JOURNEYING TOGETHER SURVEY

Organized by the INDIAN CATHOLIC FORUM (ICF) over a period of three months

SALIENT FINDINGS:

  1. Communion – Yes; Confession – Not so
  2. Scepticism over Synod outcome
  3. Vatican II teachings not implemented
  4. Adult catechesis and youth preparation below par
  5. Make Parish Councils/ Finance Committees mandatory
  6. Community should be involved in the selection/ election of bishops who should be transferred every ten years
  7. Right to Information (RTI), Grievance Redressal System/ Arbitration Boards and automated recording/ acknowledgement of correspondence should be implemented
  8. Dalit Christians should get SC facilities
  9. Women who procure an abortion should not be automatically ex-communicated
  10. Divorced and remarried Catholics (DARCs) should be permitted to receive Communion
  11. Clericalism is a scourge in the Church
  12. Synod findings should be translated into law
  13. Personal example of Pope Francis has had little impact on the clergy/ hierarchy

 INTRODUCTION: The ICF is an informal collective of Indian Catholics who are concerned about the renewal and reform of the Catholic Church, as envisioned by Vatican II. In preparation for the Synod on Synodality a Questionnaire was prepared after due consultation with, and feedback from, its Core Committee Members.

 QUESTIONNAIRE: It was an online one using Google Forms. Responses were automatically collated thereby maintaining total confidentiality, so necessary for freedom of expression, as stipulated in the Synod’s Preparatory Document issued by its Secretariat in the Vatican.

 The Questionnaire was divided into three major parts – Respondent’s Profile, Respondent’s Value System and then the actual Questionnaire. These questions had to be answered on a scale of 0 - 5, with the option of also being “unable to answer”. This ensured a scientific and objective approach, devoid of any pressure, partiality or binary responses. The questions and answers follow, together with our preliminary observations (in red). There were 145 respondents. Some persons found the Questionnaire too complex to answer even though every attempt was made to make it user friendly.

SURVEY FORM
PART I

A. Respondent’s Profile

  1. Gender: * Female - 38% * Male - 62% * Third - Nil
  2. Age: * 18-21 – 1.4% * 22-35 – 10.3% * 36-50 – 22.8% * 51+ 65.5%
  3. Education: * Undergraduate – 11.7% * Graduate – 23.4% * Post Graduate or equivalent – 64.8%
  4. Family’s Monthly Income (for laypersons only): * Below Rs 10,000/- 8% * 10,001/- - 25,000/- 16% * 25001/- - 50,000/- 25% * 50,001/- - 1,00,000/- 21% * 1,00,000/- + 31%
  5. Ecclesiastical Status: * Layperson – 74% * Clergy – 12% * Religious – 18% * Bishop - One * Married Deacon - Nil * Seminarian - Two
  6. Marital Status (for laypersons only): * Single - 18% * Married – 73% * Divorced - Nil * Separated - Negligible * Annulled - Nil * Remarried - Negligible * Spouse deceased – 7%
  7. Spouse (for married persons only): * Catholic – 94% * Non-Catholic Christian 3% * Non-Christian – 3 %
  8. Rite: * Latin – 79% * Syro-Malabar – 11% * Syro-Malankara - Nil * Don’t know – 10%

 From the above one would have to admit that the respondents are not fully reflective of the Catholic community in India. Firstly, the Questionnaire was online and in English, limiting its reach. Secondly, it is obvious that the respondents are a somewhat elite section of the community, going by their educational qualifications and financial status. Thirdly, though the laity constitutes more than 99% of the community they are only 74% of the respondents. With this caveat let us examine the findings.

 B. Value/ Belief System

  1. Do you attend the Sunday liturgy (Eucharistic celebration): * Regularly – 83% * Sometimes – 12% * Rarely – 3% *Stopped attending – 2%
  2. At Mass do you receive the Holy Eucharist (Communion): *Always – 94% * Sometimes – 5% * Rarely – 1%* Never - Nil
  3. Do you approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession): * Regularly – 29% * Sometimes – 38% * Annually – 13% * No longer – 20%
  4. Do you believe in the Sacrament of Matrimony as an eternal and exclusive bond: * Yes - 87% * No – 4% * Not sure – 9%
  5. Do you believe that the non-baptised will go to hell: * Yes – 7% * No – 72% * Hope not – 21%
  6. Why do you attend Sunday Mass: * Love of God and Neighbour – 89% * Force of habit – 7% * For social interaction – 10% * Fear of going to Hell – 2% (some may have exercised multiple options)
  7. How often do you pray: * Daily - 92% * Sometimes – 8% * In time of need or crisis – 5% * Never - Nil
  8. How often do you read/ meditate on the Holy Bible: * Daily – 54% * Occasionally – 33% * Rarely – 13% * Never – 2%
  9. Do you exercise your franchise in various elections: * Always – 72% * Sometimes – 18% * Disgusted with politicians 4% * Never 6%
  10. Did you play the Good Samaritan during the recent Covid crisis: * Yes – 75% * No – 16% * Was incapacitated – 3% * Was afraid – 6%
  11. When going shopping do you take along a carry bag to curtail the use of plastic and protect the environment?* Yes 85% * No 15%

 A major takeaway is that while 83% attend the Sunday liturgy regularly, and 94% always receive Communion, only 29% regularly go for Confession and a significant 20% have stopped the practice. The Value System indicates that the respondents are responsible citizens.

 PART II – QUESTIONNAIRE

(These questions were answered on a scale of 0 to 5 depending on the level of agreement. Respondents could also exercise the “Unable to answer” option. We are giving the MEAN of all the answers excluding the “Unable to answer”. The Questionnaire was divided into 8 sections with a total of 65 questions having 6 options each, totalling 390. It is therefore understandable that some chose not to answer. We are grateful to those that did, thereby showing their commitment to the Church. On a scale of 0 – 5 the Mean is 2.5, but the collation shows that the responses are often at variance from the Mean)

 C. SYNODAL

  1. What is your awareness level of the Synod on Synodality 2021-23? Mean – 2.9, Unable 8%
  2. Are you satisfied with the preparations for the Synod in your parish/ diocese? – Mean - 1.9, Unable 24%
  3. Do you think that your voice will be heard and concerns expressed in the Synod? Mean – 2.0 Unable 15%

 Despite the awareness level the preparations for the Synod are below par, with a degree of scepticism about its eventual outcome.

 D. SPIRITUAL/ CATECHETICAL

  1. To what extent are you satisfied with the renewal/ reform of the Catholic Church as envisioned by Vatican II? Mean – 2.3 Unable 8%
  2. What is your awareness level of Vatican II Documents (1962-65), Code of Canon Law (1983/1990) and Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992)? Mean – 2.5 Unable 7%
  3. In the 56 years that have elapsed since Vatican II you may have heard 56x52=2912 Sunday sermons. How often have you heard Vatican II teachings referred to in these sermons? Mean – 1.3 Unable 10%
  4. To what extent are you satisfied with faith formation/ adult catechesis after Confirmation classes ended? Mean – 1.8 Unable 9%
  5. To what extent are you satisfied with remote or immediate preparation for marriage? Mean 2.4 Unable 11%
  6. Vatican II talks of a fraternal (equal) relationship between clergy and laity who are inter-dependent on each other. To what extent has this been achieved? Mean- 1.6 Unable 8%
  7. Does the church have an empathetic/ compassionate approach to inter-faith (mixed) marriages so common in a multi-religious country like ours? Mean – 2.2 Unable 8%

 The Church has failed to implement the teachings of Vatican II and adult catechesis is below par

 E. PARISH LEVEL ISSUES

  1. Are you satisfied with the functioning of parish councils/ finance committees, if at all they exist in your parish? Mean - 2.0 Unable 7%
  2. As per Canon Law such bodies are optional and only advisory in nature. Should they be made mandatory with decision making powers? Mean – 3.6 Unable 10%
  3. To what extent do parish priests respond to concerns/ grievances expressed by the parishioners (Laity)? Mean 2.3 Unable 6%
  4. Do Catholic children easily get admission to educational institutions run by the parish/ diocese? Mean – 2.9 Unable 5%
  5. Do they easily get admission to educational institutions run by religious congregations? Mean – 2.6 Unable 5%
  6. Is it easy for economically weak students to get fees or other concessions in such institutions? Mean - 2.4 Unable 6%
  7. Do qualified Catholics get preferential opportunities for jobs in such institutions? Mean - 2.4 Unable 11%
  8. Are Catholic hospitals/ health services easily accessible to economically weak Catholics? Mean – 2.2 Unable 16%
  9. Do such Catholics get the benefit of social welfare schemes run by Catholic institutions/ NGOs? Mean – 2.2 Unable 16%
  10. To what extent do affluent Catholics help their disadvantaged brethren with jobs, scholarships, material relief etc? Mean – 2.3 Unable 11%
  11. To what extent do women find a place of dignity and authority in the church? Mean - 2.5% Unable 8%
  12. To what extent are the youth prepared for the challenges of living their faith in the modern world? Mean - 1.9 Unable 6%
  13. How acute is the problem of finding suitable matrimonial alliances within the community? Mean – 2.8 Unable 11%

 The functioning of Parish Councils/ Finance Committees is below par. They should be made mandatory. Despite a huge investment of the institutional church in education the experience of the community is just about par. Health and welfare services are below par. The affluent among the community also need to become more responsive to their less fortunate brethren

 F. DIOCESAN LEVEL

  1. To what extent is a bishop seen as a loving and caring elder? Mean - 2.4 Unable 6%
  2. What is the extent of lay involvement in the Diocesan Pastoral Council/ Finance Committee? Mean – 1.8 Unable 12%
  3. To what extent are the people consulted in pastoral/ financial/ institutional planning in the diocese? Mean – 1.3 Unable 15%
  4. Do bishops respond to correspondence addressed to them? Mean – 2.1 Unable 26%
  5. Is the bishop seen more as a ceremonial head at Confirmation, Feast Days, school concerts etc? Mean – 3.7 Unable 9%
  6. Should the people be directly involved in the selection/ election process of bishops? Mean – 3.7 Unable 11%
  7. Should bishops be transferred every ten years? Mean – 3.9 Unable 13%
  8. Considering the complexities of modern life should there be a minimum age (say 21) for aspirants to the priesthood/ religious life, as against the current easy practice of “catch them young and innocent”? Mean – 3.7 Unable 5%
  9. Should the canonical norm of seeking dispensation from the bishop for an inter-church/ inter-faith marriage be abolished? Mean 3.1 Unable 13%

 As we go up the ladder the satisfaction levels go down. A bishop is seen as a ceremonial head, not a pastor. People should be involved in the selection/ election of bishops and they should be transferable. “Dispensation” for mixed marriages needs to be reconsidered.

 G. NATIONAL LEVEL

  1. Is the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) seen as truly representative of the concerns of Catholics in India? Mean – 2.1 Unable 18%
  2. Is the Apostolic Nunciature seen as the voice and presence of the Pope in India? Mean – 2.0 Unable 19%
  3. Does the Nunciature respond to correspondence addressed to it? Mean – 1.4 Unable 46%
  4. Should the church have a Right to Information (RTI) system to improve accountability and transparency? Mean 4.1 Unable 2%
  5. Should there be a Grievance Redressal system / Arbitration Boards at all levels of the church? Mean - 4.4 Unable 2%
  6. Should there be an automated computerised system of recording correspondence/ grievance redressal, with a reference number, as in Customer Care/ Govt portals? Mean - 4.3 Unable 7%
  7. How effective is the church in the print/ electronic media when it comes to sensitive issues like conversions and legislation to curb the same? Mean – 1.9 Unable 10%

 The CBCI and Nunciature fair poorly. There is a greater need for accountability and transparency through the RTI, grievance cells etc. The Media Cells don’t seem to be effective. In this section respondents have expressed themselves very clearly.

 H. SOCIAL ISSUES

  1. To what degree do Dalit Christians (of SC origin) find acceptance in the church? Mean – 2.8 Unable 19%
  2. To what degree do tribal (ST) Christians find acceptance in the church? Mean – 3.1 Unable 15%
  3. Do Dalit Christians experience discrimination, like other Dalits, in society in general? Mean 3.1 Unable 21%
  4. Should Dalit Christians and Muslims get SC facilities on par with Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Dalits? Mean – 4.4 Unable 11%
  5. As a community do we have a healthy relationship with members of other religions? Mean – 3.4 Unable 1%
  6. Do we have a healthy relationship with members of other Sister Churches (denominations)? Mean – 2.9 Unable 9%
  7. Do we use plastic/ thermocole disposables at our events? Mean – 3.4 Unable 8%
  8. Do we make collective efforts to grow more trees or to protect the environment? Mean 2.6 Unable 9%
  9. Have we as a community adapted to the local culture/ language in our liturgy and way of life? Mean 3.3 Unable 2%
  10. Are we, as a community, active in politics, trade unions, civic and consumer affairs and human rights? Mean – 1.9 Unable 6%

 No major surprises in this section. They follow a predictable pattern that nevertheless merit attention

 I. MORAL/ETHICAL ISSUES

  1. Is the laity consulted on moral issues that affect it: like marriage, divorce, annulment, family planning, sexual ethics etc? Mean – 1.3 Unable 10%
  2. Do you agree with the official teaching of the church that all forms of artificial contraception are wrong and couples should only follow Natural Family Planning (NFP)? Mean – 2.5 Unable 9%
  3. Does the church provide facilities and scientific guidance for NFP? Mean 1.6 Unable 17%
  4. As per Canon Law, a woman who procures an abortion, regardless of the circumstances, incurs an automatic ex-communication. Do you agree with this? Mean – 1.4 Unable 8%
  5. Should Divorced and Remarried Catholics (DARCs) be treated as outcastes, or be admitted to Holy Communion after due catechesis? Mean - 4.4 Unable 8%

 The laity definitely feels let down that it is not consulted in this crucial area that directly affects it. There is strong disagreement with the automatic ex-communication of women who procure an abortion, and clear support for DARCs to be admitted to Communion. The hierarchical church needs to sit up and take note of these divergent opinions.

 J. UNIVERSAL ISSUES

  1. The word Catholic means “universal”. Has the church become more “Roman” (Europeanised) than catholic (universal in culture and governance)? Mean – 3.4 Unable 9%
  2. Should there be adequate lay representation at all levels of the synodal process – parish, diocese, national, continental and universal? Mean – 4.5 Unable 3%
  3. Has people’s faith in the Church been adversely affected by clerical sexual abuse and paedophilia (over 216,000 cases reported in France alone between 1950 and the present time; over 4000 in the USA in 2019-20)? Mean – 4.0 Unable 8%
  4. Do you agree with Pope Francis’ oft repeated statement that “clericalism” (complete domination by the clergy) is the biggest scourge in the church? Mean – 4.5 Unable 7%
  5. Pope Francis lives in a two room apartment in St Martha’s Hostel, not in the Vatican He uses a Fiat 500 hatchback (Regn No SCV 1) and has said that it was a crime for priests and nuns to be moving around in the latest cars. He advocated cycling. To what extent has the hierarchy/ clergy/ religious followed his example and directions? Mean – 1.4 Unable 8%
  6. Pope Francis also asked religious leaders to have the smell of the sheep (obviously not an expensive perfume)! To what extent has this happened on the ground? Mean 1.4 Unable 13%
  7. Is it adequate redressal to “transfer” bishops and priests involved in major financial misappropriation, sexual abuse or moral turpitude? Mean – 1.8 Unable 8%
  8. Should the findings of this Synod be translated into law? Mean – 4.1 Unable 17%
  9. Should this Synod lead to the convening of Vatican III (for Vatican II 2500 bishops plus experts deliberated for three years; now there are close to 5500 bishops)? Mean – 3.1 Unable 16%
  10. Should women be ordained to the priesthood? Mean – 3.1 Unable 11%
  11. Should the church revert to the early Christian practice of having married clergy, beginning with St Peter himself, the first pope? Mean – 2.8 Unable 6%
  12. Should we learn universality from the United Nations? It has its headquarters in New York, but various departments like UNESCO/UNICEF are in different countries. In like manner should various Vatican Congregational offices like Social Justice, Ecumenism, and Religious Dialogue be relocated to other countries to make the church more universal? Mean 4.1 Unable 8%

 Here again opinions are firmer. The laity should have a strong presence in the Synod; clerical sexual abuse and clericalism have had a severe negative impact on the church; on the other hand the charismatic Pope Francis has had little or no impact on those who should have been the first to emulate his exemplary lifestyle; the natural consequence of the Synod on Synodality is that its findings be translated into law and Vatican III should be convened just as Vatican II was a watershed moment in the 2000 year history of the church.

 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Our sincere gratitude to all the respondents, particularly the lone bishop. Special thanks to Nelvin Johnny of Baroda who formatted the Questionnaire and prepared the findings in Pie Chart form. The same is available on request from chhotebhai, ICF Convenor at 9415130822 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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