The (Catholic) Survey Taker

I’ve heard you can make money doing this for certain online business interests, but unfortunately the Catholic Church doesn’t consider itself a business (shutup, you Whore of Babylon types) and doesn’t pay people to take its surveys. Besides, I don’t expect money for helping out my Church. And it does want my help. I know, because a friend, desiring my participation, sent me the link, which took me here, to the Archdiocese of Atlanta, whose head of state and chairman of the – sorry – Archbishop, is the Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory. I don’t know anything about him, hailing as I do from Florida, but that he sincerely wants my help is evident from the salutation:

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

That includes me.

He continues:

Pope Francis is deeply concerned about the social and spiritual crisis that now exists in many marriages and families. He recognizes the challenges and seeks to gather information on real-life situations faced by families throughout the world. He is calling on Bishops all over the world to offer parishioners the opportunity – through a special Vatican survey – to share their experiences on the theme, The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.

Whew, that’s a long title for a ‘theme’ or anything else. It almost sounds like one of those academic workshops that send me running for the hills: The Institutional Challenges of Diversity in the Context of Student Retention and Learning-Centered Outcomes. That sort of thing.

The information gathered will be used at an Extraordinary Synod of bishops in Rome next fall. The Synod will offer the Pope counsel on the pastoral care for families and marriages from the Church’s deep love for all her sons and daughters, particularly those who are experiencing difficulties and are undergoing adversity.

“Difficulties” and “adversity.” Sounds a little vague, but clerics often talk that way so I didn’t let it slow me down.

I invite you to participate in this consultation for Rome, etc…

The you is me. So I clicked another link and proceeded to take the survey, unable to deny the Archbishop’s final appeal: “From the heart, I thank you in advance for your contributions to this consultation. You and your families are in my prayers.”

I have only one family but, from the heart, one contribution coming right up.

The first question was easy:

1. What is your current role in the church?

The choices were among Priest, Deacon, Chancery staff, Tribunal member and so forth. I had trouble choosing between Lay Leader (whatever that is) and Parishioner. I went with Parishioner, in the hope that I’d be given the opportunity to explain just what an influential parishioner I am, what with hosting a widely read (shutup again) Catholic blog and possessing an intellect that holds a very high opinion of itself. Like most bloggers, I am almost never wrong, and sometimes can’t go to bed at night until I’ve proven that someone else is.

The problems began with question number

2. Is the Church’s teaching on the nature and purpose of the family adequately understood by people today? Why? How well does the Church form her members to live this teaching on the family? Is the Church’s teaching on the family effectively transmitted in her pastoral and catechetical programs? Why or why not?

There was a big box in which to answer. I proceeded to answer each question in turn, which we’ll call 2a through e. My answers (succinctly put) were: a) Hell no; b) Because you don’t teach it with conviction nor demand that people follow it; c) Very poorly indeed; d) This simply repeats c; e) How would I know? I don’t hire the formers, transmitters and catechists, nor do I oversee the doctrinal and moral content of what they promulgate. That’s your job.

My actual answer was considerably more garrulous, though admirably fine-tuned. When I hit the ‘continue’ button, I was abruptly informed in screeching red letters that there was an ERROR, responses being limited to 500 characters. Not 500 words. Characters. Heartbroken, I began to suspect that “they” didn’t want my opinion at all. Whoever had come up with the Survey was a Vatican-based Twitter addict. A black cloud of disgruntlement settled in, and I fired off an email. I’m not sure where it went. Maybe to the Archdiocese, maybe to the Pope:

Dear Whomever it May Concern: Okay, I tried to give a good answer, but am allowed no more than 500 characters, so such an answer is impossible to give. This is a waste of my time. If you’re genuinely interested in my Tweetless response, you can visit the following website – – and heed the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

(There has been no noticeable uptick in the number of hits.)

Question number

3. Do people understand that God’s designs are written into nature? Does this “natural law” typically impact peoples’ understanding of the family and the union of a man and woman in marriage?

Are you kidding? You must think your congregations are largely populated by Thomistic scholars, a bunch of little Maritains in the making. Catholics, like most people on the planet, seem to have a basic understanding that “the union of a man and woman” sometimes results in children, but how important marriage is to this union is questionable, since I’ve known a lot of Catholics who lived together outside of marriage and still thought they could call themselves Catholic. They even pay lip service to “God’s design,” but if you start talking about The Natural Law, they’re going to think it’s the title of a Nat Geo documentary.

Question number

4. Is there any progress in today’s Christian formation of couples to encourage: living of the faith as a family; praying together; passing on the faith; giving Christian example; as well as preparing for crises in marriage and in the family? If there is specific progress, what is it? If there is not, why not?

This question is obviously aimed at tribunal members or those formationers in the marriage instruction program, not at me. Just looking in from the outside, I’d say the evidence of “progress” is sorely lacking.

Question number

5. (Which I’ll break into its parts. (500 characters. Seriously?))

In your observation, how common is it for couples to cohabit before marriage?

You must have missed what I said above: very common.

Is it common for couples to continue to live together without the Sacrament of Marriage?

Well, that’s what ‘living together’ means: you continue to do it. If you’re asking how many of these shack-ups end in marriage, or dissolve before said blessed event, I have no idea. But it probably mirrors the population at large.

Is there any improvement in the pastoral attention offered to couples who are cohabiting before marriage; who live in non-sacramental unions; who are divorced and remarried?

Again, this seems aimed at church functionaries engaged in some professional capacity. But if personal experience counts, the priest who conducted our marriage classes back in the 70′s did bring up the matter of cohabitation, but didn’t ask anyone to stop, or to feel sorry about it, or to confess it before he’d pronounce them man and wife. Maybe things have changed.

What do you think about these situations, and how do you suggest they be addressed?

Ever heard of the word “anathema” or “excommunication”? Okay, just kidding. I know: we need to “re-evangelize” these couples, offer more “pastoral attention,” without calling them sinners, in an effort to lure them back to the fold. Good luck.

What questions do divorced and remarried people ask of the Church concerning the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist?

“Why can’t I have some too? Eucharist, I mean. What’s penance? And why do you keep calling us adulterers and adulteresses just cuz we got civilly divorced and are now fornicating with one or more members of the opposite sex? Usually.”

Would a simplification of the process for a declaration of nullity be a help to the couples involved?

You mean make it easier than it already is? So that maybe people will stop calling it Catholic divorce? Not sure that would work but you could give it a try. It’s hard to kill a body when it’s already dead.

Question number

6. a.) Do you have a clear understanding on the Church’s teaching about same sex unions?

It’s against them? It was last time I looked. Although, if the Pope says so, I’ll stop obsessing about it. Who am I to judge?

b.) How does that affect your attitude toward government policies which promote same sex unions?

Oh, I hate them, naturally. Three guesses how I feel about Catholic politicians who do the promoting.

c.) How does that affect your attitude toward individuals in same sex unions?

You know – Pope Francis, bishops, cardinals and all other synodal attendees – you’d really help your cause, our cause, the cause of Truth, if you’d stop referring to “same sex unions.” It is an oxymoron. There is no such thing. It is prefatory to calling them “marriages.” Unions of a romantic, connubial nature exist only between men and women. Now as to the question itself, I actually like many of the homosexuals I’ve known, whether in ‘union’ or out. Many tend to see their homosexual identity as their defining characteristic. I don’t. At the risk of seeming presumptuous, I see more in them than they see in themselves.

d.) What pastoral attention should be extended to people in same sex unions and to the adopted children of these unions, especially with regard to passing on the faith?

People living in the same sex mimicry of a union should be told to knock it off. Secondly, the children aren’t always adopted. Sometimes they are the biological offspring of one of the participants in the faux union. Such a child should be removed from the custody of this parent until he or she abolishes the union and the non-biological ‘parent’ – by force of law if necessary – vacates the premises never to return. Thirdly, you can’t pass on the faith to people whose living arrangements stand in purposeful and obstreperous defiance of it.

Question number

7. In your observation, is the attitude of parents married outside the Church toward the sacramental preparation and Christian education of their children properly informed? How should the Church respond to the sacramental and religious formation of these same children?

Well, if they’re outside the Church, then you’ve got your work cut out for you. If you can get to the parents you can get to the kids. But the parents are probably outside the Church for a reason. They couldn’t get a decree of nullity, so they got divorced. They do this because they don’t like the indissolubility part of the marriage vow, even though they took the vow. The Church makes being happy too hard. There are too many rules. You can either chuck the rules or stick by your guns, which, supposedly, you believe to be divinely ordained. American Catholics are an entitled bunch. When it comes to their love lives, they want a liberal, Nanny State Church that issues doctrinal food stamps. But there is also the possibility that some people can’t be reached. People married outside the Church ran away from it, not the other way around. Maybe the responsibility to set things right rests with them. I guess you have to keep trying to reach them, though. It’s your duty, so to speak. Good luck. Again.

Question number

8. How well do members of the Church understand the Church’s teaching on contraception? On natural family planning?

You must be joking. Do you need me to inform you of the percentage of Catholics who repudiate the “teaching on contraception”? Or of what this repudiation implies about their understanding of the Church’s divine authority in general? You might as well ask how many “members” of the Church could give a coherent account of the Real Presence, or any number of other doctrines. Would you like to ask me how many Catholics support abortion in at least some circumstances? Don’t, because if you don’t know you aren’t doing your job, and if you do know, you are insufficiently horrified. How about the percentage that support the homosexual parody of marriage? Take a look at these numbers. We are in the vanguard. Protestants are much more resistant.

As to natural family planning, the conscientious few who actually trouble to study and practice it are not the ones you need to worry about. To most “members” of your Church, artificial contraception is natural family planning.

How well are couples helped to follow this teaching of the Church?

To repeat, you must be joking. I can’t remember the last time I heard it mentioned in a sermon, to the effect that those who engage in contracepted sex acts are guilty of grave sin; or, if condemnation is not to your taste, you might try explaining that, if sex is truly to embody an act of love, a man might take his wife as she is, as God made her, rather than asking her to pollute her body with chemicals, or to undergo obstructive surgery, or to insert into it strange but ingenious prosthetics to keep the children at bay. St. Paul has some pretty down-to-earth advice to offer. Rather than once a year, you might try reading and explicating these passages on a weekly basis until it starts to sink in. Maybe it won’t sink in. That’s not your problem. You have to tell people the Truth so that they know where they stand. In the end it’s up to them. Of course, this is hard work. It might also make you an unpopular priest or bishop. But if your goal in life is to be popular, you missed your calling.

There were two more questions, but enough’s enough. And I’ve changed my mind. This was time-consuming and I think somebody owes me some money for it.

Of interest: Austin Ruse at The Catholic Thing thinks Polling the Laity is Always a Bad Idea. As the preceding post well proves.

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2 Responses to The (Catholic) Survey Taker

  1. TSO says:

    Chuckled at your directing them to the website of one crying out in the wilderness but finding no uptick in visits. Alack and alas.

    I’ve noticed lots of snail mail requesting my opinion and it’s usually a barely disguised fundraising campaign. Shocking I know, but they’re interested in my money and not my opinion! So now I’m allergic to polls with a request for a contribution attached – I’d much rather they just ask for a contribution and cut out the bait & switch.

  2. William Luse says:

    Yes, I get lots of that snail mail too. At least Archbish0p Gregory didn’t ask for money. I’m still thinking about asking him for some, though.

    Liked the pictures of your lazy dog.

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