For years, many Catholics (including me) have expressed the hope that their bishops and popes would become less secretive and more interested in the opinions of those who fill the pews and collection plates.
Enter Pope Francis.
Last fall, the reform-minded pontiff signaled bishops that he wanted to know what their 1.2 billion-member flock thought about such issues as same-sex marriage, contraception, unwed couples living together and the church’s treatment of divorced and remarried Catholics.
The Vatican sent bishops a questionnaire covering these social and family issues and called on them to consult lay people in their dioceses. The plan was for the results of this survey to be available by the time Pope Francis convenes the world Synod of Bishops in October.
I wondered: What do Charlotte area Catholics think?
Before I tell you what the local diocese told me, here’s some context.
In response to the pope’s call, some bishops aggressively sought out the opinions of everyday Catholics and then publicly shared the findings.
Bishops in Germany and Switzerland, for example, reported that Catholics in those countries did not agree with the church’s bans on birth control, premarital sex, and homosexuality. Ditto, the church’s refusal to accept divorce and remarriage unless a Catholic tribunal rules the first marriage invalid.
In the United States, most bishops seemed less curious and less open about the view from the pews.
An exception: Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., reported on his diocesan website that more than 6,800 members of his flock weighed in.
On birth control, Lynch wrote, “the responses might be characterized by saying, ‘That train left the station long ago.’ Catholics have made up their minds and the sensus fidelium (the sense of the faithful) suggests the rejection of church teaching on this subject.”
So, what about the 46-county Charlotte diocese, which has more than 140,000 parishioners?
Spokesman David Hains, who works for Bishop Peter Jugis, said details about how to fill out the survey were spelled out on the diocese’s website and in one November issue of its weekly newspaper.
All told, 300 people gave their opinions. Hains said he also heard from some local Catholics who were unhappy that they had not seen the survey notices and had missed the three-week window to participate.
And the findings?
“We are not releasing it publicly,” Hains said. “Our charge was to pass it on to the (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops). Our bishop … felt this was the best way to handle it.”
-- Tim Funk
Friday, February 28, 2014
Posted by Tim Funk at 7:00 AM