2015 Synod Questionnaire - theological analysis and debate

On this page, you will find a breakdown of questions included in the preparatory document (the Lineamenta) for the 2015 Synod, prepared by Professor Joseph Selling, Moral Theology (Emeritus), KU Leuven. We share Professor Selling's analysis and reflection here as a resource for those interested in a theological exploration of the issues raised by the questionnaire, including sometimes challenging questions that he poses about its assumptions and perspectives.

All comments and reflections published on this website reflect the views of individual contributors and not of the Network as a whole.


Questions related to the Final ‘Relatio’ of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family in preparation for the work of the 2015 Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family

A Reflection prepared by 
Emeritus Professor Joseph A. Selling, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Shortly after the close of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, it was decided that the report for that meeting would be used as the preparatory document for the Ordinary Synod that would take place in October 2015. To that document were added 46 questions which were aimed at bringing to light important aspects of all the topics that had been discussed in the first meeting. It is specifically stated in the preface that these questions are “aimed at knowing how the document is received and to generate an in-depth examination of the work initiated during the Extraordinary Assembly”. It is further written in the introduction to the questions themselves that they are “intended to assist the bishops’ conferences in their reflection, and to avoid … a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine”.

It has frequently been said by a number of bishops that while they can discuss the pastoral care of the faithful, this does not imply that any change in doctrine is taking place. In light of this, the last sentence above is of particular interest. For instance, while the preparatory documents for the 2014 Synod placed a relatively heavy emphasis upon the ‘natural law’, this document does not even mention the concept of natural law. In that sense, the document resembles more closely the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” (Gaudium et spes, 1965), one of the final documents of the Second Vatican Council that treats ‘marriage and the family’ without any mention of natural law, than it does Humanae Vitae (1968, on the regulation of fertility, by Paul VI) or Familiaris Consortio (1980, on the family, by John Paul II), both of which strongly rely upon the concept of natural law to substantiate their ethical conclusions.

The final sentence of the preface for this document states that, “the episcopal conferences are asked to choose a suitable manner of involving all components of the particular churches and academic institutions, organizations, lay movements and other ecclesial associations”. We can take this as a genuine warrant for the involvement of each and every member of the faithful in these discussions and therefore encourage as many people as possible to respond to the questions posed in this preparatory document. We see the present endeavor as one of service to the bishops and to the church as a whole. For, neither do the bishops have the resources for reaching every member of the faithful through official channels, nor do they have readily available to them the rich diversity of experience that is shared by the members of the faithful who have not embraced a life of celibacy.

We strongly encourage you to respond to as many of the questions aimed at guiding the work of the 2015 Synod as you see fit. You are not expected to respond to each and every question, but should limit yourself to those areas in which you have clear ideas about the subject matter. It is not necessary to respond to all the questions, and you may even choose to concentrate on only one area of this inquiry that you believe is of particular importance.

The document itself is divided into three parts, each of which have subdivisions. Part One has three sections, Part Two has five sections, and Part Three, on particular pastoral situations, has eight sections. The questions are also grouped according to each section. Thus, the first section of Part One is comprised of 4 numbered paragraphs (nr. 5-8) that give rise to four questions (nr. 1-4), the second section involves two paragraphs (nr. 9-10) that rive rise to a single question (nr. 5), and the third section involves a single paragraph (nr. 11) that gives rise to one question (nr. 6). We will deal with the questions according to their grouping with each section.

We will group the questions within the parameters of the sixteen sections. Each of these groupings will present the questions as stated in the document, followed by an explanation of the issues being discussed and, where necessary, a clarification of the terminology used. We will then attempt to render the meaning of the questions with a language that is more accessible for the average reader. Where appropriate, additional information will be provided to give background information or to help the reader comprehend what is being asked.

If you choose to respond to some or all of these questions, please do so in a brief, concise manner that will allow those who read your responses to know exactly what you wish to express. You can separate your responses to different questions by prefacing your remarks with the number(s) of the questions you are addressing, or you can cut and paste the questions themselves into your own document. When you have composed your responses, send it as an attachment to an e-mail to cathnetwork@gmail.com. At the top of your responses, please provide your name, e-mail address, and your location – either geographically or according to the (specific) name of the diocese to which you belong.

Besides sending your responses to us, we also encourage you to communicate with your local church (and diocese) by sending them a copy of what you have written. We further encourage you to tell other persons about this initiative and to speak with them about the issues being discussed. You may wish to compose responses as a group, in which case we would ask you to identify the number of persons in the group and how these persons are affiliated.

Please REMEMBER that this is an important opportunity for you to provide input to the leadership of the church before they enter into discussions together. If your own diocese does not solicit responses to these questions from individual persons, be assured that we will coordinate the responses that are sent to us, compile the responses given and report the results to officials for the Bishops’ synod. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will guide both the faithful and its leadership in gaining an insight to these important issues facing the church.

If you are submitting responses, it would be helpful if you would bear the following in mind:
  1. It would be helpful if you would supply us with a little information about yourself: your name and email address; your parish, diocese or other church-related affiliation; your personal status (married, single, divorced, cohabiting, clergy, religious orders, etc.), your age. All submissions will be published anonymously, and if you would prefer not to share any personal information, then all we ask for is your name and email address.
  2. Do not feel you have to answer every question. We are happy to receive submissions which respond to only one or a selection of  questions.
Lineamenta Questionnaire:

Please click on the links below to access the whole questionnaire or to access particular sections, each with a guide for reflection and consideration about how to approach the questions:

Synod Questionnaire
Questions 1 - 4
Question 5
Question 6
Questions 7 - 11
Questions 12 - 14
Questions 15 - 16
Questions 17 - 19
Questions 20 - 22
Questions 23 - 27 
Questions 28 - 29 
Questions 30 - 31
Questions 32 - 34
Questions 35 - 39
Question 40
Questions 41 - 44
Questions 45 - 46