(CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)
Pope Francis gestures to newlywed couples during his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 21.
Survey results indicate need for ongoing formation
May 24th, 2016
By Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone
Response also highlights the importance of active youth and young adult ministries
With the promulgation of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” the work of the two Synods of Bishops on marriage and the family – the Extraordinary Synod of 2014 and the Ordinary Synod of 2015 – is completed, and now it is up to the local churches to implement the Church’s vision of supporting families in living their vocation in the world.
As is well known, the Synod process involved a consultation with the People of God throughout the world on various topics related to the theme of the Synod. The point of this consultation process was not to conduct an opinion survey as we are familiar with; rather, we were told that it was to obtain a sense of the “state of the question” as to Catholics’ understanding of and thinking about these various topics. It is for this reason that the consultation instrument involved deep, complex questions requiring much study, pondering and discussion.
In our Archdiocese it was decided in a meeting of the Presbyteral Council that these very broad questions be translated into a more direct online questionnaire that could be scored, while still giving parishes the ability to conduct the full, in-depth study (which a few did). Although the consultation process was to remain confidential, the sense of the Council was that such a survey could not be conducted in the Archdiocese without making known the basic results of the survey. This current edition of the Catholic San Francisco contains a summary of the measured responses that were sent in on the various survey questions.
In one sense, the results are consistent with other such surveys that have been taken over the years which show widespread disagreement with certain Church teachings, especially in the area of sexual morality. In some other ways, though, it provides us with new insights that can be helpful in guiding our pastoral work in the area of marriage and family life. For example, 74 percent of respondents agreed that the Church has a role in guiding the young in relationships. This response also highlights the importance of active youth and young adult ministries, an area the Archdiocese has been focusing on for some years now, most especially in implementing its strategic plan for young adult ministry.
Interestingly, while there was a high level of disagreement with Church teaching on the issues of sexual morality polled, a high percentage of respondents agreed that the Church’s teachings in this area are clear. While we should be cautious not to over-interpret these results since the sample size of 1,100 respondents out of a possible audience 450,000 Catholics is quite small, nonetheless, this survey result would seem to indicate the need for stronger faith formation. The teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, as handed down through the Church guided by the Holy Spirit, are actually a beautiful message of praising God with our bodies, which He has designed for leading us to communion with Him through the faithful living out of our respective vocations. This is a message which is certainly challenging to get across in the world in which we live today. However, people who come to understand the “why” behind the “what” of the Church’s teachings find it to be a liberating experience. Indeed, many young people ask why no one taught them this before, as it would have saved them much heartache in life; it has brought many others into the fold of the Catholic Church.
We truly have good news to share with the world, especially in a world so broken in its relationships. It is my earnest hope that the conclusion of the Synod’s work will stimulate us to heed Pope Francis’ call to accompany families in their journey toward holiness, so that they might know the happiness that comes from living God’s plan in their lives.
Outline of synod survey responses
Here is an outline of responses to the 2015 online questionnaire on topics covered by the Extraordinary Synod of 2014 and the Ordinary Synod of 2015. The questionnaire was distributed through parishes in the archdiocese and received 1,100 responses. Archbishop Cordileone discusses the results in the accompanying article. A “yes” response means agree/strongly agree; “no,” disagree/strongly disagree; “don’t know,” neutral/no opinion.
Church teaching clear? 75% yes; 13% no
Marriage prep effective? 42% yes; 41% don’t know
No change regarding remarried Catholics bound by a previous valid marriage being prohibited from receiving Communion? 21% yes; 71% no
Want the process to pursue a declaration of nullity of marriage made easier? 63% yes; 15% no; 22% don’t know
Want it less expensive to purse a declaration of nullity of marriage? 67% yes; 25% don’t know
Is the Church supportive during divorce? 78% don’t know
Do you see improved Church understanding for the divorced? 32% yes; 25% no; 43% don’t know
Do you believe the Church seeks to reconcile those in second marriages? 29% yes; 28% no; 40% don’t know
Is Church teaching clear? 63% yes; 25% no
Is this teaching useful in forming conscience? 35% yes; 53% no
Have you used contraception? 65% yes; 12% no; 23% not applicable
I don’t believe contraception is sinful. 66% yes; 19% no
Is IVF Church teaching clear? 47% yes; 27% no; 27% don’t know
Is IVF teaching useful in forming conscience? 29% yes; 43% no; 27% don’t know
I have used prohibited procreative methods. 17% yes; 20% no; 63% not applicable
I used those methods with a clear conscience. 18% yes; 5% no; 78% not applicable
My family supported my using these methods. 18% yes; 3% no; 79% not applicable
Is Church teaching clear? 55% yes; 35% no
Is this teaching useful in forming conscience? 29% yes; 57% no
Do you think the Church reaches out to alienated families? 18% yes; 61% no; 22% don’t know
My parish assists in child’s formation. 59% yes; 36% not applicable
My family benefits from this formation. 59% yes; 36% not applicable
I understand my faith and was well-prepared to share it with my kids. 67% yes; 26% not applicable
I believe the Church has a role in guiding the young in relationships. 74% yes
Church sexuality teaching helps to guide relationships. 41% yes; 43% no; 17% don’t know
I believe living together without marriage is sinful. 35% yes; 52% no; 17% don’t know
From May 26, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.