November 1, 2013
Two remarkable developments this week end, as we honor our deceased People of God.
Joshua McElwee reported in the National Catholic Reporter, yesterday, that the Vatican has asked national bishops’ conferences around the world to conduct a wide-ranging poll of Catholics asking for their opinions on church teachings about contraception, same-sex marriage, and divorce. Remarkable! The spirit of Vatican II is alive once again in ancient Rome.
Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, who is the Secretary General of the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops, has asked the world’s bishops to distribute the poll “immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received.”
The poll’s questionnaire was sent on October 18th to the presidents of the world’s individual bishops’ conferences in preparation for the Vatican’s October 2014 synod on the “Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” This is the first time Rome has asked for input from grass-roots Catholics, since the establishment of the synod system.
As NCR reports: Among topics bishops’ conferences are asked, in the Vatican document, to question their Catholic populations about are:
How the church’s teaching on “the value of the family” is understood today.
Whether cohabitation, the problem of divorce and remarriage, and same-sex marriages are a “pastoral reality” in their church. “Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases?” the document asks.
“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?”
How persons in same-sex marriages are treated and how children they may adopt are cared for.
“What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live these types of union?” it asks. “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?”
Whether married couples have “openness” to becoming parents and whether they accept Humanae Vitae, an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI that prohibited artificial contraception use by Catholics. “Is this moral teaching accepted?” it asks. “What aspects pose the most difficulties in a large majority of couple’s accepting this teaching?”
Some conferences of bishops have responded immediately and creatively. The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, for example, has set up an online survey that Catholics in their countries can use to respond to the Vatican’s questions.
And in our United States? What has been the creative response of the USCCB? Another remarkable development.
McElwee reports that while Archbishop Baldisseri asked in his Vatican letter for wide consultation with the Catholic people, the American bishops have changed the focus.
It appears that American Catholic bishops see no need to consult their people. Apparently they still believe the nineteenth century Catholic adage that Father Knows Best. Remarkable!
An accompanying letter sent with the U.S. version of the Baldisseri Vatican document does not request that the American bishops undertake wide consultation in their dioceses! That letter, dated October 30, 2013, was sent from Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, the General Secretary of the U.S. bishops’ conference, and only asks the U.S. bishops to provide their own observations.
As Msgr. Jenkins writes, according to documents published by NCR, “In his correspondence, Archbishop Baldisseri requests the observations of the members of the Conference regarding the attached preparatory documents and questionnaire that will provide a basis for the preparation….”
So much for the voice of the People of God, so much for the Vatican II spirit of collegiality,
and so much for good old American democracy.
Sometimes our USCCB appears to act more like the old USSR……