A Priest Walks into a Cyber-Survey: Papal Surveys & Cafeteria Bishops

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Click here to read…

A priest wasn’t sure if his sound system was working when he saw some confused expressions from the cheap seats.  He said, “I think there’s something wrong with this microphone.”

“And also with you,” they replied.

Okay, so now Catholics have to say “And with your spirit,” so the joke’s gone the way of the confessional.  But the response from the parishioners might be the same.  The Church has instructed its leaders to ask some key questions in preparation for an October 2014 conference on the family.  (See article.)

Room with a Pew

Room with a Pew

Attendance is down in churches around the world, but most notably around the Detrot area.  Reasons vary, but many polled generally attribute a lack of acceptance, flexibility and tolerance from the church’s leadership.  According to the Free Press,

The archdiocese said there are 1.38 million people in its six counties who identify as Catholics. About 700,000 are registered at about 240 Catholic parishes in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Lapeer and St. Clair counties. About 220,000 attend mass every week.

Questions for Detroit Area Catholics

Questions for Detroit Area Catholics

To address this decreasing enthusiasm for the Church, leading to merging of parishes all over town, the archdiocese has an anonymous survey available online through Sunday asking its responders to identify their specific parishes and to rate their level of satisfaction and prioritization.  But there seem to be some key questions that aren’t asked in the survey I just completed.  According to the National Catholic Reporter...

A Catholic nonprofit in the D.C. area is offering to collect responses from Catholics to a Vatican survey asking their opinions on church teachings on contraception, same-sex marriage and divorce.

The survey was sent by the Vatican in mid-October to national bishops’ conferences around the world. An accompanying letter signed by Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri asks that the conferences distribute the poll “immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received.”

So in our high-tech age, there seem to be a few pages that have fallen out of the cyber-book on the way from the Vatican to the bishops to the laity–most notably the hot-button issues of abortion, contraception, gay marriage and divorce.

While [Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops] asks in his letter for wide consultation on the questions, an accompanying letter sent with the U.S. version of the Vatican document does not request the American bishops undertake wide consultation in their dioceses. A copy of the questionnaire is at this same link. 

In the instructions to the world's Catholic leaders, direct from the Vatican, the following excerpt instructs that questions be asked...

In the instructions to the world’s Catholic leaders, direct from the Vatican, the following excerpt instructs how the questions should be asked.


And further down the document are the questions that didn’t make it to today’s survey from the Archdiocese of Detroit…


The phrase “Recovering Catholic” for those flocking to the mega-churches in our area counters the term “Cafeteria Catholic” implying that you can’t just pick and choose the doctrine you want to follow.  But similar editing seems to be occurring in the final survey that I just completed.  Before I knew it, the survey was over and I had to address my biggest concerns in the box on the last page that limited me to 1,000 characters.

Survey-Monkey from across the Pond.

Survey-Monkey from across the Pond.

So, in light of this recent surveying process, the only consensus is that there is no general consensus of the intent and the scope of the questions to be asked.  England and Wales have decided to make the survey available online at this link complete with many topics not to be found in the colonies’ versions.

One American end-around to the questions not being asked, the nonprofit, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, has made a survey based on the Vatican’s questionnaire at this link.  It is an open-ended survey dealing with the topics of:

  • The Church and Family life
  • Outreach to Divorced and Separated Persons
  • Outreach to Same-Sex Couples and Gay Persons
  • Being A Church of Mercy and of Welcome

Christopher Hale, a senior fellow for the group notes…

“Dozens of separated and divorced Catholics noted that they don’t feel welcomed in their Church communities because they don’t have access to the sacraments,” he said. “Once again, dozens of gay and lesbian Catholics expressed the same sentiment. One noted how she felt like her treatment in her parish was [similar] to the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.”

And a more open-ended survey

And a more open-ended survey

Sometimes the most important questions aren’t the ones that are asked, they may be the ones that are omitted.  At last year’s Democratic convention, Sister Simone Campbell, organizer of the Nuns on the Bus spoke in support of the American Bishops who identified serious holes in the budget proposed by the Romney/Ryan ticket and spoke for the poor, sick and defenseless in the same manner that the next pope would.

Pope Francis has made more headlines in his first six months than many popes make in six years, perhaps because of the questions he’s finally asking–and the opportunity they may be providing for a working sound-system.


About Kevin Walsh

Before creating MyMediaDiary.com, Kevin taught high school video productions and language arts for 25 years. He is the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at www.mmdphotovideo.com which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His text, "Video Direct," is used in 40 states. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two teenagers. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kwteacher
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