(Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters)

(Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters)

The Vatican is making an interesting move in advance of a large synod planned for next year — they’re polling their own people on how they feel about marriage equality, contraception and other social issues:

The Vatican is taking the unusual step of conducting a worldwide survey on how parishes deal with sensitive issues such as birth control, divorce and gay marriage, seeking input ahead of a major meeting on the family that Pope Francis plans next year.

The poll was sent in mid-October to every national conference of bishops with a request from the Vatican coordinator, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, to “share it immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received.”

The survey reflects the pope’s pledges to move away from what he called a “Vatican-centric” approach toward one where local church leaders are more involved in decision-making.


The poll findings will help set the agenda for an extraordinary synod, or meeting, of the presidents of national bishops conferences in October 2014.

The introduction to the survey lays out a broad list of concerns which the document says “were unheard of until a few years ago,” including single-parent families, polygamy, interfaith marriages and “forms of feminism hostile to the church.” Surrogate motherhood is lamented in the document as “wombs for hire,” and the survey cites as a new challenge “same-sex unions between persons who are, not infrequently, permitted to adopt children.”

While this doesn’t necessarily suggest that Catholic doctrine will be changing any time soon, it does seem part and parcel of Pope Francis’s approach, as he tries to change the image of the Church from one that drives people away in hordes to one that actually ministers to the real world. Whether people like Bill Donohue and Brian Brown will ever notice that they’re the problem the Pope is talking about and change their ways is unknown at this time.