More than 2,800 respond to family life questionnaire

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Posted: Dec. 13, 2013

Diocese of Pittsburgh

 More than 2,800 people responded to a Vatican questionnaire on the diocesan website and in the Pittsburgh Catholic, offering thoughtful reflections on the family.

 Each question required an essay response, and many people wrote heartfelt accounts of their own experiences, both joyous and painful. Several shared hopes for how the church might improve pastoral care to families.

 "The responses are very honest and insightful," Bishop David Zubik said. "I am deeply grateful for the time and thoughtfulness of everyone who took the time to answer the survey. So many people provided excellent suggestions on how we might share our teaching on marriage and the family more effectively and more pastorally. I am proud to share the thoughts of the clergy and faithful of the Diocese of Pittsburgh with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, who will forward them on to the Vatican in preparation for the October Synod of Bishops on Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization."

 Normally, preparatory questionnaires for Vatican synods are sent to the world's bishops, but Pope Francis asked them to engage in widespread consultation. Bishop Zubik chose to do that by offering everyone an opportunity to respond.

The questionnaire wasn't an opinion poll on church teaching. It was designed to elicit ideas and experiences that the bishops of the synod can draw on in their discussions. The topics ranged from whether families pray together to whether people understand church teaching on natural family planning and same-sex unions.

 The USCCB will summarize all the responses nationwide and send that report to the Vatican. Results from the Diocese of Pittsburgh will be analyzed locally to assist the church with its ministry to families.

 A total of 2,811 people responded, nearly all of them online. About 63 percent were women and 37 percent were men. The largest age group was 51-65, with 1,065 individuals or 38 percent of the total. The next largest age groups were almost evenly split between the 23 percent ages 36-50 and 22 percent ages 66-80. Two percent of respondents were younger than 21, and another 2 percent were older than 80. Young adults ages 21-35 accounted for 13 percent.

 While 94 percent of respondents indicated they are Catholic, 101 self-described former Catholics and 68 people who had never been Catholic sent responses. Most respondents were active parishioners, with 17 percent attending daily Mass and 68 percent attending every Sunday. Just under 5 percent said they went to Mass monthly, 2 percent said they went twice a year, 5 percent said they went rarely and 3 percent said they never attended.

 Their marital status varied widely, with just under 49 percent married in the church. Another 17 percent were married outside the church. Four percent were widowed, 4 percent divorced, and 1 percent separated. Another 1 percent were engaged.

 Single laypeople accounted for 13 percent, while priests, deacons, brothers and sisters totaled 8 percent.

 The 30 individuals in same-sex unions and 40 who were single but cohabitating each provided about 1 percent of the responses. Fourteen respondents said their marital status was something other than any of the categories listed.

 "Families are called the domestic church because Christ is present in them. Many respondents offered thoughtful suggestions on how the church might assist families to realize their special vocation to be a sacred place of encounter with Christ and how the church can help families to be witnesses of  our triune God, who is a relationship of three persons in love," said Helene Paharik, associate general secretary, who organized the questionnaire project.

 "Several respondents shared ideas on how God's mercy may be more effectively proclaimed to separated couples and divorced persons. Others noted that more education is needed on the gift of sexuality. Almost all remarked on the threats to family life posed by modern society and the need for profound compassion in our pastoral care to all persons," she said.

 "These prayerful and thoughtful responses will certainly help the universal and local Catholic community to build the domestic church in faith, hope and especially love. I am inspired by what the Church of Pittsburgh had to say on this topic that is so important to us all."