As we enter the first day of the 2015 Family synod, I cannot help but feel just a little bit uneasy about something. Lets step back in time briefly…
In November 2013 the Vatican released a questionnaire to be answered by the laity as part of the the Preparatory Document for the upcoming Family Synod meeting to be held in October 2014. The purpose of this questionnaire was to help the Church develop concrete proposals for the second Synod in 2015 which in turn will produce specific guidance on the pastoral care of the family for our times.
In October 2014 after the Extraordinary Assembly had finished it’s two week long synod meeting, the Vatican sent out the final report and a second questionnaire. The new questionnaire was intended to fill in the gaps that might exist in the synod’s vision. It asked bishops to conduct an “in-depth examination” and seek out “practical solutions” to the “innumerable challenges” identified at the synod sessions. It circulated this second questionnaire as part of the Lineamenta, or preparatory documents, about family ministry and how the church could best tackle issues such as homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, contraception, and cohabitation.
On the Feast of the Holy Family December 2014, the bishops of England and Wales (under the guidance of Cardinal Vincent Nichols) invited parishes to reflect, with true spiritual discernment as requested by Pope Francis, on the themes emerging from the Extraordinary Synod on the Family by issuing its own questionnaire. The Call, the Journey and the Mission aimed “to help people celebrate marriage and family life, whilst recognising the difficulties that families often encounter”. The document offered material for reflecting on scripture and on the teaching of the Church on marriage and family life, as well as six questions to facilitate parish and family conversations.
So to summarize, in the UK there have been 3 questionnaires:
- Preparatory Document – November 2013. Official Vatican document and questionnaire for the Family Synod.
- Lineamenta – October 2014. Official Vatican document and questionnaire for the Family Synod.
- The Call, the Mission and the Journey – December 2014. A set of reflections and and a questionnaire set up by the bishops of England and Wales.
The first two questionnaires were official Vatican documents, the results of which were meant to be used to draft the instrumentum laboris, the practical working documents for the 2014 and 2015 synod meetings. The third questionnaire – The Call, the Journey and the Mission – was a completely separate from the first two questionnaires, and was not a Vatican document and was nothing to do with the Synod, but instead an initiative of the bishops of England and Wales.
Why would the bishops of England and Wales feel the need to conduct their own separate questionnaire?
The reason is this: The questionnaire results from the Official Vatican 2013 Preparatory Document and the 2014 Lineamenta were to be treated as confidential and belonged to the Vatican. This meant that they could not be published unless the Vatican decided to publish them. And as they were specifically designed to help draft the instrumentum laboris, the practical working documents for the 2014 and 2015 synod meetings, there would be really no need to publicly publish them.
In contrast, the results from The Call, the Journey and the Mission belonged to the Bishops of England and Wales. And although the questions were along the same lines as the Official Vatican 2013 Preparatory Document and the 2014 Lineamenta, this particular questionnaire was not issued or owned by the Vatican. So if the Bishops of England and Wales wanted to publish the results of their own questionnaire then they could do so at any point. And this is exactly what they did.
On September 16th 2015 a summery of responses from The Call, the Journey and the Mission for Westminster diocese were made public in a well prepared and presented document that gave a fair and balanced account of all the responses received from the questionnaire. It also crucially identified the vast range of knowledge and catechises (or lack there of) of the responders. This identification of varying levels of catechises goes a long, long way to explain the varying answers found in the questionnaire and also brings to light the uncomfortable fact that the church must accept its responsibility for the lack of catechises of these responders. You can view and download the pdf here: the call the journey and the mission. answers summary of responses
Bizarrely, a week later on 22nd Sept 2015, a second version of the summary of responses of the The Call, the Journey and the Mission was also published on the Westminster Diocesan website. It describes this version of the results gathered as:
“…a flavour of the feedback to those six questions, based primarily on diocesan summaries received from 16 dioceses.”
It must be noted here that this second version of the summary of responses only includes the results of 16 out of the 22 diocese in England and Wales. No explanation is given for the fact that 6 diocese have been excluded from the results.
I am reliably informed that the response in many of the diocese to this questionnaire was so low or non existent that those Bishops refrained from submitting anything at all. After all – this was not an official synod questionnaire. I am also reliably informed that at least one Bishop said he wasn’t consulted on content of the finished report before it was released at a press conference by Vincent Nichols.
Did Cardinal Vincent Nichols consult any of the Bishops of England and Wales on the content of this report before its release?
It is also worth noting that while the “flavour of the feedback” (note the ambiguous fluffy language) is “based primarily on diocesan summaries received from 16 dioceses“, it also explains that “a number of local and national organisations” also took part. According to Westminster’s website these organisations were:
A Call to Action (ACTA) – 342 responses (A highly criticised and controversial group that seeks radical progressive reform in the Catholic Church)
The Association of Interchurch Families – no statistics provided (A multi denominational group offering support to mixed marriages)
The Catholic Women’s League – 132 responses.
The Union of Catholic Mothers – no statistics provided.
Two in One Flesh – 7 responses (A marriage support group)
The National Board of Catholic Women – 48 responses.
The Dorcas group – 6 responses (A Catholic Feminists group)
These were the only groups mentioned by the questionnaire. In my opinion they have been hand picked because of their liberal stances. 4 out of the 7 groups are women’s groups. No men’s groups seem to have been consulted. No clergy groups seem to have been consulted. No orthodox or more traditionally minded groups seem to have been consulted. Why?
In total, this second version of the results of the The Call, the Journey and the Mission claim to have the responses of approximately just 2200 people.
After reading this second version of the summery of responses published on 22nd Sept, I was surprised how brazenly one-sided it was compared to the very balanced first version published on 16th Sept.
Among the responses of the second version, one diocese suggests allowing Catholics to live together to decide if they want to commit to marriage – and having a liturgical ceremony to endorse it. Another accused the Church of “being out of touch, unbending or unrealistic” on sexual ethics, with a lack of support for same-sex partnerships, and contraception.
Others said they were “ashamed” of their faith calling it “misogynistic, controlling, self-opinionated.” Another said: “Thank God for the secular world which has blown in to the murky corridors of the Vatican.” But the comment that sticks in my mind the most was the one that had the most political venom and was quite frankly the most out of place in a questionnaire about marriage and family:
“…To the younger generation the Catholic Church is a medieval irrelevance. While I, myself, believe in Jesus – I am appalled at what the institution He founded has become. A tyrannical power structure, stuck in a medieval culture and unable to bring itself into the modern world. One good example of this is the so called New Translation of the Mass. A backward step from language that ordinary people understood to a ridiculous artificial so-called sacral language which is no more than a mixture of garbled English, medieval theological vocabulary and transliteration from Latin…”
What has bashing the new translation of the Mass got to do with a questionnaire on Marriage and Family?!
According to this second version, most Catholics want the Church to allow divorcees and those who re-marry to take Communion. But of course this survey was only completed by 2200 people – many of whom were members of Feminist groups or the dissident group ACTA, and the results were certainly not compiled and edited by an independent body. You can view and download the full version here: marr-fam-CJM-report (1)
So to summarise:
- Two versions of the summary of responses of the The Call, the Journey and the Mission were published within a week of each other on the Westminster Diocese website in September 2015.
- The second version released on the 22nd Sept was only completed by approximately 2200 people throughout the whole of the UK, and is being falsely presented as if it represents the vast majority of UK Catholics.
- The second version has been edited with a highly disproportionate emphasis on dissent from Catholic doctrine.
- The second version was edited and published by the CBCEW without consulting or obtaining the consent of the other Bishops of England and Wales.
- Neither of these summaries of responses issued by the Bishops of England and Wales have anything to do with the official questionnaires issued by the Vatican.
The Call, the Journey and the Mission was a questionnaire that was set up to collect peoples views on the issues surrounding the Family Synod. It had nothing to do with the synod itself and was organised by the Bishops of England and Wales. Because the results of the survey belonged to them, they could be selectively manipulated, edited and published whenever desired. Because the questions were very similar to those of the two official Vatican questionnaires, it is easy for people to confuse the two, and believe that the answers from The Call, the Journey and the Mission were those of the official questionnaires, when of course they are not.
It looks very much to me that the first version of the responses to The Call, the Journey and the Mission published on 16th September was just not doing the job Cardinal Nichols wanted it to do. After all, what is the point of commissioning your own survey if it is not going to produce the results you want it to produce? So instead, a week later, a second more liberal leaning version of the questionnaire was produced and published – the week before the start of the 2015 synod. Timing is everything.
What is it exactly that Cardinal Vincent Nichols is trying to achieve?
Cardinal Nichols will now be able to give the false impression to the media and the rest of the world during the 2015 synod that the views expressed in his questionnaire are the mainstream views held by the majority of UK Catholics, and he is at the cutting edge of the ‘modern’ Catholic world, ready to pave the way for new inclusive and diverse pastoral initiatives.
What a load of baloney. This whole thing is the biggest, slipperiest most shameless PR exercise of ‘group-think’ I’ve ever seen. “Oh c’mon! EVERYONE thinks like we do. Get with the programme! Don’t be so old fashioned!” Who does he think he’s kidding?! Not me – that’s for sure. What sort of man thinks he can hold the entire world in contempt by trying to pull the wool over their eyes in such important matters?
One thing is for sure – I do not trust Cardinal Vincent Nichols. And from reading the biased results of his cherry-picked pseudo-survey, they way he slapped down the 500 priests asking for a “clear and firm proclamation” of the Church’s teaching on marriage, and his involvement and support of the Soho/Farm Street LGBT Masses, I certainly know this man has no interest whatsoever in upholding the Catholic view of marriage and family. But he is obviously very interested in forwarding his own career.
According to reports from the C9 group (the key cardinal advisers to Pope Francis on curial reform) there’s going to be a new Congregation for Laity, Family and Life. I wonder who might be put in charge of it as new prefect? Someone who might suit the White House/Whitehall pro LGBT axis?
I’m sure the Vatican Mafia would like to think so. Let’s hope and pray not.