|All the surveys from real families are not going to change this picture. The decision makers will still be entirely celibate males without families---at least ones they claim in public.|
The Catholic blogosphere is all a buzz with the Vatican's decision to seek input from the wider Church about issue pertaining to the family. The bishops of England and Wales got right on it and put a translation of the pertinent questions on the internet. You can read that here. The USCCB on the other hand, is apparently going to conduct business as usual and have Carl Anderson of the KofC fill out the survey, and maybe Bill Donahue, and submit that to the Vatican as representative of all American Catholics. Actually, this is more likely to be the USCCB response a long as Cardinal Dolan still runs the show. He can truthfully say he consulted the laity and feel good about himself. Talent with mental reservation has always been a bishop's best friend on his way to the red. Tim has talent.
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good have posted their own version, which is not exactly the version posted by the bishops of England and Wales. Some would say it's sort of slanted, but in it's favor, it is a lot shorter. It does have the added bonus of allowing some other American Catholics to add their own input. I was going to fill out the survey posted by the UK bishops and then I actually read it. It's not like I had real trouble with the Latin, it's that I couldn't believe the assumptions underlying the questions. But God is good, and over at Questions from a Ewe, Ewe has ruminated on the verbiage and found the real questions behind the verbiage.
I personally don't know how much good it will do to answer any of the questions in any of the surveys. It's hard for me to imagine bishops don't have some clue as to what their sheep actually think about these questions. From a US perspective there are a number of reasons people are not getting married in the Church. First it's an expensive proposition with a whole lot of road blocks in the way, such as proving you are a contributing member to a parish, or your spouse is, or some part of the family is. Second the pre Cana process is off putting to couples precisely because of the questions about Humanae Vitae and having children and generally putting the Church in the middle of a young couples most intimate lives. Seriously, that's what in-laws are for. Third, lots of young adults are carrying a lot of college and university debt and taking on the added responsibility of raising children and creating a home is hard. Not too mention all the young adults who are underemployed or have no job security. I don't know that the Church's teachings on marriage are all that helpful with some of these more mundane practical issues.
As to gay marriage, Ewe has this one right. What can the Church do about gays and gay marriages when our bishops have spent the last couple decades more or less defining gays as the 'spawn of satan'. Not much more than secretly minister to them in an alley behind the Church. The damage done by the Church with it's anti gay marriage campaign is going to take a whole lot more to heal than some questions in a survey. To be honest, I'm not even sure why these questions on gay marriage and adoption are even in the survey. Unless it's to make closeted gay priests feel better about the clerical closet.
I suppose the question that really blew me away is the one about what can the Church do to foster an increase in births--outside of insisting on NFP. I have to think this is all about replenishing both pews and vocations. This would be the tried and true traditional way of assuring another generation of Catholics and vocations, and it's a lot more sure process than this evangelizing stuff the current Pope is harping on. Plus Catholic families having more children than they can raise insures they are too busy to notice things like bishops building mansions as testimonials to their own egos. I can definitely see where the Vatican is vested in this concept. I'm just not so sure about those Catholic babies coming from the first world since each first world baby takes up three or more times the resources of a baby from the developing world--at least in the UK and the US. Might be more efficient for the planet and global Catholicism to keep the developing world from getting their hands on birth control. The West is lost on that issue. Come to think of it, if the Philippines is any example, so is most of the developing world.
The changes in culture which have resulted in these issues will not be rolled back. It seems to me the Church needs take a look at their own teachings which have contributed to this 'secularization' in cultures. One thing that could happen is to stop the promotion of a double standard in holiness between sexually active lay couples and celibate virginal religious. The Vatican might want to consider canonizing a couple of the multitude of married couples who were truly heroic in raising their families while supporting the Church. I personally can think of more than a couple. Stop with the virginal founders of religious orders the average pew sitter has never heard of, and please, don't promote the kind of married couples who lived 'as brother and sister' when their procreative years were over.
Look around you and process the fact people are living longer and decisions made in the heat of youth may not last into one's forties or fifties. Life keeps on happening and it keeps on changing people. It doesn't stop at confirmation or even at an altar rail on a wedding day. People don't marry with the intent to divorce any more than people choose gay. Concepts that might have worked when the life of an individual was short and pretty much set at birth, no longer work in a culture which is changing as rapidly as it is in the twenty first century and whose people lives are not infrequently lasting a century. Stop trying to put old wine into new wineskins.
And last, but not least, open the priesthood to everyone. Quit closing parishes or importing priests from hither and yon. This sends the very strong message that the priesthood is more important than the Message. That's not a particularly good message to send, and expecting more babies from strapped families isn't the answer to the vocations shortage.