The Vatican is conducting a worldwide survey on how Catholics interpret social issues such as same-sex marriage, gay relationships and birth control.
Pope Francis wants the Vatican to receive the results ahead of a Vatican synod on the family, planned for October 2014.
According to Canon Law, an “extraordinary general session” of the synod is held to “deal with matters which require a speedy solution,” suggesting Pope Francis may be seeking to move the Church forward on social issues.
In September, Pope Francis said, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time”, and that the Church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception.
The extraordinary synod will discuss “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelisation,” and will be only the third such synod since 1965 when synods were reinstated by Pope Paul VI.
The last was held by Pope John Paul II in 1981.
The survey was sent last month to the presidents of the world’s individual bishops’ conferences.
Questions include, “Whether cohabitation, the problem of divorce and remarriage, and same-sex marriages are a ‘pastoral reality’” for churches, and: “What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live these types of [same-sex] union?”
Other issues specifically identified in the document as “requiring the Church’s attention and pastoral care” include: “Mixed or interreligious marriages; single-parent families; polygamy; A culture of non-commitment and a presumption that the marriage bond can be temporary”, and also “Forms of feminism hostile to the Church”.