Most US dioceses consult Catholics on family issues for fall synod

This story appears in the Synod on the Family feature series. View the full series.

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With little more than a month to go before reports are due in Rome, more than half of U.S. dioceses have asked Catholics in their regions for input for the upcoming ordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican in October.

A NCR investigation of websites and online publications for 33 Latin-rite archdioceses and 145 Latin-rite dioceses, conducted Thursday and Friday, found that roughly 52 percent of them (93) have begun to gather information in some capacity. For the remaining 85 dioceses, it was unclear how or if they were collecting responses within their borders.

Almost two-thirds of U.S. archdioceses (21) have collected information for the synod that will address areas related to contemporary marriage and family life, with 17 of them offering online surveys. For dioceses, about half (72) had sought out responses, with 48 of them using online forms.

A similar review of the two Eastern Rite Archeparchies and 15 Eastern Rite Eparchies that are members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops found no information about how to contribute to the October 2015 synod.

[See the chart below for a breakdown of each diocese.]

In 2013, Pope Francis initiated a two-year churchwide consultation on the family that included an extraordinary Synod of Bishops, which met at the Vatican in October 2014, and an ordinary Synod of Bishops, which will meet Oct. 4-25 at the Vatican and focus on the theme, "The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World."

In December, the Vatican sent the world's bishops' conferences the final report of the 2014 assembly and a list of 46 questions on a range of topics, including matters of marriage and sexuality. Those questions and the report make up a working document, known as the lineamenta, for the next Synod of Bishops. 

The U.S. bishops' conference staff, which will compile the U.S. report on these consultations and send it to the Vatican by April, have asked dioceses to submit reports to them no later than March 20.

So far, 18 dioceses have stopped collecting information. Another 11 will stop accepting submissions by the end of February.

When the synod opens Oct. 4, as many as six bishops overseeing dioceses could represent U.S. Catholics at the meetings, and two more are designated as alternates.

Of those eight, NCR found clear, public information about how six of them are gathering input in some fashion: Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky.; Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput; Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez; San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone (who is an alternate); Cardinals Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.; and Timothy Dolan of New York. Wuerl and Dolan are members of the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops.

It was unclear how Galveston-Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, an alternate, were gathering information in their respective archdioceses.

The Boston archdiocese -- whose Cardinal Sean O'Malley isn't a synod delegate but is a member of the pope's Council of Cardinals -- offered a six-question summary survey and a series of videos reviewing the various themes the synod will discuss. The archdiocese had five informational sessions on the synod, but historic snowfall led to the cancellation of two.

Other notable archdioceses without clear, online evidence of seeking parish-level input included Atlanta, Baltimore and Miami.

While some dioceses elected not to invite general participation, they explained how they would complete their report. In the Grand Rapids, Mich., diocese, for example, an announcement on its website stated the lineamenta questionnaire "has been provided to those in the diocese serving in roles involving pastoral care and leadership" and asked that they respond by March 4.

In its survey of diocesan websites, NCR checked each one's homepage, family life and/or marriage sections, press releases and diocesan publications since the beginning of the year, in addition to searching the sites for the term "synod."

Describing the 46-item lineamenta -- longer than last year's 39-item questionnaire -- as "a lengthy series of questions," the Charlotte, N.C., diocese suggested parishioners allot two hours to read the document and complete the essay-style online survey.

Some dioceses, such as Denver; Baton Rouge, La.; Crookston, Minn.; and Oakland, Calif., have offered a scaled-down version of the 46 questions. The Juneau, Alaska, diocese provided an "annotated" version, adding context and explanations to each question. The St. Louis archdiocese added similar "in other words" explanations to accompany several of the questions. The diocese of Trenton, N.J., offered both the full survey and a simplified 11-question version.

As in Trenton, the other four New Jersey dioceses will carry out Pope Francis' direction for further dialogue by inviting laity to attend listening sessions. The diocese of Metuchen, N.J., will hold two listening sessions March 4 in English and Spanish, while the archdiocese of Newark will offer nine "Listen and Discuss" sessions, including three in Spanish.

Listening sessions were the preferred method of input in Tucson, Ariz., as well, where Bishop Gerald Kicanas held four two-hour weekend meetings with parishioners, the last one taking place Feb. 15. In Scranton, Pa., the diocese, in addition to providing an online survey, offered resources for parishes and organizations to lead their own meetings.

Thirty-one dioceses offered the survey or the lineamenta in both English and Spanish; the San Jose, Calif., diocese also provided a Vietnamese version.

Of the dioceses that made the synod questionnaire publicly available, with two exceptions, no diocese specified how or if it intended to relay the information it received back to the local church or if the bishop would respond to the information received.

One exception was the Stockton, Calif., diocese, which has already provided a detailed picture of its responses, gathered through a consultation among pastors and their parish councils.

More than half of the respondents were 55 years or older, nearly two-thirds were female and about 70 percent were married. Some topics with overwhelming opposition included gay civil ceremonies -- with more than half of respondents against it -- and marriages taking place in the Catholic church, with 77 percent saying this was very important to them. The issues of birth control, infertility treatment, and the effectiveness of church teaching on family life all had mixed answers, almost equally split.

As reported earlier, the priest collecting and data from the surveys in the Oakland diocese will return a report back to parishes with suggestions on how to address areas of concern.

NCR will continue to collect data on consultations in individual dioceses. If you have information from your locale, send it to

[Contributing to this report were NCR editor Dennis Coday (, staff writer Brian Roewe (, and Bertelsen interns Mick Forgey ( and Soli Salgado (]

  Date Invited Deadline Online Survey Details Spanish Other information
Archdioceses in the U.S.
Anchorage, Alaska ? ? ?   ? no info found
Atlanta ? ? ?   ? no info found
Baltimore ? ? ?   ? Archbishop's Jan. 8 column promises to "share information and communicate about" the synod.
Boston 1/29/2015 N/A Yes Invitation to participate   Asks for emailed replies to full survey or 6-question summary; provides videos on doc themes, held 5 info sessions
Chicago** ? ? No Link to synod documents and reflections No Consulting AD councils and pastors; offers reflections resource supplement for laity 
Cincinnati ? 3/1/2015 Yes Invitation to participate No  
Denver 2/9/2015 3/2/2015 Yes Link to invite on diocesan news site No 38 multiple choice; also gathering feedback from those serving families (priests, religious orders, academia)
Detroit ? ? ?   ? no info found
Dubuque, Iowa   ? Yes Link to synod background and survey --  
Galveston-Houston, Texas** ? 3/20/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey Y Estimates 45-90 minutes to complete
Indianapolis   3/5/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey Yes  
Hartford, Conn. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Kansas City, Kan. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Los Angeles ? 3/6/2015 Yes Newspaper article about the consultation Yes  
Louisville, Ky. ? 3/7/0105 Yes Take the online questionnaire Yes Other consultations announced.
Miami ? ? ?   ? no info found
Milwaukee 2/17/2015 3/1/2015 Yes links to full, simplified questionnaires. No Also links to full lineamenta.
Mobile, Ala. 1/10/2015 2/20/2015 No PDF forms to download, return by mail. No  
New Orleans 2/16/2015 ? No Link to synod background and survey No  
New York City ? ? Yes Synod Questions for the Faithful Coming soon 6 demographic questions. 13 topic questions.
Newark, N.J. ? ? No PDF invites laity to listen and discuss sessions. Yes  
Oklahoma City ? 3/1/2015 Yes Link to synod survey No  
Omaha, Neb. 2/6/2015 2/20/2015 Yes Online questions available -- Newspaper announcement
Philadelphia 1/29/2015 3/9/2015 Yes Instrument to engage local input Yes  
Portland, Ore. ? 3/9/2015 No Downloadable PDF of 14 questions Yes Ask parishioners to return questionnaires to parish priest
San Antonio, Texas ? ? ?   ? no info found
San Francisco* 1/28/2015 3/6/2015 Yes Survey for the Synod of Families Yes Newspaper story about consultation
Santa Fe, N.M. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Seattle ? 3/9/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey No Asked for a notice on survey be placed in parish bulletins
St. Louis ? 3/1/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey Yes 46 questions, some offering "in other words" explanations of Vatican text
St. Paul-Minneapolis ? 3/10/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey No Survey broken into 58 questions; also respond via email, mail, or 1 of 5 listening sessions
Military Services ? ? ?   ? no info found
Washington, D.C. ? ? ?   ? no info found
  Date Invited Deadline Online Survey Details Spanish Other information
Dioceses in the U.S.
Albany, N.Y. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Alexandria, La. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Allentown, Pa. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Altoona-Johnstown, Pa. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Amarillo, Texas ? ? ?   ? no info found
Arlington, Va. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Austin, Texas ? ? ?   ? no info found
Baker, Ore. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Baton Rouge, La. ? 2/27/2015 Yes Link to synod survey No 18 questions divided into eight topics
Beaumont, Texas ? ? ?   ? no info found
Belleville, Ill. 1/17/2015 ? Yes Invitation in diocesan newspaper --  
Biloxi, Miss. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Birmingham, Ala. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Bismarck, N.D. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Boise, Idaho ? ? ?   ? no info found
Bridgeport, Conn. ? ? ?   ? in midst of diocesan synod
Brooklyn, N.Y. 2/18/2015 ? Yes Invitation to survey on diocesan website No 38 questions on four themes
Brownsville, Texas ? ? ?   ? no info found
Buffalo, N.Y. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Burlington, Vt. 2/4/2015 early March Yes Link to synod survey No  
Camden, N.J. 2/22/2015 ? Yes   Yes Devoting three weeks to listening sessions, each on a different theme, 20+ parish sessions so far scheduled
Charleston, S.C. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Charlotte, N.C. ? 2/27/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey No Estimates it will take two hours to complete
Cheyenne, Wyo. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Cleveland ? ? ?   ? no info found
Colorado Springs, Colo. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Columbus, Ohio ? ? ?   ? no info found
Corpus Christi, Texas ? ? ?   ? no info found
Covington, Ky. January 2/27/2015 No Letter from vicar general No Holding meetings in five deaneries, parishioners can respond in person or in writing via mail
Crookston, Minn. ? 3/1/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey No 20 multiple-choice questions in three sections
Dallas 1/26/2015 2/26/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey Yes Announcement made in parishes
Davenport, Iowa ? 2/13/2015 No Link to diocesan homepage No Asked for emailed responses; collecting response from pastoral council, presbyterial council, tribunal, other organizations
Des Moines, Iowa ? ? Yes Link to synod background and survey No 48 questions in three parts
Dodge City, Kan. ? 2/27/2015 No Link to diocesan homepage Yes Asks parishioners to email responses to all or some of Vatican questions
Duluth, Minn. ? ? ?   ? no info found
El Paso, Texas ? ? ?   ? no info found
Erie, Pa. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Evansville, Ind. 1/26/2015 2/8/2015 Yes Only found a link in the Catholic community newspaper, not the diocese site.    
Fairbanks, Alaska   3/2/2015 No Link to information -- PDF to be mailed
Fall River, Mass. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Fargo, N.D.   3/10/2015 No Link to synod information -- No formal survey offered; provided the Vatican's lineamenta and asked for feedback/reflections to be emailed
Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind. 1/25/2015 2/25/2015 Yes Input sought from faithful of the diocese -- Simplified to 16 questions. Questions printed in diocesan newspaper.
Fort Worth, Texas   3/15/2015 Yes Link to synod and survey --  
Fresno, Calif. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Gallup, N.M. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Gary, Ind. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Gaylord, Mich. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Grand Island, Neb. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Grand Rapids, Mich. ? 3/4/2015 No Preparatory questionnaire for 2015 family synod -- Announcement of questionnaire for only.
Great Falls-Billings, Mont. 1/23/2015 3/1/2015 No Letter from bishop to those on mailing list; couldn't find anything online   Not a formal survey -- letter from bishop asking for reflections
Green Bay, Wis.   2/28/2015 Yes Link to survey Yes  
Greensburg, Pa. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Harrisburg, Pa.   3/5/2015 Yes Link to Relatio Synodi and questionnaire --  
Helena, Mont.   3/6/2015 Yes Link to info and survey Yes Survey requires a password
Honolulu 2/16/2015 3/2/2015 Yes Link to lineamenta and survey Yes  
Houma-Thibodaux, La. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Jackson, Miss. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Jefferson City, Mo. ? ? Yes   Yes Letter from bishop said it will have its own tab on the diocese website by the end of February. Will be narrowed down to 10 questions.
Joliet, Ill. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Juneau, Alaska 1/14/2015 3/5/2015 No Invitation to participate in Vatican synod survey on the family -- Forms to download and return by mail
Kalamazoo, Mich.   2/27/2015 No Link to meeting info and form Yes Responses can be done either by filling out form or attending meetings.
Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo.*** 03/01/2015 03/19/2015 Yes Link to synod survey No Ask respondents to first rank synod themes on importance and support, then allows for feedback on synod's 46 questions 
Knoxville, Tenn.     Yes Found link through Google search, but not on diocese's website    
La Crosse, Wis. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Lafayette, Ind. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Lafayette, La.   3/6/2015 Yes Link to info and three-part survey --  
Lake Charles, La.   2/24/2015 No Link to forum info -- No written survey; open forum
Lansing, Mich. ? 2/19/2015 Yes Link to online questionnaire (link corrected) No Parishes assign specific questions, but allowed to answer any others
Laredo, Texas ? ? ?   ? no info found
Las Cruces, N.M. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Las Vegas ? ? ?   ? no info found
Lexington, Ky. ? 3/12/2015 No PDF of questionnaire No  
Lincoln, Neb. 2/10/2015 ? Yes Online questionnaire No  
Little Rock, Ark. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Lubbock, Texas ? ? ?   ? no info found
Madison, Wis. ? ? No Link to synod survey and background No  
Manchester, N.H. ? ? No PDF of simplified questionnaire No  
Marquette, Mich. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Memphis, Tenn. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Metuchen, N.J.   3/2/2015 Yes Hosting listening sessions. Yes Listening session offered twice on March 4, in English and Spanish. Also accepting online answers. "We want to hear from YOU!"
Monterey, Calif. 2/5/2015 3/6/2015 Yes Online surveys, full and abridged versions. Yes  
Nashville, Tenn. ? ? ?   ? no info found
New Ulm, Minn. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Norwich, Conn. ? 2/20/2015 No Link to full questionnaire, to return by mail. Yes  
Oakland, Calif. 2/9/2015 2/23/2015 Yes Link to invite in diocesan newspaper Yes Simplified to 21 questions
Ogdensburg, N.Y. ? ? Yes Online questionnaire, requires login. No  
Orange, Calif. ? 3/13/2015 Yes Online questionnaire No  
Orlando, Fla. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Owensboro, Ky. ? 2/20/2015 Yes Full/abridged questionnaires, town hall meetings. Yes  
Palm Beach, Fla. ? 3/2/2015 Yes Online questionnaire No  
Paterson, N.J. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla. 2/20/2015 3/15/2015 No Form to print and return by mail No  
Peoria, Ill. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Phoenix 2/3/2015 2/22/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey Yes  
Pittsburgh 2/6/2015 2/20/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey No  
Portland, Maine ? 3/5/2015 Yes Invitation to participate in online survey Yes  
Providence, R.I. 2/17/2015 2/25/2015 Yes Online questionnaire. Yes  
Pueblo, Colo. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Raleigh, N.C. 1/28/2015 2/15/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey Yes Individuals or groups can respond
Rapid City, S.D. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Reno, Nev. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Richmond, Va. ? 3/2/2015 Yes link to synod background and survey No 22 short-answer questions
Rochester, N.Y. 1/14/2015 3/1/2015 Yes Link to invite in diocesan newspaper No Priests, pastoral administrators or members of a parish staff emailed separate survey link
Rockford, Ill. ? 2/13/2015 Yes link to synod background and survey Yes  
Rockville Centre, N.Y. ? 3/13/2015 No Link to synod background   Full questionnaire posted, with instructions to respond only by email, with name and parish
Sacramento, Calif. ? 3/1/2015 No Link to synod background and PDF No Form to download and return by email.
Saginaw, Mich. ? 3/4/2015 Yes link to synod background and survey No Also offers PDF forms to download and return by mail
Salina, Kan. ? 2/20/2015 No Story in diocesan newspaper. Scroll down the page until you see headline: "Church wants input ..." No Link removed, per deadline. Form to download and return by mail.
Salt Lake City ? ? ?   ? no info found
San Angelo, Texas ? ? ?   ? no info found
San Bernardino, Calif. ? 2/20/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey Yes  
San Diego ? ? ?   ? no info found
San Jose, Calif. 2/17/2015 3/12/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey Yes Also offered in Vietnamese
Santa Rosa, Calif. January 3/9/2015 No Link to background info and PDF survey Yes Offers PDF forms to download and return by mail
Savannah, Ga. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Scranton, Pa. 1/29/2015 3/6/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey Yes provided resources for group and org input
Shreveport, La. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Sioux City, Iowa ? ? ?   ? no info found
Sioux Falls, S.D. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Spokane, Wash. ? ? ? ? ? ?
Springfield, Ill. 2/9/0205 3/1/2015 Yes Link to info and survey No  
Springfield, Mass. ? ? ? ? ? ?
Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo. ? ? ? ? ? ?
St. Augustine, Fla. ? ? ? ? ? ?
St. Cloud, Minn.   3/4/2015 Yes Link to info and survey --  
St. Petersburg, Fla. ? ? ?   ? no info found
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands ? ? ?   ? no info found
Steubenville, Ohio   2/20/2015 Yes Link to info and survey -- Provided a paraphrased version of 16 questions and the option to fill out all 46 questions
Stockton, Calif.     No Priests consulted various parish councils in February    
Superior, Wis. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Syracuse, N.Y. ? 2/27/2015 No Link to synod background and survey No Parishes invited to download PDF versions, respond and return their surveys to vicar general.
Toledo, Ohio ? 3/6/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey No  
Trenton, N.J. ? 3/4/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey Yes Can also download survey and mail/email responses; offers simplified 11-question version
Tucson, Ariz. mid-January 2/15/2015 No Link to bishop's memo n/a Held four two-hour weekend listening sessions (mid-Jan thru mid-Feb) that will be used to make report
Tulsa, Okla. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Tyler, Texas ? ? ?   ? no info found
Venice, Fla ? 2/20/2015 No Instructions for those wanting to provide input Yes No forms available. Input must be mailed or emailed
Victoria, Texas ? ? ?   ? no info found
Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Wichita, Kan. ? 2/20/2015 Yes Link to synod background and survey Yes Answer some or all of 47 questions
Wilmington, Del. ? ? No Link to synod background No Invites parishes to hold discussion sessions during the winter.
Winona, Minn. ? 3/13/2015 Yes Survey link on Life, Marriage, Family webpage    
Worcester, Mass. ? ? Yes Link to Bishop's Office invitation No PDF forms also available
Yakima, Wash. ? ? ?   ? no info found
Youngstown, Ohio ? ? ?   ? no info found

*updated Feb. 24.
** updated March 2.
*** updated March 5.


  Date Invited Deadline Online Survey Details Spanish Other information
Eastern Rite Archeparchies
Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Eastern Rite Eparchies
Youngstown, Ohio ? ? ?   ? no info found
St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago (Illinois) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Eparchy of St. George in Canton for the Romanians (Ohio) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford (Connecticut) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic (New Jersey) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Holy Protection of Mary Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix (Arizona) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Diocese in the U.S. and Canada (New Jersey) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit (Michigan) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle, San Diego (California) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Eparchy of Parma, Ohio (Ruthenian) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn (New York) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg in New York of Armenian Catholics ? ? ?   ? no info found
Eparchy of Newton, Our Lady of the Annunciation, Boston (Melkite Greek)(Massachusetts) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago for Ukrainians (Illinois) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon (Maronite) ? ? ?   ? no info found
Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Josaphat, Parma (Ohio) ? ? ?   ? no info found

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