I've written many damning things about the Catholic church over these last nine years on this blog because they've deserved it. I've also been appalled by their many pundits like Bill Donohue, (the church's main sex scandal apologist), who says so many slimy things to defend church doctrine insanity. They are one of the sole reasons Americans are ditching religion as fast as they can. And lest we forget about the very disruptive United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who would bring down our entire government completely if it means denying women birth control coverage. They are just sick. Did Pope Benedict XVI show as much humanity in public in all his years as Pope Francis has in such a short time?
But then came Pope Francis and suddenly there is some hope in the air.
Pope Francis is shaking things up again.
The pontiff with a penchant for surprises is making new waves by launching a survey of his flock on issues facing modern families — from gay marriage to divorce.
Very specific questions are being sent to parishes around the globe in preparation for next year's Synod of bishops, a grassroots effort that experts say is unprecedented.
"It's fascinating," said Thomas Groome, a professor of theology at Boston College.
"It's pretty astonishing," agreed Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the gay Catholic organization DignityUSA.
Vatican watchers say Francis' polling attempt is extraordinary on two levels: first, because it seeks input from rank-and-file Roman Catholics and second, because it touches on issues that might have been considered off-limits in past papacies.
The document sent to every nation's conference of bishops notes that the ancient church and its members are grappling with "concerns which were unheard of until a few years ago."
Same-sex unions, mixed marriages, single-parent families and surrogate mothers are all mentioned in the prelude to a list of questions that get into the nitty-gritty of 21st century life:
- "What pastoral attention can be given to people who live in these types of [same-sex] union?"
- "In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?"
- "Do [the divorced and remarried] feel marginalized or suffer from the impossibility of receiving the sacraments?"
- "In cases where non-practicing Catholics or declared non-believers request the celebration of marriage, describe how this pastoral challenge is dealt with."
The survey is the latest sign of Francis' willingness to engage ordinary Catholics and promote a less judgmental approach to hot-button social issues.
The Argentine Jesuit elected to the throne of St. Peter in March has drawn widespread praise — and some scattered criticism from conservatives — for his comments about gays, women, atheists and priestly celibacy.
There is nothing in the questionnaire that says he is planning any big changes, and a senior Vatican official said Tuesday that the church remains "loyal to the vision of the family where a man and a woman join together and procreate children."
But Fordham University theology chair Terrence Tilley said the questionnaire does suggest the church might tweak some policies that don't involve doctrine — such as denying the sacraments to Catholics who have divorced and remarried or opening the church to gay couples that want to raise adopted children Catholic.
I don't expect earth shattering results coming from the survey because many Catholic families have been indoctrinated into the awful side of the church, but it's a nice move anyway.
It really appears to be that Pope Francis is trying to bring much needed change to Rome and Catholicism since they've turned basically into a propaganda arm of the GOP and anti-abortion zealots after Roe v Wade. I hope he succeeds.