Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Vatican Survey of Catholics for Synod on the Family: More Evidence (England, Wales, Canada) of "Huge Gap" Between Magisterial Teaching and People of God

Reports continue to come in from various parts of the world, noting how Catholics in various places have responded to the questionnaire that Pope Francis asked bishops to use as they solicited lay input prior to the Synod on the Family. On Saturday, I alluded to the survey results gathered by the bishops of England and Wales. I did so by linking to this Tablet editorial statement that decries the decision of these bishops to withhold the survey results from Catholics in their region. 

As the editorial statement notes, the decision to hide the survey results leaves many people with the following impression:

This raises a suspicion that the content is highly embarrassing.

The Tablet concludes that it's very likely that the English and Welsh survey results mirror those in other Western European nations where there is "wide disparity between what Catholics are supposed to believe and do, and what they actually believe and do."

In Canada, too, the survey has, as Sandro Contenta reports for the Toronto Star, found a "huge gap" between what Catholics are told to believe about matters of sexuality and family, and what they actually believe. Contenta frames his analysis by stating bluntly,

If Canadian Roman Catholics had their way, their faith would be preaching a much different sermon.

In Canada as well, the bishops are withholding the survey results, but it's Archbishop Paul-Andr√© Durocher, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, who has characterized the results as demonstrating a "huge gap" between the magisterial position on issues like contraception and homosexuality, and what the faithful actually believe. Durocher attributes the gap to a lack of good catechesis: he thinks Catholics either don't know or haven't been taught the church's position carefully enough. 

As Rebel Girl notes at the Iglesia Descalza site, citing the Univision poll I discussed last week, one survey after another is showing "that the moral disconnect between Catholics and their Church is not confined to the United States." And as Huffington Post's report on the Univision poll notes, even when that poll shows a split in the view of Catholics in the developed and developing nations over issues of sexual orientation and gender, it also makes clear that about four out of five Catholics globally reject magisterial teaching regarding contraception.

If Archbishop Durocher is correct, then the Vatican and bishops have a serious problem on their hands--an educational problem, one of catechizing millions of Catholics who have somehow failed to be catechized up to now. On the other hand, if the problem is that lay Catholics know full well what "the church" teaches and why the magisterium teaches what it teaches, but still choose to reject this teaching, then the pastoral leaders of the church have another kind of serious problem on their hands.

Since, as Bl. John Henry Newman, whose theology was in so many ways incorporated into the documents of Vatican II, taught, a key part of the process verifying the truth claims of a church teaching is the reception (or non-reception) of that teaching by the people of God. When the people of God refuse to "receive" a teaching handed down by the magisterium, and when they can cite sound reasons of conscience and theology for that refusal, it becomes harder and harder to maintain that the church is teaching the truth about the issue re: which the people of God see things differently, with their informed consciences.

The graphic is a photo of a crack in the volcanic surface of a cooled lava flow near Mt. St. Helens, from the PBS NOVA program.

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