teachings on the "indissolubility" of marriage is emphasised along with clear references to the sanctity of life.

"What can we do to prevent abortion and foster a genuine culture of life?" question 29 asks.

When it comes to de facto relationships, question 10 makes the importance of marriage clear asking: "How can couples living together before marriage or in defacto relationships be encouraged to choose marriage?"

This is followed up in question 11 with: "What is being done to help people understand the greatness and beauty and indissolubility of marriage? What more can be done?"

The questionnaire also addresses homosexuality with question 25 asking: "How can we respond better to people of same sex attraction and their families?"

Other questions are designed to get feedback on how best to help families cope in the midst of great social changes, as well as discover what values are considered the most important in terms of marriage and family by young people and married couples, and what if any are the counter-values.

The global responses to the Vatican's questionnaire will form the basis of the working document for the 2015 Synod which will be prepared with publication expected by July, well ahead of the October start date of the global gathering of bishops.

Pope Francis listens intently at last year's Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family

Unlike the 2014 Synod, known as an extraordinary synod, as it mainly involved Presidents of the world's Bishops Conferences, the 2015 is an ordinary synod and will be a much larger event involving several elected representatives from each of the global Episcopal conferences.

The Vatican's questionnaire for the 2015 Synod on the Family is available online at the Life, Marriage and Family website, (http://www.lifemarriagefamily.org.au/) and has a closing date of 2 February.

To access the Lineamenta issued by the Vatican for this year's 2015 Synod on "Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World" go to http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/synod/documents/rc_synod_doc_20141209_lineamenta-xiv-assembly_en.html