I wrote previously on the Vatican survey here that it is a good idea to survey lay opinion, but that the survey is not intended for the purpose of changing Church teaching. Yesterday, my priest gave me a copy of the questionnaire and asked for input. I noticed that other lay Catholics were sharing in social media that they had been asked by their parish priest for input, so I also shared that my priest had asked me, as well. Strangely, some people pushed back on this as if it is wrong for the Vatican to know what we all think. Why would it be wrong for the Vatican to know what we all think? Is the Vatican afraid of lay opinion? Of course not.
Some people have shared this article from National Catholic Register with me: Vatican Collecting Diocesan Data, Not Lay Opinions in Worldwide Survey:
Pope Francis wants to know about the state of marriage and the family in the Church, before the bishops meet in Rome for an extraordinary synod next year. However, the lay faithful should not expect to be receiving a survey on their views from the Vatican anytime soon.
For one thing, the Vatican’s survey is being handled at the diocesan level, and the aim is to collect raw data, not opinions on Church doctrine or discipline, in advance of the 2014 synod. The data will help inform the bishops as they develop pastoral solutions for the challenges faced by modern families.
Here’s the thing. One cannot “know about the state of marriage and the family in the Church” if one doesn’t care about what lay Catholics think. My parish priest asked for “input” on the survey. Certainly, the survey is centered on diocesan data, and it is up to our priests and bishops to report on that data, but to suggest that a priest should not ask a parishioner for input is way over the top. Of course they should ask us for our input. That should be a no-brainer.
I think the “conservative” Catholic media is making the same mistake that the “liberal” Catholic media often make, and that is to assume that there is a barrier between the Magisterium and lay Catholics in the pew. Fr. Robert Barron recently gave an excellent talk on Gaudium et Spes that I shared on Twitter last night. Though he never mentions the Vatican survey, I shared it in the context of the Vatican survey. There is no wall between “the Church” and “people.” Don’t believe those who tell you otherwise, whether in the “conservative” Catholic media or the “liberal” Catholic media. It is not a bad thing for your priest to ask for your input on the survey. To the contrary, it shows that the Church listens to her members. How could she evangelize otherwise?
Fr. Robert Barron’s talk on Gaudium et Spes: