Officials for the 2014 extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family say that while they will assess Catholic attitudes toward relevant Church teachings, the synod's work will be based on Catholic doctrine and not on public opinion.
The Edmonton Archdiocese will be giving input to the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family through some of its consultative bodies.
That means members of groups such as the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and the Council of Priests will be filling out the synod's questionnaire on the state of the local family.
"The Holy Father has asked for input from around the world, which we are happy to give," Archbishop Richard Smith said in a recent interview.
"Like every other bishop, I'm delighted at this particular initiative that the Holy Father has undertaken because concern for the family is just so vital today."
Bishops around the world are being asked to take a realistic look at the situation of families under their care and at how effective pastoral and educational programs have been at promoting Church teaching on sexuality, marriage and family life.
The preparatory document for the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, which will be held in October 2014, ends with 39 questions for the world's bishops.
Those questions focus on how Church teaching is promoted, how well it is accepted, and ways in which modern people and societies challenge the Catholic view of marriage and family.
Among the topics of the questionnaire are divorce and remarriage, cohabitation, same-sex unions and contraception.
"This is a wonderful initiative all around and we do want to participate in it," Smith said Nov. 26. However, the archbishop noted the archdiocese is constrained by "very tight timelines."
Archbishop Richard Smith
The Holy See needs the feedback by the end of January, which means that the archdiocese's feedback has to be in the hands of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops by mid to late December.
"So the approach that we are taking here is to have representative groups respond to the questionnaire in ways that I'm confident will reflect the broad sense of the reality here in our archdiocese," Smith said.
"And so we want to hear from both priests and lay people, obviously. So I'm asking that our Council of Priests, from their perspective as pastors, respond to the questionnaire.
"In terms of hearing from the voice of our lay people we have the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, a consultative body in the archdiocese that's established with the precise purpose of offering the lay voice to the archbishop."
Also responding to the survey will be "selected persons within our offices that are involved in the pastoral life of the archdiocese" as well as other Catholic institutions.
"We'll work with some of the leadership in those institutions to determine how best to circulate the survey to get the widest range of response possible," Smith explained.
"So it's really through using the consultative structures that already exist within the archdiocese that we will solicit a response from this local Church and send that on to the CCCB in accordance with the timeline."
The chancery office began sending the synod questionnaire to the respective bodies the last week of November.
"It's a quick consultation but I do think the way that the questions are posed and by focusing on select representative groups and inviting them really to think this through carefully we should get a very heartfelt response."
Smith is impressed with the synod documents, particularly the preamble "because it gives a beautiful summary of the teaching of the Church on marriage and the pastoral realities that we are facing today and it really gives a wonderful expression of the heart of the Holy Father, the heart of the Church, towards families."
"How do we reach them with the beauty of the Gospel, the beauty of the Church's teaching on marriage to help them?" the archbishop mused.
"Families today are struggling in so many ways. I, like many others, worry deeply about what's happening in our family units and that deep concern of the Holy Father and of course the Church universal is coming out in this survey and in the synod that will be taking place."