The People Speak: CCRInt’l Family Survey Results

Attention Bishops participating in the October Family Synod, 

Below please find a summary of responses to a global survey conducted by Catholic Church Reform International.  The vast majority of survey respondents are active Catholics and people who are searching for the Lord – people who have good will but for whom particular Church teachings regarding the family have proven to be a stumbling block.  Pope Francis has called for pastoral responses that do not simply bind the wounds but address root causes. 

We commend this summary for your consideration. We pray for you and for the guidance of the Spirit so that the members of the Synod will be overcome with the joy of the Gospel to find a way forward for families.

A Jubilee Year Research Initiative 

As a tribute to Pope Francis’s call for a Jubilee Year of Mercy, we began a collaborative project with two reform communities, Catholic Church Reform International (CCRI) and the American Catholic Council (ACC), addressing the same thematic questions targeted by the Lineamenta questionnaire but offered in more comprehensible language. Respondents self-identified as Active Catholics (78%), Former Catholics (9%), Other Christians (1%), Other Faiths (9%) and unidentified (3%).  Involving over 5000 participants, our focus was to provide real responses from lived experiences drafted by a global Catholic population, noting the comparisons and contrasts across the regions of the world. 

Respondents were asked to rate the effectiveness of the pastoral care of the Church on 14 issues providing additional comments or recommended solutions, if desired. In our most recent survey, responses, expressed in English, came from 44 countries globally. The areas of greatest discontent with the Church’s pastoral care are: 

   Topic

Favorable

Effectiveness

Poor or

Ineffective

Cohabitation

9%

71%

Inter-faith Marriage

35%

38%

LGBT

6%

76%

Contraception

12%

76%

Single Parent Families

30%

40%

Mixed Family

20%

29%

Divorced/Remarried

13%

81%

Left the Church

15%

77%

Women

19%

72%

Troubles in Families

23%

64%

Children in Difficult Situations

31%

37%

Clerical Sex Abuse

11%

70%

Violence: Women/Children

20%

47%

Marriage Preparation

46%

26% 

            Divorced/Remarriage–81% ineffective

        Left the Church—77% ineffective

        LGBT—76% ineffective           

        Contraception—76% ineffective

        Women—72% ineffective

        Cohabitation—71% ineffective

        Sex Abuse—70% ineffective 

If there were one word exemplifying the grace-filled responses of our research, it would be woundedness.  Deeply hurt by the execution of a “pathology of power” (words used by Pope Francis himself) in our Church many were unable to experience faith in its fullest.  The “field hospital” described by Pope Francis was imagery offering hope that mercy and healing were actually possible and may have influenced responses. 

In the comments offered, there were many passionate pleas asking for compassion from a rigid, legalistic Church that lost Jesus’ core message of love. Our research was both not surprising and surprising.  Not surprising because it reiterated what we already knew and conversely surprising in the raw honesty that was shared.  The quick, honest responses gathered were, no doubt, prompted by Pope Francis’s never-before invitation to hear from the people directly. As the world watches this pope, we are being vicariously influenced and empowered to find our voices and respectfully speak truth through our stories akin to the method used by Jesus in His teaching.

The People of God recognize that we are a Church groaning in pain with an institutional Church judging us punitively for life-altering decisions with no understanding of contemporary lived experiences made under undue stress. As the Pope models Christ’s values inviting us to do the same in being more welcoming, inviting and nurturing, our survey responses expressed consistent calls for institutional reform:

  • Welcome the Divorced and Remarried to the Sacraments: The People of God commend Pope Francis for offering a “life-giving” solution to the issue of divorced people receiving Eucharist and we encourage the bishops to embrace this position.
  • Reach out to and make every effort to embrace Catholics who’ve left: The Church at all levels must adopt a more pastoral Christ-like presence to become more just, welcoming, inviting, and nurturing of those who have left, compassionately make contact through a visit, survey, etc. to learn their reasons.  We may learn something and those that left will feel as though someone cares.
  • Leave decisions regarding artificial contraception to personal conscience:  By far, the majority of Catholics have followed the Doctrine of Reception that states that if the people do not accept a particular church teaching and it is ignored, the teaching is not valid.  This is clearly the case with the Church’s stance on artificial contraception.  Responsible Parenthood must be recognized as a value among families today.
  • Treat the LGBT community with respect:: There is  great concern with the disrespectful language [e.g. “disordered state”] and abhorrent behavior dealt toward the LGBT community.  Households with such children find the Church’s treatment of their children reprehensible.  Radical, humane changes in church behavior and pronouncements must occur mirroring scientific discoveries, compassion and tolerance.
  • Recognize the equality of women in the Church: The Church must drop the myth and pretense of prohibiting women’s assent to authority and offices.  This corrupt distortion of justice does not mirror historical precedent, as women were once deacons.  Women can no longer suffer the discriminatory gender bias in an institution that chooses to be unjust

The survey report reveals that the People of God believe change is imperative in order for the Church to reflect Jesus’ values of love, inclusion, and compassion.  In keeping with Pope Francis’s directive to have the Bishops gather the concerns of the people, we call upon all bishops to prayerfully consider the outpouring expressed by these caring Catholics.  Let us work together to build a Church that ever more fully reveals the eternal love of God our Creator, as revealed by Jesus, and enlivened by the Holy Spirit.

The full survey report, called The People Speak, can be found at http://www.catholicchurchreform.com/documents/Jubileepapersurveydatafinal.pdf   

Yours in Christ

On behalf of Catholic Church Reform International

www.CatholicChurchReformIntl.org

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