By Sarah Mac Donald - 11 December, 2014
The document or lineamenta will build on the discussions that took place at last October’s synod.
It outlines a summary of the main points of last October’s final report, and adds an additional 46 questions which bishops are asked to reflect on.
The Office of the Synod in the Vatican circulated the lineamenta to the world’s episcopal conferences and indicated that it wants further consultation with the faithful on its contents.
National bishops’ conferences have been encouraged to undertake a “broad consultation” among Catholics in their dioceses, soliciting opinions especially from scholars and representatives of ecclesiastical groups.
Responses are due to be returned to the Vatican by 15 April 2015 and these will serve as the basis for the synod’s working document, to be published by the summer.
The questionnaire for 2015 tells bishops’ conferences to “avoid, in their responses, a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine”.
Rather they should seek to fulfil Pope Francis’s call to “pastoral activity that is characterised by a ‘culture of encounter’ and capable of recognising the Lord’s gratuitous work, even outside customary models.”
The new document stresses the importance of restoring a clear understanding of the Christian meaning of sacramental marriage and of the family as the fundamental building block of society.
It asks how to “guide the consciences of married couples” with respect to contraception, which is forbidden currently, and highlights its impact on birth rates, asking: “Are people aware of the grave consequences of demographic change?”
The questionnaire also refers to in-vitro fertilisation, which was not a hot button topic last October, asking how the Church can uphold the “human ecology of reproduction” in its dialogue with the “sciences and biomedical technologies.”
It also asks how to “combat the scourge of abortion and foster an effective culture of life.”