Pope Francis has urged members of the Catholic church to fill out surveys on the Vatican’s teaching of “modern” topics, including same-sex sexual relationships, in order to gauge whether what the church preaches is still practical in today’s society.
The survey, launched earlier this month, asks questions on issues such as abortion, contraception, communion for the divorced, and same-sex sexual relationships.
The Independent reports that gathered feedback will be used to gauge the divisions between Church teachings and the beliefs and behaviours of its followers.
One of the questions in the survey asks how respondents how they feel on gay and lesbian Catholics having “intimate sexual relationships.”
It also asks: “In those cases where the Church’s teaching is known, is it accepted fully or are there difficulties in putting it into practice? If so, what are they?”
In total there are 46 questions. Responses gathered from the surveys will be used to help form new Vatican guidance for Church-goers, to be published in 2015.
The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, told BBC Breakfast that Catholics should be prepared to “listen” to arguments on same-sex marriage, arguing that “listening never did us any harm”.
He added: “On the one hand we must work to follow Christ, but on the other hand we have to face all of the ambitions of modern living.”
In a separate YouGov survey carried out by Professor Linda Woodhead for the Westminster Faith Debates this year, it was found that over half of Catholics under 50 now say that “same-sex marriage is right.”
The deadline for handing in the Vatican surveys is 30 November.
Last week, US President Barack Obama said he had been “hugely impressed” by Pope Francis’ recent remarks admitting the Roman Catholic Church was “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception.
“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” Pope Francis told La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal in September. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church are not all equivalent. The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,” he said. “We have to find a new balance,” adding, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
Speaking to reporters in July during a plane journey back to the Vatican following his trip to Brazil, Pope Francis said that gay people should not be judged or marginalised and should be integrated into society.
The comments suggested the beginnings of a new era in civility by the Vatican on the issue of same-sex relationships – if not in doctrinal position – Pope Francis also referred to the Catholic Church’s universal Catechism, which states that while being gay is not sinful, homosexual acts are.