Vatican surveys Church on family issues including gay marriage

Fri Nov 1, 2013 2:13pm EDT
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By Steve Scherer

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican is asking bishops and parish priests around the world about local views on gay marriage, divorce and birth control ahead of a meeting of bishops next year to discuss Roman Catholic Church teachings related to the family.

While it is common practice to send out surveys ahead of such meetings, known as synods, the questionnaire demonstrates a greater sensibility to issues once considered taboo, like how to include the adopted children of gay couples in the Church.

It also shows Pope Francis is reaching out to local parishes and not relying solely on the Church hierarchy on how to implement Catholic teachings.

The questionnaire was sent to bishops on October 18, according to a letter from Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, the general secretary of the synod meeting, to Catholic bishops around the world.

The missive and survey questions were posted on the National Catholic Reporter's Web site on Thursday, and confirmed by the Holy See on Friday.

"Concerns which were unheard of until a few years ago have arisen today as a result of different situations, from the widespread practice of cohabitation... to same-sex unions between persons, who are, not infrequently, permitted to adopt children," reads an introduction to the survey.

The survey does not signal any shift in Church doctrine toward gay marriage or birth control, but it does offer more proof of Pope Francis's push to reach out to ordinary Catholics on issues pertaining to the contemporary family.

In an interview published in September, the pontiff said the Church must shake off an obsession with condemning abortion, contraception and homosexuality and become more merciful, or risk the collapse of its entire moral edifice "like a house of cards".   Continued...

Pope Francis greet cardinals and bishops during the general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican October 30, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi