Survey for the October 2015 Synod on the Family – Whom did the Questionnaire Reach?

JULY 28, 2015

Survey for the October 2015 Synod on the Family – Whom did the Questionnaire Reach?


This ministry has published several reports on the Synod on the Family, from the run-up to the Extraordinary Synod in Rome, October 5 to 19, 2014 viz. the Questionnaire and a pre-synod follow-up, then a mid-way report and a follow-up to that, a collation of excerpts from the blog of the renowned Fr. John Zuhlsdorf and finally two reports in preparation for the upcoming October 2015 Ordinary Synod. That’s a total of seven.

There are also the two Church Documents relating to the Synod.

The list with URLs can be found at the end of the present report.

This report is the tenth in the series. There should have been at least three or four others in the last two months, but they have been postponed because this writer met with a motor accident and was hospitalized.

The present report examines the controversy and confusion surrounding the Survey or Questionnaire that was supposed to have been made available to the faithful of the Church in India in preparation for the Ordinary Synod in Rome from 4 to 25 October, 2015.


The said Questionnaire was to have been completed and submitted by April 15, 2015 (rescheduled date)*.

From the outset, concerned Catholic friends of mine were writing to one another trying to access a copy of it.

If at all there was any announcement or discussion in my parish or archdiocese (Madras-Mylapore), I was not aware of it. Any enquiries I made were met with a blank stare or with the response “What Synod?”

This writer kept contacting laity and priests all over the country but none could provide any reliable information about the situation in their parishes or religious orders. Those who finally did say that they received it, also admitted that it was a hurried sort of affair with little time given to them to properly examine and answer it.

(I am not reproducing their correspondence here but if the need arises, I can provide some letters.)

The veracity of that is confirmed by the collated information in the present report, all of which has been put together from emails received by this writer, and from blogs and web sites, over the last 30 days.


Before we examine the collated information that I mentioned, I will reproduce a few paragraphs (within “”) from an earlier report as to how and when I came to receive the Questionnaire:

Though the Notification and Questionnaire issued by the Bishop of Dharmapuri, Chairman, Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) Commission for Family, Most Rev. Lawrence Pius Dorairaj is dated February 26, 2015,
I first came to know of it, despite having published several reports on the 2014 Synod on my web site and being in close touch with lay ministries and Church developments all over India on a daily basis, only on
March 7, 2015
from Joseph LR Vaz of Goa but for whose concern for the Church I may not have known till much later.

During the course of the following week, I mailed the same to dozens of pro-family and pro-life activists all over India. From their feedback, I came to learn that all of them had first come to know about the Questionnaire from me and had never heard it brought to their attention in their parishes.

Mr. Joseph Vaz had received the same from Mr. John Dayal (National Integration Council, Government of India; All India Catholic Union; All India Christian Council) — who was in turn intimated about it by Mr. Alan Doulton, the only lay member of the national level committee on issues concerning the family (!) — only the previous day, March 6, 2015!

Fr. Milton Gonsalves, the Executive Secretary of the CCBI Commission for the Family emailed his letter along with the Questionnaire only on March 16, 2015, a full 19 days after the Bishop-Chairman’s Notification! *And the cut-off date for evaluating and submitting the filled-in Questionnaire was given as March 25, 2015, giving Indian Catholics only about 9/10 days to do the needful!! And in that short period, they aspired to get 100,000 responses to the Questionnaire!




This ministry wrote a detailed letter concerning issues relating to the Questionnaire to the Bishop of Dharmapuri, Chairman, Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) Commission for Family, Most Rev. Lawrence Pius Dorairaj. (He has been named, “elected by the various Episcopal Conferences” as per VIS News, on July 24, as “2nd substitute” for India, to the Synod.) He did not reply.


Part of my letter to him read:

You had asked us to send in the duly filled Questionnaire to Fr. Cajetan Menezes, Mumbai, Snehalaya, and named four other members of the Commission and you said that we “may please contact members for any clarification and in turn they would also be in touch with you to find out if any support is required”.

Well, facing a problem, we did just that, but neither Fr. Cajetan Menezes nor Bishop Agnelo Gracias has replied to three letters from me despite this being a very serious issue that I have raised. Is this treatment of our letters indicative of the Church hierarchy’s attitude to the concerns and voices of an informed conservative laity?
Till the time of my writing to you, not a single lay Catholic contacted by me had any awareness of the Questionnaire relating to the Synod. I am now writing to some parish priests to find out if they are aware of it or not.
The only positive feedback on this issue that I can give you is that the Questionnaire was circulated to the participants of the recently-concluded Marriage Preparation Course in the Archdiocese of Bangalore which our son attended. I concede that this may be the case in other dioceses and parishes too, but they appear to be exceptions to the rule.


I even marked a copy of the above letter to His Eminence Baselios Cardinal Cleemis, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).
He too did not reply.

The only response that I received was from Alan Doulton, the only lay member of the national level committee on issues concerning the family, but even he clamped up after that and avoided further correspondence with me when I replied to him.


For evidence against my statements, please read

MARCH 2015


I now present the collated information that I mentioned earlier. One will see that even in the months of June and July 2015, Catholics are venting their frustration over the Questionnaire.

I will resume my comments at the end of this report as there are several matters in the contents of these collated items that need to be clarified.


No Indian Bishop Responds to Papal Call? Church in India and the October 4-25 Family Synod

Posted on June 27, 2015
The Voice of Bombay’s Catholic Laity

Church Citizens’ Voice (CCV)

Will the Church in India fail a second time to come up with a Family Survey ordered by Francis Papa? It missed the boat at the 2014 Extraordinary Synod. How can it cobble up one now in just three months for the final Synod? Without any data why any Bishop should be allowed to go?

By Dr. James Kottoor

Pope Francis has been shining through glittering headlines in secular and religious media all over the world ever since his election, because of his irresistible, all embracing, palpable care and concern for the entire global family. It transcends all religious, political barriers and boundaries to merge into that ancient spiritual vision Vasudaiva Kudumbakam, of Indian Yogis and Gurus, who saw humanity as one great extended family.

It is enough to recall his one statement, “My God is not Catholic” which crushed to smithereens the hitherto inward and awkward looking “Ghetto-Catholicism” ruling the roost, trotting around the world with an air of self-righteous superiority like the Pharisee praying in the temple with all sorts of self adulation, besides, what is worse, looking down with an air of contempt on other churches and other religions as inferior, erroneous and pitiable in God’s sight like the chest beating publican. The second is his unparalleled and admirable option for the poorest in the Family of Man, his concern to start with the last, least and lost, to build anew “a poor church for the poor.”

For him, the health and wellbeing of the Micro family of Daddy, Mammy and Baby, is the corner stone on which the great macro human family can stand to prosper or fall from to perish. “A family that prays together stays together” of Fr. Peyton, is rooted in the prayer “Our Father” Jesus taught: “Thy Kingdom come thy will be done here on earth as in heaven, forgive and you will be forgiven, judge not and you will not be judged”.

Fatherhood of God (no matter by what name you call Him) and brotherhood of all humans irrespective of all divisions of class, caste, creed, community and country have to be adhered to and enforced by all reasonable means, if the rule of the jungle “might is right” that prevails even today is to be replaced with that peace and prosperity promised to all men of good will by angels at Jesus’ birth. Believers in creation story identify it with the perfect peace that reigned supreme in the Paradise lost and strive to bring it back.




Participation in Synodal Study

That explains why Francis launched his two-year-long mammoth study, not undertaken by any other pope before, on all challenges facing and dangers destroying families around the globe. For this purpose, at the behest of the Pope the Synod organizers headed by Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri had started work already from October 2013, and sent a questionnaire with 39 detailed queries for the people on the pews to register their family experiences – good, bad and ugly – and send to Synod organizers for the bishops to study at the October 2014 Extraordinary Synod.

At its conclusion the Pope again had asked bishops to return to their dioceses to do another year of in-depth reflection, open and transparent like the one held in Rome, with ordinary parish and diocesan people and seek out “practical solutions” to the “innumerable challenges” identified at the Extraordinary Synod sessions.

The Indian bishops are not known to have done any such national or regional study or survey at parish or diocesan levels to collect data for last year’s Synod. Nor is it reported to have done anything this year either. The last date to submit reports to Rome was April 15, 2015, two months ago.


Many Countries Which Did

But very many countries in Europe, Americas and Afro-Asian countries sent their survey reports both last year and this year. For this year’s study the Synod organizers had sent a set of 46 questions to find answers to what they could not crack at the last Synod, to all bishops around the world. To this the bishops were to respond with the data they collected and sent to Rome by April 15, 2015, the latest. This data was to be the resource material and working paper for further thorough study and discussion during the coming concluding session called the Ordinary Synod, to be held from coming October 4 to 25 in Rome

Did the Indian Bishops belonging to three Rites – Latin, Syromalabar and Syromalankara – respond to this second survey call from Pope Francis? So far we have not heard of any survey done by any Indian Bishop. This is in spite of initiatives taken by lay groups – laity moving the hierarchy — and articles by many including this scribe sent to all Indian bishops to get started, already from last November. The Global Website of Catholic Citizens’ Voice (CCV) had even offered to provide the forum to Bishops for a national or regional level public discussion, study or consultation with people. But none of these promptings seem to have made any impact on bishops belonging to three Rites in India.


Accusing Finger at Indian Bishops

It is in this context that the examples of many countries in Europe and Americas point an accusing figure at the three-Rite-coalition of Catholic Church in India. For example the Churches in Switzerland, France, Belgium, Germany, UK, US and Catholic Church Reform International (CCR International) have not only sent their finding but also published them in their websites for the benefit of faithful worldwide to read, reflect and react constructively.

The CCV published two weeks ago a report titled: Europe’s fractious Catholics set out their Views on Synod Questionnaire. It published another, one week ago headlined: US Bishops hear summary of synod consultation {By Brian Roewe in the National Catholic Reporter}, held on June 10th2015 at their annual spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in St. Louis.

At St. Louis the US conference, the report said, it has 33 Latin-rite archdioceses and 145 Latin-rite dioceses. All of them had already put the results in their websites by Feb.23/15. Thirty-one dioceses offered the questionnaire both in English and Spanish; while San Jose, Calif., diocese provided even a Vietnamese version. US plans to send at least six bishops and two more designated as alternates, to October Synod to represent U.S. Catholics.

More than half of the US respondents were 55 years or older, nearly two-thirds were female and about 70 percent were married.

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. One of them could have been the Chicago-based Syromalabar Eparchy started as an extension or out post of Kerala’s SMC noted for its inaction in consulting faithful.


Europe’s Response to the October Synod

When it comes to Europe, we see Spanish bishops keeping the questionnaire strictly within the church. Those of England and Wales released it on the Internet and invited everyone to respond. Switzerland received completed questionnaires from 6,000 Catholics and published a digest in early May. In France, where some 10,000 responses were received, each bishop decided to promote debate in his own diocese. Besides French Bishops organized special debates on family pastoral issues at the shrine of Lisieux, as well as at Lourdes during the bishops’ March plenary, before the questionnaire results were forwarded to Rome in May. In Belgium, the questionnaire was published last February in the Catholic weekly Journal Dimanche.

The most comprehensive response seems to have come from Germany. In a 17-page March report, the German bishops’ conference said it had received only 1,000 responses from the country’s 27 dioceses and assorted Catholic associations and religious orders. According to a March survey by Poland’s Public Opinion Research Centre, up to three-quarters of Polish Catholics disagreed with their church’s stance on homosexuality, contraception and extramarital relationships, and favoured a change in Catholic teaching on issues from divorce to clerical celibacy.




To get an insight into the findings of surveys done in various countries more articles have to be written by this or other expert journalists. Only many may not come forward to write since they are sure of receiving no response at all from their Bishops. Who wants an exercise in futility?


Why Indian silence & inaction?

Now compare the various initiatives taken by Bishops in Europe and US with Indian Bishops. On studying CBCI website I found India also, like US, has over 200 bishops including 5 Cardinals, 29 Archbishops, 9 Auxiliaries, and 2 Curia bishops for their 170 Indian Dioceses. But none of them seem to have done anything for the coming Synod. They did nothing also last year for the Extraordinary October Synod of 2014. Likewise the Syromalabar’s outpost in Chicago also did nothing as pointed by the US report above.

With so many dioceses and bishops in India what could have been the reason for the inaction on their part for the last two years at a stretch? What leaps to my mind is the compulsions of coalition politics as suggested by Manmohan Singh for his failure to take right decisions. He had to placate skeleton parties to stay in power.


Global Perspective

Just take a look at the coalition of three churches in India against a global perspective. Of the 2.2 billion Christians in the world a little more than half, 1.2 billion are Catholics. This Catholic world is made up of a community of 22 sui juris Churches. The lion’s share of this 1.2 billion (140 crores), that is 138 crores out of 140, go to make up of the Latin Church alone. The remaining 2 crores are distributed among 21 sui juris Churches, with the Ukrainian Catholic church coming second in strength with a population of 45 Lakhs.

Only in the third place comes our Syromalabar Church with a membership of around 25 lakhs, Then comes in the fourth place the Syromalankara Church of Mar Baselios Cleemis, with just around 2 lakhs. That makes the third and fourth partners in the Indian coalition, skeleton parties or partners surviving at the mercy of the Latin Church which leads the Indian Catholic coalition. The numerical strength of the two skeleton churches is seldom or never uttered or admitted in public. Recently the Malankara Church also wrenched from Rome the New Syro-Malankara Gurgaon diocese. It is said to be world’s largest diocese spread over 22 states. It got inaugurated last May 1st. to make the number of Catholic dioceses in India 170.


Darkest Spot in Indian Coalition

But the bête noire, darkest spot in this fragile Latin-Malabar-Malankara coalition of the Indian Catholic Church is the presence of one single diocese, Kottayam, as part of Syromalabar Church. It alone promotes Endogamy or Pure Blood* marriages publicly, brazenly. This being totally against Jesus’ teaching and blatant violation of human rights, no Bishop in the coalition partners can publicly say a word for or against; neither swallows nor vomits it without hurting coalition dharma of politics.

Hence the ominous, treacherous silence on the part of all three churches and also the tacit nod to Catholic media not to discuss it publicly, precisely to present a façade of unity and comradery in public and to show sportsmanship of playing musical chairs before the Vatican to wrench more Episcopal thrones. This reminds one of the Vistar Vad of China and Vikas Vad of India Modi spoke of at his Japan Visit. The bitter truth is our ecclesiastical structures often happen to be carbon copies of political structures and their crooked workings.

None of the bishops in all three churches therefore, dared to mention Pure Blood* promotion as the deadly cancer destroying Catholic families in India last year or this year, although marathon discussions, furious and venomous at times, are going on among the faithful at various levels. Can the Bishops succeed to keep all these under the carpet, under the tomb stone of their silence during the remaining three months to the Synod and fool the impatient Church citizens in India sending memorandums and petitions one after another to Pope and Synod organisers? That is the unsettling question staring in the face of those who want to see the Aegean stables of Church in India cleaned by admitting mistakes openly – all make mistakes – and correcting them once and for all. Read also article: “Evaluating Your Bishop’s Performance, on 7 counts, published in CCV,, June 22nd to help bishops to shape up or ship out imitating Pope Benedict.

(Also at




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