The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has faced down criticism of its refusal to release the findings of a marriage and family survey by revealing it had been requested to keep the results secret by a Vatican cardinal.
Mgr Marcus Stock, the General Secretary of the bishops’ conference, has explained that Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri wrote to Cardinal Vincent Nichols asking that the summary not be made public.
The Church in England and Wales led the way when it decided to put online a questionnaire ahead of a synod on marriage and family life; 16,500 filled out the survey which included questions on communion for divorced and remarried, church teaching on artificial contraception and same-sex marriage.
But the bishops’ conference has refused to release the findings despite the fact that other episcopal conferences – such as the Germans and Swiss – have done so. This month, A Call to Action (Acta), wrote to the bishops urging them to publish the findings of the survey.
Acta quoted Cardinal Baldisseri, the secretary general of the synod, who has said the results of the questionnaire show the “urgency of recognising the lived reality of the people and of beginning a pastoral dialogue with those who have distanced themselves from the Church.” The letter, which praises the bishops’ decision to publish the survey online, then states: “Withholding the results cannot be a promising way to begin that pastoral dialogue.”
But in his reply Mgr Stock wrote that given Cardinal Baldisseri was working closely with Pope Francis on the synod, “it would not be appropriate for this bishops’ conference to take any steps in respect of the results of the consultation process which might betray the trust of, or go against the expressed wishes of, the Holy Father.” Mgr Stock added that he understood that all bishops’ conferences had been asked not to make the summary of the synod survey findings public.
Above: Cardinal Baldisseri. Photo: CNS/Massimiliano Migliorato