Frequently Asked Questions on the Vatican Family Questionnaire

07/11/2013 1:17 pm

Thank you very much for your willingness to take part in the Vatican consultation process now underway in England and Wales in preparation for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in 2014.

We understand that you may have a number of questions regarding the questionnaire. Here we offer answers to a selection of frequently asked questions.

Why are your questions so complicated?

It takes too much time to respond.

I don’t understand some of the terminology.

Why can't you simplify the questions?

These questions were not devised by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales but by the Ordinary Council of the Synod during their last meeting with the Holy Father. Any comments about the questions are best directed to the Synod Secretariat.

The address is:

Via della Conciliazione
34 – 00120 Vatican City


What should I do if I wish to respond?

Please go to our introduction to the survey for our best advice on how to make a response:

Family Synod Survey

I don’t have time to complete this. I need some help for my family right now...

Please find contact details for your local diocesan coordinator of family life ministry here:

If you cannot find one nearby please contact or

Why are you using an online format? What if people complete the survey more than once?

The use of the online survey was a pragmatic decision based on the request made by Archbishop Baldiserri to the Bishops’ Conferences ‘to follow the most brief and practical institutional process so that it would be possible to have a synthesis of the responses collected sent to this Secretariat by the end of January.’ For us to be able to complete the national synthesis, we needed the collective reports from the dioceses by the end of December. We had to choose a process to ensure the maximum return and the online questionnaire facilitated that process.

I live in another country, can I make my response using your survey?

Although we have already received a number of responses from around the world, we would strongly encourage those outside England and Wales not to use our survey but to seek out their own response routes at local level. The principle of subsidiarity guides the pastoral care of marriage and family life. We will make every effort to get responses to the relevant bishops’ conference but this will make additional demands on our very limited resources.

What will happen to my survey response?

It will be sent to the diocesan coordinator for this consultation in your area. That is why you are asked to indicate your diocese and/or your town/city/parish. Without that information we cannot redirect your response and it may not be included in the consultation. We will be publishing a list of co-ordinators on our website as soon as possible.

Responses from overseas will be sorted and sent to the relevant Bishops’ Conference.

What about all the statistical questions? Will you be commissioning new research?

Given the short time available for this consultation it is not envisaged that any additional research will be commissioned. In compiling their reports the dioceses will draw on their own local sources of data. They also have available the findings of the Catholic Marriage Preparation Survey 2010 and the publications of the Office for National Statistics.

How will the responses be evaluated?

The data collected is being forwarded to the diocesan coordinators each week for evaluation. We have recommended that they use the same process for collating data that was used very effectively 10 years ago in Listening 2004. This involves identifying recurring themes and sub-themes and highlighting particular quotes that illustrate the kinds of responses being made. Listening 2004 was a participative listening process in which 15,000 families took part over the course of a year.

This is a worldwide pastoral listening process to determine priorities for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the pastoral challenges facing families in the context of evangelisation. In their reports the dioceses are asked to identify the key issues that have emerged so that this can inform the deliberations of the Synod Council at the next stage of their planning.

This is going to take a lot of time to complete – time I don’t have. Is it going to be worth my while?

This consultation seems already to have caught the imagination of many people. Thanks to media coverage we have a great opportunity to reach and include many Catholics who no longer join us at Mass on Sundays, many of whom are known or related to your parishioners. The questions may be numerous and imperfectly phrased, but they are framed in a spirit of charity so that the Gospel may be proclaimed anew in the context of the pastoral challenges facing families today. Everyone is encouraged to take part. No-one has to answer all the questions. But every response will be read.

My diocese hasn’t told us anything about this? How can you expect the laity to respond in the time available if you don’t get your act together?

The laity is already responding in good numbers through the online survey we have provided. These responses are already being forwarded to dioceses. The consultation process is quite a challenge in the time available and not every diocese has had an active marriage and family life ministry coordinator in place who could immediately take on this task. However we know dioceses are working on this as a matter of urgency. Have you asked your parish priest about this? Your support in letting your fellow parishioners know that they have this opportunity to contribute, would be much appreciated.

Once again we are very grateful for your participation. If you have any further questions, please contact: or