The Holy Father announced that from October 5-19, 2014, a global meeting, or synod, of Catholic bishops will be held in Rome. The theme for this Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is: “Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.” In anticipation of the 2014 Synod, Pope Francis desires to know more about the state of marriage and the family in the Church.
In our country, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) instructed the bishops of the United States to determine the most useful and reasonable manner of consultation to assist him in gathering data and preparing reports for individual dioceses. Results from each local Church survey are to be shared with the USCCB and will then be incorporated into a document that will be forwarded on to the Vatican for use at the Extraordinary Synod in October 2014.
In mid-November Bishop Bambera expressed his desire and intention to ensure that the Diocese of Scranton participates in this extraordinary process. A general invitation was published here and in the Diocesan newspaper, inviting all of the faithful to prayerfully and purposefully consider the questions prepared by the Vatican and to complete the on-line survey. Bishop Bambera took this consultation into account in preparing his responses which were submitted, per instruction, by the end of December.
This summary provides a glimpse of the interest level and active participation by persons in our church, with the realization that this is a part played locally in a global and long-term ongoing conversation.
Survey Participant Statistical Summary
- The Diocese of Scranton disseminated the Synod Preparatory Document to the general membership of its 120 parishes located in its 11 counties in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania. It did so via the diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Light and the diocesan website, along with direct communications to all pastors.
- 890 individuals responded to the survey document, along with group consultations which included the members of the diocesan Presbyteral Council, Regional Parish Service Teams, and parish discussion groups.
- Responses to the survey document came from all 11 counties of the Diocese of Scranton, representing 100 of its 120 parishes. There were also individual responses from 25 sites located outside of the Diocese of Scranton and beyond Pennsylvania.
- The age spectrum for respondents spanned from 15 to 89 years of age, with the largest number of participants in the age groups of 45 to 75 years.
- The gender split was fairly equal with the final breakdown showing: Male – 43%; Female – 55%; and 2% choosing not to identify.
- 75% of those choosing to interact with the survey document identified themselves as members of the lay faithful. 40% also identified themselves as parents. 11% of the total number of respondents identified themselves as teachers/catechists. And 5% named themselves as members of a “lay association.”
- Respondents were also asked to indicate their marital status. While 63% chose to identify themselves as “Married within the Catholic Church, another 22.5% indicated that they were “Never married.” Of those who elected to answer this item, 6.5% indicated that they were “Separated/Divorced.” A significant category which presented itself in the open-ended responses to this item was “Widowed,” while a few of the respondents indicated “Gay marriage.”
- The overall tone of the survey document responses expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the exercise, although many noted a degree of frustration because of the difficulty of some of the questions. One concluding comment captured the sentiments of many respondents: “I took this survey because I was encouraged that the Church was interested in my opinion and insight. I admire the Church’s desire to undertake such a huge endeavor.”