Friday, November 01, 2013

E&W Bishops Survey on the Family

In preparation for the Synod on the Family the Holy See has asked for Bishop's Conferences to conduct a survey of the depth of understanding of the Church's teaching.

Our Bishops have produced an on-line survey, it can be found here.


Nicolas Bellord said...

I think I read somewhere that this has to be completed by 13th November. Note that it goes to your local diocese in the first instance so best not to be too rude about your Bishop!

terry prest said...

Do the bishops really want the questions answered by ordinary families ? Or is it just Catholics of a particular type?

See question 1 -

"Question 1a: 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?"

So much for consultation.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Terry: I think the questionnaire is also aimed at priests who can answer these questions! One does not have to answer all the questions and in respect of this first question one can give a very short answer! Think of short words beginning with N!

Oona said...

Terry. The Documents of The Church were written for ordinary people. The Bible is also for everyone. What you appear to be suggesting is that "ordinary" families have no access to this teaching. They do.

terry prest said...

I have no problem about priests, religious and others being surveyed. They should be.

Yes @Nicholas, you are correct. Whose input is really being sought in the "consultation" ?

If you want a survey of how and what ordinary families up and down the land know, think and feel about church teaching, are these questions really the best way of obtaining this information and within the short timescale for answers ?

Ordinary families do have access to the teaching of the Church especially about the family. Often their knowledge is better than many priests and religious and others. No one has suggested otherwise.

Anil Wang said...

Oona said..."What you appear to be suggesting is that 'ordinary' families have no access to this teaching. They do"

I think I can answer that. There are a few key issues common today:
(1) Few 'ordinary' families know that these documents exist or where they are. (Go ahead, do an informal survey of the people you know if you don't believe it).
(2) Few 'ordinary' families know that they should be reading these documents.
(3) Few 'ordinary' families (especially ones not in university) can understand these documents. Seriously, read the complaints against the Compendium of the Catholic Faith which is aimed specifically for lay consumption or ask dedicated simple Catholics their opinion. It's too hard for many people. They need something at the level of the Penny Catechism or the Baltimore Catechism to be able to digest the Catechism, namely one line answers to specific questions sparing all the reasoning and nuance.
(4) Few 'ordinary' families have been given sermons or catechesis that summarize these documents.
(5) Even when they do have access to those teachings (even in sermon form), many 'ordinary' families have been told that "The Church has an official position....But you need to rely on your conscience to decide if it applies to you." So they feel free to disagree with Church teaching and still believe they are Catholic.
(6) Even when they do know that conscience isn't an excuse, the widespread mistaken teaching that "God understands...He's merciful." gives people an excuse (for themselves and relatives that they don't want to believe are going to Hell) to make exceptions for themselves with the belief that they might spend a little longer in purgatory because of their sin.

So no 'ordinary' families do not have access to this teaching. Except for case (3), there's absolutely no excuse for not fixing these issues, and sloth and cowardice are not excuses. As for (3), work can be done to create simplified question and answer versions of each encyclicals. The Q&A focuses on the key points that must be adhered to without supporting reasoning or bible quotations and without flowery language or nuances (you can read the original encyclical for those). If this were available, there would and the above other issues were alleviated, there would be no excuse for not reading at least the Q&A format of the encyclicals. And because it's just the facts, it should be easy to apply to daily life.

I think I could write a Q&A for Humanae Vitae in about 5 questions/answers. Most of Pope John Paul II's enyclicals on life would likely require at least 10 questions/answers, but it's still managable. If I were an author, I'd write a book of all important encyclicals and councils for the last 500 years. I think a question/answer "Church documents in a nutshell" can be done with no more questions than are in the Baltimore Catechism. If no-one does something within the next five years, I might just do that, since the need is definitely there. I might do a bad job of it (since I'm not an author), but as G.K. Chesterton once said, anything worth doing, is worth doing poorly.

Hughie said...

terry prest's comment is typical of the condescension a "particular type" of Catholic shows to the rest of us. This questionnaire was sent out from Rome in the past day or so. The local, particular Churches could and should render it into a form meaningful to their own. Doubtless in due course the hierarchy will do so. In a spirit of openness, it has been made available in the original. So why the gripe? Oh, I'm sorry, are you appalled that someone, somewhere, especially in Ecclestone Square-- the denizens of which place I have no particular regard for -- may have inadvertently suggested that the average Catholic in the pew might quite possibly be able to summon up a degree of cerebration equal to or greater than you are capable of?

Oona said...

five hours later.....

This survey is not for the faint hearted. Most of the questions are almost unanswerable unless you have access to detailed data.

Question 1 is one of the easier ones.

By question 7 I had almost lost the will the go on.

Good luck to anyone thinking of attempting it.

Physiocrat said...

Those questions are almost incomprehensible. The people who authorised this questionnaire must be completely out of touch.

Gungarius said...

I've had a quick look. Personally I think they should have gone for a multiple choice format with a large space for additional comments below each question.

I shall have a real go later, if only because most won't so it might have some real influence (creative minorities and all that)

terry prest said...

@Hughie No condescension on my part. But you comment does say more about you than you perhaps realised

Have you read the survey in full ?

Many Catholic families with children do not have the time to read through lengthy documents issued from various Church bodies about "the family". And if they lack the inclination, who can blame them ? The prose is deadly dull.

If the Church wanted to obtain the views of most of the laity in a meaningful way, this survey is not the way to do it.

If you want to survey the views then engage a firm of professionals to phrase the questions

Of course then you might get answers and information you do not really want to see

For years the Church has gone on at great length extolling the family and the importance of the family in the Church. In Europe and in this country families have been avoiding the Church in their thousands. Is this survey the first step in getting them back ? I do not think so.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Anil: I think your idea is excellent. Having had the good fortune to have had a good education and having now, in retirement, sufficient free time to read the documents (I am ploughing through VII at the moment) I am getting to know more. However so many of these documents are pretty verbose and require very careful study which I would guess most non-retired people simply would not have the time to do. On the other hand the penny catechism which I learnt at my mother's knee I can still remember and it serves as an excellent basis for everything else. It is a bit like boarding an aeroplane; a few pithy instructions and all is okay. I could read the manufacturer's maintenance manuals for the particular aircraft but I don't. I trust the airline to tell me what is important for my safety. The Church needs to do the same.

GOR said...

I second Anil’s excellent analysis. It would appear that the compilers of the questionnaire are following St. Thomas Aquinas’ example.

In his Prologue to the Summa Theologica (5 volumes, 3000+ pages) the Angelic Doctor had this to say:

Because the Master of Catholic Truth ought not only to teach the proficient, but also to instruct beginners, we purpose in this book to treat of whatever belongs to the Christian Religion, in such a way as may tend to the instruction of beginners…”

So to Aquinas, his Summa was the ‘Penny Catechism’ of his day!

If that’s the case, we’re in a lot of trouble…

Ma Tucker said...

I don't understand. As Catholics we know what the family is. We know what marriage is. To draw into this analysis perverse relations that have nothing to do with marriage or family as if they were some sort of variant worthy of inclusion is not acceptable. This survey is fit for burning in my view.

Gregory the Eremite said...

GOR wrote: "So to Aquinas, his Summa was the ‘Penny Catechism’ of his day!"

No, I'm afraid not. Aquinas was writing the summa for beginners to the study of theology. When they started this study such students would have had several years of bible study followed by several years of philosophy.