On November 12, 2013, a group of 15 progressive Catholic organizations (including all four Equally Blessed coalition partners) launched an on-line survey to enable U.S. Catholics to provide input to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and to the Vatican in preparation for an upcoming Synod on the Family. Over 1,200 Catholics completed the survey within the first three hours after it was made available.
During a press conference held outside the meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Kate Conmy, Assistant Director of Women’s Ordination Conference and co-convener of Catholic Organizations for Renewal, said, “While other national bishops conferences have created mechanisms to gather parish-level insight on issues including contraception, same-sex marriage, divorce and remarriage, the US Bishops have offered us no such resource. Once again, lay Catholics offer the pastoral ministry that our bishops, for whatever reason, are unable or unwilling to provide. The questionnaire we have created closely follows the survey launched by UK bishops.”
Ryan Sattler, a parishioner of a parish in the Baltimore, MD area said, “Pope Francis’ emphasis on listening and dialogue has opened a window; Catholics are eager to answer his questions, and I’m excited to share this survey with my friends and family…At my parish, the Maryland marriage equality bill provided a context for us to discuss the real pastoral needs of LGBT people and their family members and allies. This survey and the Pope’s call for dialogue will be another great opportunity for us to break the silence and talk about the realities of life for all Catholics—gay and straight, married and single, divorced, with children, retired, working and unemployed.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, agreed, saying, “I am excited that, through the survey we begin rolling out today, Catholics all across the US will be able to share much that is on our mind with leaders of our Church. People who have personal experience of divorce and remarriage, making decisions about whether and how to use contraception, whether to have their relationships blessed by the Church, and about engaging in same-sex relationship can use this tool to speak out in ways and numbers not possible before. We encourage all Catholics to participate, and to be honest about what they believe and their experience with the Church. We expect there will be many powerful stories shared through this survey, and we hope our bishops and other Church leaders will listen carefully to the wisdom shared by the people of God.”
Deborah Rose-Milavec, Executive Director of FutureChurch, noted, “We are very happy that Pope Francis and Synod officials are asking such good questions about reception of Humanae Vitae, church teaching on contraception, and the hunger for sacraments on the part of divorced and remarried and LGBT couples. This discussion is long overdue.”
Rose-Milavec said the need for input will continue beyond the survey, saying, “As a lay woman, mother and grandmother, I know we need Catholics with families at the synod on the family. Their experiences and faith are critical to the dialogue and work that will occur there. We need Catholics with families in on the ground floor helping shape the working documents.”
Conmy concluded, “We ask the bishops to open their hearts and ears to the diversity of Catholic families we all know, and to the conversations that modern families must have. At every level, the Synod on the Family must be shaped by divorced and remarried Catholics, LGBT couples, and families having conversations on contraception, fertilization, and adoption — who are guided not by natural law, but by love.”
Organizational sponsors of the survey project from Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR) include American Catholic Council, Call To Action, CORPUS,
DignityUSA, Federation of Christian Ministries/Roman Catholic Faith Community Council, FutureChurch, New Ways Ministry, RAPPORT, Roman Catholic WomenPriests, Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference, Voice of the Faithful, and Women’s Ordination Conference. Other supporting organizations include Catholic Church Reform, Fortunate Families, and Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER). Additional organizations are being invited to sponsor the project, and to encourage their members to complete it.