LGBT couples and families are among the topics in a new questionnaire released by the Vatican this week ahead of a 2014 meeting of Roman Catholic Church leaders.
The "prepatory document, " released by the Vatican Tuesday, is part of the planning for next year's Synod of Bishops on the Family. A synod is a group of leaders in charge of making decisions and laws related to the church. The synod's theme is "The Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization." It will run October 5-19, 2014.
Among the 39 questions in the survey sent to Catholics both here and abroad is a section called "On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex." Below is an excerpt from the questionnaire dealing with same-sex couples.
5. On Unions of Persons of the Same Sex
a) Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?
b) What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?
c) What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?
d) 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?
Bishop John Hine, the head of the Committee for Marriage and Family Life of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, said the decision to seek input from lay Catholics was "extremely significant."
"It really responds to the desire for the people, the laity in the church to be consulted on matters which concern them so deeply," he said in a Vatican Radio interview. "Couples are delighted that they're going to be involved in the consultations."
Bishops Hine said sending out such a survey will "of course, raise expectations [from the lay faithful] and we have to recognize that and be prepared to work at meeting those expectations in some way."
What remains to be seen is how Catholics' answers to these questions will factor into any tangible policy or doctrinal changes in the church.
The document gives an overview of church teaching on the family and lays out challenges facing modern famililes. Importantly, the document states that there is an urgency for the church to address these challenges.
Contact reporter Alex Davidson on Twitter at twitter.com/adwildcat