Dignity Canada Dignité

Summary of Results to Close-ended Questions


In preparation for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family to be held later this year, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Vatican's Synod of Bishops, asked bishops’ conferences to consult immediately and as widely as possible with deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received. 

Although the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales set up an online survey for Catholics in its countries, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) forwarded the Vatican request to Canadian bishops. While the Dioceses of Calgary and Hamilton and perhaps others conducted web consultations, it’s our understanding that the CCCB itself did not.

Dignity Canada Dignité and Catholic Church Reform made available an unofficial survey online between November  27th  2013 and January 4th 2014 to provide a means for all baptised Catholics in Canada to have input into the consultation process requested by the Vatican. It is based on the questions asked in the Vatican’s Preparatory Document, as well as several close-ended questions adapted from the survey developed by the U.S. Catholic Organizations for Renewal, including Dignity USA. The survey was promoted primarily through these two Canadian organizations. 

Results of Close-ended Questions:

There were 87 participants in the survey. Respondents were not required to answer all questions. Result calculations for the close-ended questions (e.g., multiple-choice, selection and rating scales) are based on the number of respondents to each specific question which will be shown in brackets. For example, n=40 means that 40 of the 87 respondents answered the question. If 25 responded in a particular way, then the percentage would be 62%, n=40 for that question.

The following is a summary of the replies to the survey’s close-ended questions:

·        In terms of respondent demographics, the vast majority of respondents indicated they are laypersons (85%, n=34), and are at least 55 years of age (82%, n=34). Only 6% are under 45 years of age.  A third of respondents indicated they are single (n=33), and about half indicated they are either married (40%) or in a domestic partnership (12%).


·        About three quarters of respondents indicated that the Catholic Church's teachings on the value of the family are either poorly or not understood by Catholics (n=57).  About the same proportion of the respondents themselves indicate their own poor or lack of acceptance of its teachings on family life, when known (n=53).

·        In terms of estimating the influence of the Church’s notion of “natural law” in various areas of life, the majority of respondents (n=47) indicated either no or little influence in education, politics, parish life and society at large.  About 60% consider the concept as having no influence in politics and society at large; this dropped to 34% in parish life.


·        Just over half of the respondents (n=47) do not accept the idea of the union between a man and a woman as contained in "natural law."


·        Respondents were about equally split on whether they know how pastors or clergy deal with the request for the celebration of marriage from non-practicing Catholics (n=48).

·        Two thirds of respondents (n=39) suggested that the Church has been unsuccessful in proposing a manner of praying within the family which can withstand life’s complexities and today’s culture.

·        Just over half of respondents (n=39) noted that Christian families have been partially able to fulfill their vocation of transmitting the faith, in the current generational crisis.

·        Almost 90% of respondents (n=36) consider separated Catholic couples and those divorced and remarried a pastoral a reality in their particular community.

·        When asked about how Catholics in relationships not recognized by the Catholic Church feel in regard to the sacraments, respondents (n=41) expressed their level of agreement with a number of relevant aspects.  For example, 73% indicated that such Catholics feel marginalized, and 68% agreed that Catholics believe they are worthy of the sacraments regardless of whether their relationship is recognized by the Catholic Church, although nearly half thought that such Catholics suffer from the lack of sacraments.  One difficulty with this question is that it asked respondents for their views of others as a group, rather than describing their own situation.

·        Over 90% of respondents (n=34) agreed that a simplification of the rules regulating the nullity of the marriage bond would provide a positive contribution.

·        Over 50% of respondents (n=38) did not know whether there is a ministry to the separated, divorced and remarried in their diocese or in the Church nationally. This dropped to 38% at the parish level, with another 50% signifying that there is no ministry at the parish level.

·        When asked about attitudes toward same-sex couples in a committed relationship and toward marriage equality (which has been the law across Canada for almost nine years), 20-26% of respondents (n=34-37) indicated that their diocese is either neutral or supportive.  This became 40-53% at the parish level, and 84-88% at the level of small faith communities.

·        In their experience, 43% of respondents (n=37) indicated that very few or no parents in marriages not recognized by the official Catholic Church (i.e. same-sex couples, divorced and remarried, etc.) approach the Church for sacraments, and about 60% thought that this is the case for catechesis, and/or general teaching of the church.

·        About two thirds of respondents (n=34) thought that Catholics have at least some knowledge about the teaching of Humanae Vitae and awareness of how morally to evaluate different methods of family planning.

·        Respondents (n=36) were equally split at 44% between their own acceptance Humanae Vitae in part or not at all, and 55% indicated that Catholics in general do not accept its teachings at all.

·        70% of respondents (n=30) indicated that they follow their conscience about family planning, do not believe it to be morally wrong for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and they participate fully in the Eucharist. 80% noted that their loved ones follow their consciences about family planning, do not believe it to be morally wrong for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and they participate fully in Eucharist. None of the respondents support the Church’s teachings on family planning nor use only methods approved by the Church.

·        62% of respondents (n=32) do not accept the Church’s teaching in Humane Vitae; 78% support alternatives to Humane Vitae, including contraception; and 72% support education about human sexuality and family planning in civic education.

This summary does not include the comments prepared by respondents to open-ended questions.  Along with the tables/graphs shown above, their remarks were forwarded verbatim on January 6th to the President and General Secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Many of these comments conveyed deep feelings, often in disagreement with current practises or the lack of support from church officials. However, there was also a sign of hope or perhaps a request that the church become less judgemental and rejecting, and more compassionate and embracing.

Dignity Canada Dignité is Canada's organization of Roman Catholics who are concerned about our church's sexual theology, particularly as it pertains to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons. We work in collaboration with other Catholic organizations seeking reform in our church's leadership and teachings.