In preparation for the October “Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family”, the Vatican has released an “Instrumentum Laboris” (or working document), bringing together the submissions from national bishops’ conferences on their findings from the global consultation on marriage and family that was conducted during 2013. The actual conduct and quality of that consultation varied widely across the world. In the best examples, such as the Swiss, it was conducted by expert practitioners in social research. In the worst, lay people were not in fact consulted at all, with the bishops alone responding on their behalf, in consultation only with their priests. In between, bishops simply asked the people to answer the questions that had been prepared by the Vatican, questions that were not designed for lay people, and that many people in fact found confusing or impossible to answer. Nevertheless, Catholics around the world responded with enthusiasm, and questionnaires were completed in vast numbers.
When the bishops in some countries began to release their own results, it soon became clear what was already known from prior secular research: in general terms, Catholics as a whole simply do not agree with or comply with Catholic sexual teaching, on a wide range of issues, and particularly not on contraception.
The working document just released, largely corroborates that view – but draws from it the rather simplistic conclusion that the reason is that Catholics don’t understand the teaching, and that the Church must find ways to present its teaching more effectively. There is no recognition at all, that the real problem could be quite different – that perhaps there might be flaws in the teaching itself.
For the full text, see the Vatican website:
For news reports and commentary on the document, see:
- Vatican document on family calls for mercy and better formation for Catholics who struggle with Church teaching (The Tablet)
- Vatican document for synod on family balances mercy and cultural blame (National Catholic Reporter)
- Vatican says believers are shunning Catholic lifestyle after scandals (The Guardian)
- Vatican concedes many Catholics ignore core teaching on sex and contraception (Star Tribune)
- Synod Document is First, Not Last, Word on Marriage and Family Issues (New Ways Ministry / Bondings 2,0)
- Bishops’ Depressing Document on Marriage: Glimmers of Hope (Queering the Church)
- Senior Bishop: We Need Frank Discussion – Without Taboos (queeringthechurch.com)
- Former Irish President: Having Celibate Bishops Review Catholic Teachings About Family is “Completely Bonkers” (patheos.com)
- Vatican theologians: don’t confuse sensus fidelium with majority opinion (catholicherald.co.uk)
- Most Catholics back married priests and contraception (irishtimes.com)
- “What British Catholics Believe About Sex” (It’s Not the Catechism!) (queeringthechurch.com)