Monday, April 28, 2014

Pope of Periphery Polls Pews

What are challenges Facing Family?
Pope of Periphery wants to listen to raw voices of families at bottom pews on problems they face. A two-year mammoth survey ordered last October is 7 months through. Countries which collected data& made available on net ask why no survey in India?  So lay initiative is doing its bit to do regional polls.
dr. james kottoor
What is family? Till recently it used to be: Daddy, Mammy and we kids.  Time was when it necessarily included also Grandpa and Grandma. But now? We are deluged with talks even of same-sex marriages and families, unthinkable once upon a time!
 Today there is no need any more of a man and woman once considered essential components; enough to have two consenting  adults; two men or two women, all reduced to a  number game of just two. The latest is the national rejoicing over the legal acceptance of the 3rd gender, called “hijras” derogatively, or Ardhanaris” or Eunuchs,  with all human rights enjoyed by the rest of humanity. We have to wait and see if or how they evolve into families.
In the meantime thirteen countries across the world (Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa and Sweden) and a dozen states in US have already legalised gay marriages and same sex unions. India is now clamouring   for the day when Parliament will take the initiative to reverse Supreme Court order against the Delhi High court, to make lesbian unions legal once again. Then comes also shocking news that Ugandan Government is hunting down homosexuals and lesbians with a draconian law and reportedly Catholic Church in that country is supporting it. How to save those victims, other countries ask.
In addition divorce and remarriage, cohabitation before marriage or for good,  one-parent families, use of any birth control methods to regulate birth or prevent any birth,  abortion in case of unwanted pregnancies and adoption of children by gay couples – all these are becoming the order of the day in the West which describes itself Christian, (UK, the latest example).
It is in this context of a fast changing world and evolving new practices in human relations that Pope Francis, also called Pope of  the poor, of  peripheries,  of slums or “Miracle of humility in an era of vanity”,  in consultation with his college of 8 cardinals has ordered a two-year mammoth study program  -- a world wide survey of families,  to listen and learn directly from those who actually live the family life, in order to come up with possible solutions to   challenges they face to help them  hold their families together and bring them up as God  wants them to.
39 Questions to Families
To do this study Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, head of the Vatican office organizing the extraordinary synod had already sent last November 2013 to all bishops around the globe a detailed questionnaire with 39 questions under 9 topics. (See below the questionnaire circulated by the Conference of Bishops of England and Wales.)
The order to bishops around the world was to distribute immediately and as widely as possible the questionnaire. The bishops were given 8 weeks till.Dec.31st 2013 to collect data and reach Vatican by February 2014.  As planned last February there was a meeting in Rome of special invitees of Cardinals and bishops to do an initial assessment of the data collected. This meeting was attended also by invitees from India. The highlight was the two-hour keynote oration by Cardinal Walter Kasper described as “beautiful and profound” by Pope Francis. According to Kasper, “between the Church’s doctrine on marriage and the family and the ‘real life’ convictions of many Christians, an abyss has been created,” which must be bridged in the light of “Joy of the Gospel”? His critics call this the “silent apostasy.”
This much is the work done so far. What lies ahead are the extraordinary synod due in coming October, which will study in depth collected data and various inputs by experts.  This would be followed next year by a world conference of families to be held in Philadelphia in September 2015, just one month prior to the final concluding ordinary Vatican synod in October 2015. 
Findings in Europe
Countries in Europe, Americas, Australia, even in Japan which has only one and half laky Catholics, have already finished the first stage and   published their findings in the internet or print media. In Germany 79 % favour divorced persons remarry, 75 % want ordination for   women and 85 % support married priests. Nearly 60 % of Swiss participants support church blessing for homosexual couples. Both German and Swiss reports say 90 to 100 % couples seeking Catholic wedding are “pre-marital unions”.  "Many, in fact, consider it irresponsible to marry without living together beforehand," the report said, despite church teaching that sex outside marriage is sinful.  Divorced and remarried in both countries consider church’s sexual ethic totally unrealistic and wish not to associate with an institution that is neither merciful nor forgiving.
Almayasabdam (meaning, Church Citizens’ Voice) of Kerala Catholic Reformation Movement(KCRM) ( and  its monthly print  version, Sathyjwala (Flame of Truth)  and similar lay initiated websites in India have been giving wide publicity to the papal survey of families and its findings from around the world.
No Survey in India?
But the Catholic Church in India is not known to have done any public survey of its faithful. In fact this writer had discussed this matter already on Dec.13/2013 with Cardinal Alancherry and Bishop Adayanthrath of Ernakulam. Among the 14 point written questionnaire given to four Ernakulam bishops the following two have relevance to subject under discussion.
2.“Muzzling Freedom of expression among laity has resulted in the explosion of Free Websites like Almayasabdam, Indian Thought, Syromalabar FAITH& VOICE blogs and many others where malpractices of church men  are exposed and ridiculed. Solution: Follow Pope’s example of giving interviews even to atheist editors, and open up Church publications like Satyadeepam to make it a mirror of public opinion in the Church, not a mouthpiece of bishops. Or else you make your own mouth piece and laity will make their own and the two will never meet.”
4.  Impatient with Hierarchy’s Snail space: No news as yet of Papal grass root survey on challenges to Family ordered last October. Bishops in other countries have already circulated questionnaire among laity, not in SMC. Why not conduct similar survey of performance of bishops in each diocese to know the thinking of laity?  (13/12/13, 7pm)”
This was followed up by individual and collective correspondence (some signed by 18) with the bishops by writers in Almayasabdam. But no official response on the subject from any of the four bishops has been received so far.
Church Reform International
In this context a new movement to be noted is the Catholic Church Reform International, (CCRInt’l). Started precisely on June 22nd  2013 to support  reform efforts of Pope Farancis, its other objective is to bring  “peoples’ voice” to a church that has been for centuries too heavily top-down in its governance. This is a world wide organization with many reform organizations and over 7000 members   from 65 countries, also nearly 100 registered members from India. It is   growing fast. It has sent two memorandums already signed by members to the Pope and received letters of appreciation for their exemplary work. To join this group or to know about it simply write to:, and you will surely receive a reply unlike from the VVIPs in the Church.
CCRInt’l has been asking for information about Papal Church survey in India. In the absence of an official church survey they are now planning lay initiated regional survey/s and to submit their report to Vatican before next October. On Feb.29th KCRM in Palai devoted its last monthly meeting on Feb.29 to study the Papal questionnaire on the basis of the British model below distributed to participants.
A delegation of CCRInt’l will be going to Rome to hold its own meeting few days ahead of the October synod and to get its representatives participate in the extraordinary synod. It is also inviting and booking accommodation in Rome for those who wish to take part in their session in Rome. As in the case of “Papal Survey on Family” no exhaustive write up on CCRInt’l has appeared in the secular or Church controlled press.
Pope Writes to Families
        What is important to know first,  is how this survey is very systematically done in other countries and to do a similar or better job in India which is said to be the 3rd largest Catholic Bishops Conference in the world. In any case Pope Francis wants all Catholic Families to know about this survey and participate in it, even if the bishops have not shared it with them. As though for that very purpose he has sent a letter dated Feb.25/14 addressed directly to families themselves starting with: “Dear families, with this letter, I wish, as it were, to come into your homes....” To read the full text Visit:  and click Pope’s Letter to Families in Content section.
Sample of a Survey
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           The following series of questions allows the particular Churches to participate actively in the preparation of the Extraordinary Synod, whose purpose is to proclaim the Gospel in the context of the pastoral challenges facing the family today. Please use this form if you wish to make a response or use the online response form at:
Please tell us a little about yourself so we can see how wide this consultation has been:
Place of Residence:
Place of Worship:
Marital Status:
Age:    Under 18 18-25   26-35   36-45   46-55   56-65   66-75   76-85 Over 85
In what capacity are you making this response? Please circle all that apply:

Pastor, Lay Person,    Parent, Deacon, Professed Religious, Catechist. Teacher Seminarian,       Pastoral Assistant, Hospital Chaplain, Prison Chaplain, Military Chaplain, Member of Lay Association or Movement*   Other*
*Please give further details:    
If you would like to add your name and contact email please do so at the end when you have finished making your response. Do not feel you have to but it will allow us to contact you if we need to clarify your answers.
Please use as much space as you would like to respond to the questions.
Please return this form by email to

The closing date for responses is 30th November 2013
1.    The Diffusion of the Teachings on the Family in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Magisterium
a) Describe how the Catholic Church’s teachings on the value of the family contained in the Bible, Gaudium et spes, Familiaris consortio and other documents of the post-conciliar Magisterium is understood by people today? What formation is given to our people on the Church’s teaching on family life?
b) In those cases where the Church’s teaching is known, is it accepted fully or is there difficulties in putting it into practice? If so, what are they?
c) How widespread is the Church’s teaching in pastoral programmes at the national, diocesan and parish levels? What catechesis is done on the family?
d ) To what extent — and what aspects in particular — is this teaching actually known, accepted, rejected and/or criticized in areas outside the Church? What are the cultural factors which hinder the full reception of the Church’s teaching on the family?
2. Marriage according to the Natural Law
a) What place does the idea of the natural law have in the cultural areas of society: in institutions, education, academic circles and among the people at large? What anthropological ideas underlie the discussion on the natural basis of the family?
b) Is the idea of the natural law in the union between a man and a woman commonly accepted as such by the baptized in general?
c) How is the theory and practice of natural law in the union between man and woman challenged in light of the formation of a family? How is it proposed and developed in civil and Church institutions?
d) In cases where non-practicing Catholics or declared non-believers request the celebration of marriage, describe how this pastoral challenge is dealt with?
3. The Pastoral Care of the Family in Evangelization
a) What experiences have emerged in recent decades regarding marriage preparation? What efforts are there to stimulate the task of evangelization of the couple and of the family? How can an awareness of the family as the “domestic Church” be promoted?
b) How successful have you been in proposing a manner of praying within the family which can withstand life’s complexities and today’s culture?
c) In the current generational crisis, how have Christian families been able to fulfil their vocation of transmitting the faith?
d) In what way have the local Churches and movements on family spirituality been able to create ways of acting which are exemplary?
e) What specific contribution can couples and families make to spread a credible and holistic idea of the couple and the Christian family today?
f) What pastoral care has the Church provided in supporting couples in formation and couples in crisis situations?
4. Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations
a) Is cohabitation ad experimentum a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage?
b) Do unions which are not recognized either religiously or civilly exists? Are reliable statistics available?
c) Are separated couples and those divorced and remarried a pastoral reality in your particular Church? Can you approximate a percentage? How do you deal with this situation in appropriate pastoral programmes?
d) In all the above cases, how do the baptized live in this irregular situation? Are they aware of it? Are they simply indifferent? Do they feel marginalized or suffer from the impossibility of receiving the sacraments?
e) What questions do divorced and remarried people pose to the Church concerning the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation? Among those persons who find themselves in these situations, how many ask for these sacraments?
F) Could a simplification of canonical practice in recognizing a declaration of nullity of the marriage bond provide a positive contribution to solving the problems of the persons involved? If yes, what form would it take?
g) Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases? Describe this pastoral ministry? Do such programmes exist on the national and diocesan levels? How God’s mercy is proclaimed to separated couples and those divorced and remarried and how does the Church put into practice her support for them in their journey of faith?
5. on Unions of Persons of the Same Sex
a) Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?
b) What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?
c) What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?
d) In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?
6. The Education of Children in Irregular Marriages
a) What is the estimated proportion of children and adolescents in these cases, as regards children who are born and raised in regularly constituted families?
b) How do parents in these situations approach the Church? What do they ask? Do they request the sacraments only or do they also want catechesis and the general teaching of religion?
c) How do the particular Churches attempt to meet the needs of the parents of these children to provide them with a Christian education?
d) What is the sacramental practice in these cases: preparation, administration of the sacrament and the accompaniment?
7. The Openness of the Married Couple to Life
a) What knowledge do Christians have today of the teachings of Humanae vitae on responsible parenthood? Are they aware of how morally to evaluate the different methods of family planning? Could any insights be suggested in this regard pastorally?
b) Is this moral teaching accepted? What aspects pose the most difficulties in a
Large majority of couple’s accepting this teaching?
c) What natural methods are promoted by the particular Churches to help spouses put into practice the teachings of Humanae vitae?
d) What is your experience on this subject in the practice of the Sacrament of Penance and participation at the Eucharist?
e) What differences are seen in this regard between the Church’s teaching and civic education?
f) How can a more open attitude towards having children be fostered? How can an increase in births be promoted?
8. The Relationship between the Family and the Person
a) Jesus Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the human person. How can the family be a privileged place for this to happen?
b) What critical situations in the family today can obstruct a person’s encounter with Christ?
c) To what extent do the many crisis of faith which people can experience affect family life?
9. Other Challenges and Proposals
What other challenges or proposals related to the topics in the above questions do you consider urgent and useful to treat?
10: If you have any further comments to make about this consultation please do so here. If you would like to leave your name and contact email please do so.
Name: Email: :................................................Email:......................................
What is given above is just one model circular, that of Conference of Bishops of England and Wales, supplied by the CCRInt’l.  Surveys similar to this have already been completed either through internet or printed circulars and data collected already sent to Vatican by many countries.  In India, if we start now, we too also may catch up at least with the concluding ordinary synod in October 2015.
                          The writer can be contacted at:

1 comment:

  1. You've done a great job in making the urgency of the matter explicit and in putting down the details of the questionnaire. But as I've once already said, getting at least one thousand persons answer to the questions is a great problem. It has got to be translated into Malayalam. As it is, the questionnaire is not quite relevant to the Indian situation. So we will have to adapt it so some extent. I don't expect on line completion of the questionnaire even by a few. That means volunteers will have to be found to meet people personally to coax a few for a response. Alternatively we could ask the help of vicars who would be willing to invite people from his parish to come forward to fill in the answers. As such an action would expose the irresponsibility of the bishops, it is unlikely that vicars come forward to meet our request. I suggest a few of us sit together and discuss what could be done.