Pope Francis is proving to be a far different creature than his immediate predecessor, Ratzinger the Nazi. It's almost like like some errant member of the curia decided to pull back the dusty old drapes inside of the Vatican, open the windows, and let in the 21st century. Holy moly, he's such a refreshing change!
This Pope, instead of exercising absolute power from the top down, has now decided that it might be advantageous for the Church to hear from its base - the millions of of individual Catholics who sample the bread and wine each week and dutifully give their dollars to God. To that end, he has sent out a survey to his Bishops asking that they consult with their parishioners and on a number of contemporary issues and get the results back to the Holy See. The results will be discussed at next year's Synod of Bishops.
Unfortunately there was no requirement for U.S. bishops to consult with their parishes, and they are free to submit just their personal opinions. However, various groups have put the survey on line, giving access to people who might have been frozen out of the process by their diocese leadership.
Clearly not every opinion will be received or tallied, but the boldness of the effort is stunning! This Pope wants to know about how people are actually living and what the Church can do to support and minister to them. The 38 questions in the survey focus on such controversial items as gay marriage, children adopted by gay parents, mixed (inter-religious) marriages, single-parent families, polygamy, couples living together without the benefit of marriage, divorce, and even "forms of feminism hostile to the Church."
Of course, once the information is received and processed, poor Francis will still have to blast through several thick layers of cemented bureaucracy in order to make any substantive changes - but it's a start!
If Pope Francis is not careful, he may lead me back to church!