NORMAN — Imagine the pope is coming to dinner.
He’ll be taking the bus, and he doesn’t want you to make a big fuss. It’s Francis, after all, the “world’s parish priest.”
There’s a bit of an agenda to his visit. He wants to ask how you feel about some of the most confounding teachings of the faith. He wonders how what you hear in the pews squares with what occurs in your life, and in the lives of your loved ones. What do you think about birth control? About same sex couples raising children? About people living together before marriage, or about divorce and remarriage?
No, really. This isn’t just some parlor game. Something like this is happening.
Pope Francis is indicating yet again that he wants to sit among and listen to his flock, in ways that are unprecedented for the papacy. He’s soliciting opinions on the very moral teachings that are driving Catholics from the church. One in 10 adults in the United States is an ex-Catholic. The figures in Europe and Latin America may vary but add up to a similar story: People are voting on Catholicism with their feet.
At Francis’ urging, the Vatican has produced a questionnaire asking about Catholic teaching. In October it was sent to the world’s bishop conferences. It’s to gather input in preparation for an October 2014 Synod of Bishops in Rome.
The National Catholic Reporter, an influential Catholic newsweekly, broke this story after a copy of the papal survey was sent to them last month.
“I think this is the biggest story of the year,” said Editor Dennis Coday. “It’s a monumental change.”
The letter from the Vatican instructed the bishops to distribute the document to the dioceses “and ask them to share it immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received regarding the themes and responses to the questionnaire.”