To the Editor:
The May 22 article about Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle’s worries about the upcoming extraordinary Synod of Bishops on family life was itself worrying. The cardinal is worried by the results of the recent survey of Catholic views on marriage and family, carried out in anticipation of the synod (which takes place this fall). More than worried, he is shocked. “[A]lmost in all parts of the world, the questionnaires indicated that the teaching of the Church regarding family life is not clearly understood by the people.”
Since the form of the survey circulated in most U.S. dioceses didn’t really examine what the respondents actually thought about the Church’s teaching, it would be difficult to tell what the degree of misunderstanding is. The questions primarily asked for one’s opinions about what other people were doing or thinking. Since most of the issues involved have been put in the do-not-discuss basket, it is difficult to know what people actually think. It is my impression that many people have at least a rough understanding of the Church’s teaching on (for example) contraception, but find it unpersuasive. Since the teaching is regularly put forward as part of the natural law, this seems to be a significant weakness.
But Cardinal Tagle doesn’t seem interested in this. For him the agenda for the synod is to counter this inner defection by repeating arguments that we have been hearing for half a century. People who are not persuaded will have no status in the discussion. The question is not what they think, but what “the Church” teaches. It may well be that Pope Francis has other ideas about the upcoming synod, but he will have to work hard to set an agendas other than Cardinal Tagle’s.