A stark difference between church teaching and the lives of Catholics is evident in the compilation of returns prepared in the Archdiocese of Cologne for the extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome.
The faithful had been invited to participate through the Diocesan Council and the city and district deans. The archdiocese of Cologne has made the 23-page summary available on the Internet. "The feedbacks are to be understood as the perception of the interviewees. They are not a vote on specific substantive ies, nor are they the opinion of the archbishop," stresses the document, which has since been forwarded to the German Bishops' Conference, from where it will go to the Vatican.
In nine sections, the document presents the answers to the Vatican's questions in preparation for the synod. "On the whole, the teaching of the Church is seen as alien to the world and to relationships," reads a catch-all on the question of the Church's teaching in relation to the family. The teachings of the church are little known and are often reduced to the topics "indissolubility of marriage" and the statements on sexuality. In this area, "the life worlds of church and society are drifting strikingly apart". Thus, respondents see a social practice of separation and divorce and an increasing openness to all possible forms of partnership (homosexual unions, patchwork families).
Living together "ad experimentum", that is, a partnership without a marriage ceremony, is a common practice in the archdiocese. "Almost all couples who ask for a church wedding are already living together, many of them for years". There is also an increase in the number of simultaneous celebrations of marriage and baptism of a child.
Merciful approach to the remarried divorced and those living separately
People who have married for the second time by the state are also an important factor: "Many remarried divorcees feel discriminated against by the official church, feel marginalized and often show themselves burdened by this."This is what the participants in the survey are aware of: 'A pastoral care is called for that invites a merciful approach to the remarried divorced and separated'".
The respondents predominantly expect accompaniment from the Church: "It is clear from many answers that appreciative acceptance and the offer of accompaniment in difficult life situations, derived from the core of the Christian message, contribute significantly to the credibility of the Church and often stand as a longing behind concrete requests". For example, newly developed formats of marriage preparation such as climbing courses or a "culinary marriage preparation" are perceived as attractive new offers. About 360 couples took advantage of these and other offers of marriage preparation in the past year.
Speechlessness with regard to one's own faith
Parents are increasingly "speechless with regard to their own faith and the transmission of it to the next generation". Nevertheless, according to the Bonn sample, 77 percent of those surveyed celebrate Christian festivals and 40 percent pray with their children. Otherwise, religious education is delegated to the experts in parishes, kindergartens, schools and youth associations.
In very different ways the results of the document have come about. In Dusseldorf, for example, there was a "Convention of Responsible People" with 70 participants, and on various Internet sites one could participate online, for example with the Federation of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ) and the Family Federation Cologne. In Bonn alone, 2217 people took part in the survey in this way. In the evaluation, the threads ran together in the Cologne General Vicariate, all responses from the Archdiocese of Cologne were evaluated and brought together in the Marriage and Family Pastoral Department.
"We were surprised that the multitude of the pope's moral programs for families in parishes and daycare centers is hardly known among the faithful," explained head of department Markus Bosbach. On the basis of the feedback, the Pastoral Care Department intends to review its programs. With regard to the difference between the teaching and life of the faithful in the Archdiocese of Cologne, Bosbach emphasized: "In the Archdiocese of Cologne, we have now determined and published these data. Now we are very curious how the Synod will judge these results and act".