CBCP surveys Filipinos on contraception, gay unions

Paterno Esmaquel II
Filipinos can fill out the survey online, and make their voices heard at the Vatican

VATICAN'S REQUEST. To prepare for a rare meeting set by Pope Francis in 2014, the Vatican requests bishops, including the CBCP, to survey their flock on the family. File photo by Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Heeding a request from the Vatican, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) began to survey Filipinos on family issues, including contraception and gay unions, for a worldwide meeting on the family in 2014.

In a statement, the CBCP said its flock can “fill out a survey form that was released by the Vatican” to prepare for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Pastoral Challenges of the Family, a rare meeting set by Pope Francis from Oct 5 to 19, 2014.

Filipinos can access this survey online.

Led by its new president, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the CBCP said it will “synthesize the responses and transmit them to the Vatican.”

“The Philippine bishops are giving an arena for the Catholic laity to be heard in the Church. This is one of the first initiatives to give voice to the Catholic laity. The bishops choose to listen to the laity,” the CBCP said in the statement posted on Villegas’ Facebook page.

CBCP seeks suggestions

The survey offers this premise: “For Catholics, a man and a woman united in marriage for life, together with their children, form a family. When parents raise and educate their children, they fulfill their vocation of working with God to protect creation and grow the human family.”

It then proceeds to ask questions such as the following: 

  • On family planning: “Is this plan of God for the family widely known and accepted? Or is it rejected? Why?”

  • On live-in relationships or divorce: “How can the Church help couples (and their children) who find themselves” in live-in relationships or situations of divorce?

  • On gay unions and adoption by gay couples: “Do you see these situations as problematic? Why? … How can the Church help those who find themselves in these situations?”

  • “Catholic parents consider children as gifts from God. Parents, therefore, discern whether or not God wishes to entrust more children to them. They only use natural methods. They avoid unnatural or artificial methods. And they absolutely reject abortion. Are many (or few) aware of this beautiful and positive attitude to children?”

  • “What obstacles, if any, do you experience” in deepening your relationship with Jesus?

  • “What other challenges to the Christian family do you see?”

  • “What are your suggestions?” 

The Vatican requested bishops around the world, including the CBCP, to disseminate this survey in November. (READ: Vatican surveys flock on divorce, gay unions.)

The survey is not expected to overturn Catholic doctrine, but instead will focus on pastoral care – a priority of the pontiff whom Vatican analyst John Allen calls the “Pope of Mercy.” (READ: Pope to PH: Don’t get tired of mercy.)

‘Not a democracy’ but…

The Church’s move is “surprising,” popular Jesuit author Fr James Martin wrote in a commentary on America  magazine.

Martin said the survey reminded him of violent reactions to getting the sensus fidelium, or “the sense of the faithful,” over the years. He said “a few people would protest, ‘But the Church is not a democracy! And we don’t do polls!” 

Martin said: “Finally, it’s a sign, in case we needed to be reminded, that the Holy Spirit is at work in everybody. From the Pope, to the local bishop, to your pastor, to the sister teaching in your school, to the director of religious education at your parish, to the mother of 3, to the man who holds out the collection basket on Sundays, to the college student struggling with her faith, to the fellow who cleans the church bathrooms, to the Catholic baptized just last Easter.”

For the CBCP, the survey fits well with the Church’s Year of the Laity in 2014.

The site on which the survey form is posted – www.choosetobebrave.org – is devoted to the Year of the Laity.

Explaining this year-long event, Villegas in a pastoral exhortation urged Catholics “to stand up for Jesus not only in religious activities but in your private and public life.” (READ: New CBCP head: ‘Politics is business.’)

He said on behalf of the CBCP: “Do not be afraid to be identified as Catholic Christians. You have been called to be saints; you are sent forth as heroes. Take courage. Choose to be brave!” – Rappler.com

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.