(ZENIT News / Rome, 19.09.2022).- The Dicastery for Communication published a 15-page Report that reflects the “synodal consultation” entitled “The Church Listens to You.” It’s a Report based on a digital initiative carried out over a period of 2.5 months, in seven languages (English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Tagalog and Malayagam) and in 115 countries. It involved 244 influencers (27% of whom were priests, 10% women religious and 63% lay catechists), it reached 20 million people who filled out 110,000 questionnaires.
In this “digital synodal process” demography was especially relevant because it reached young people especially. In fact, 58% of those that answered were younger than 40 and 84% of them have had a personal encounter with God. 66% go to Mass of whom one out of three follow a Catholic digital influencer/evangelizer, who seeks to interact and reflect further. Many of the people reached do not take part in the life of the Church but follow a so-called “influencer.”
Verified from the point of view of faith were three segments:
1st 50% of practicing believers (active, committed and satisfied with the Church and the Catholic religion)
Admit that they would like to be closer to the Church but don’t find the time or the way to participate more in keeping with their desires. Outstanding in this group are the elderly. The Report highlights that it’s a group of high fidelity to the Church that, nevertheless, wishes to be more integrated. That explains possibly why they follow Catholic influencers/evangelizers, because they want to reflect further, through listening and relaxed dialogue, which is hardly available in face-to-face realities.
2nd 50% of estranged Catholics: are estranged baptized persons or whose faith cooled, either because of the Church’s decisions or because of lack of interest. The majority of these agree in asserting that they would like to be closer to the Church, but feel they are excluded. Added to this group are those that point out that they approach the institution in times of need to pray or give thanks. The Report shows that if nothing is done to receive them, they will be increasingly estranged, although not necessarily breaking with the faith.
3rd 10% of agnostics and atheists: the Report regards them as a minority group and in the extreme. They are not interested in approaching the Catholic Church as an institution and prefer to take party in other religious or philanthropic organizations, but they still feel attracted to influencers with whose messages they are more in tune, feel closer to them who do not judge them and accept them.
The synthesis reports the level of satisfaction with the Church: fewer than half (41%) are very satisfied with their relationship with the Catholic Church/religion. 59% somewhat, little or not at all satisfied. Among the reasons they give why people become estranged are firstly the scandals of pederasty and corruption in the Church. Secondly, the Church’s failure to respond to their anxieties and priorities; others because they feel judged by her. In addition is the lack of understanding with people that are part of the Church and the weight of other religions and their convocations. 81% think that the Church has to undertake a relevant update and 32% think that if she doesn’t do so with a certain speed, they will find it difficult to stay in her.
Five findings that highlight the answers
The analysis of the answers reveals five findings
1st In tune with the Pope: as a whole, 67% of Catholic inhabitants of “digital spaces” consulted want changes as those proposed by the Pope; 24% are neutral to the Pope’s proposals and 9% differ or are openly oppose to them, in line with a determined return to the pre-conciliar Tradition.
2nd Estranged from the Church: Among the different types of the estranged, the main problem are the 26% that do not practice, many of them because they see themselves judged and not accepted by the Church. They are 2.5 times more numerous than the agnostics and atheists.
3rd Experience of God: 84% of the people consulted, who follow Catholic influencers on the social networks, say they have had a personal encounter with God.
4th Ecclesial reference: For 2/3 people the relationship with the Church is established through friends who are believers.
5th Interpretations in tension: the debates on the exercise of sexuality (separated/divorced and remarried, people with same-sex attraction, etc.). generates intense conflicts among Catholics with different interpretations.
The four axes that the analysis yields as a request are the following
1: Guidance given a confused reality and accelerated change (26%)
Guidance is requested given the very speedy changes. Christ is pointed out as model and foundation of the Church and the figure of the Pope as a reference. Not to judge is emphatically repeated (irregular couples, sexual orientation). Ability to dialogue in face of controversies. Talk about the unjustifiable (paedophilia, abuse, alleged contempt of woman and corruption).
2: More genuine Christians in their behaviour with others (17%).
Coherence through witness, service to the poor, solidarity. Respect of ecclesial diversity (different ways of following Jesus), without imposing styles. Care of the planet.
3: A coherent and courageous Church in her structures, attitudes and way of proceeding (37%).
New profile of the priest and Bishop (closer and more open to the laity’s participation, especially of women). Go out to encounter with appropriate means (the digital world, for example, with young people). Need of a Church not subjected to the power of the world.
4: Facilitate the personal and communal relationship with God (20%).
High value was given to moments of encounter with God, which must be multiplied. Less formation is perceived than in other Churches: urgency of formation in the faith taking advantage of the digital dimension as channel of formation. Masses are requested that illumine and accompany life (some find Masses boring). Desire to encounter God in others.
From what has been “heard,” the accent is on the fact that “only a fourth of the population acknowledges that the Church ‘listens/dialogues’ with different social groups. ‘A bit’ together with ‘little,’ are the highest values in terms of percentage, those being in the minority that say she doesn’t listen/dialogue.” Hence it is suggested
- To stress more the importance of listening in the Church
- To have priests and Religious dedicate more time to listening
- One fourth of the population suggests dedicating more channels (networks, etc.) and individuals to listening
Finally, in regard to the way of “walking together,” there were 13 suggestions that appear here grouped by degree of importance:
- To foster spirituality: silence, contemplation
- To accompany-assist-attend: couples, families, separated/divorced people, in their life and sexuality; the poor, migrants, LGTB groups, original ethnic groups, prisoners, etc.
- To be renewed-go out-take part: update the way of educating at all levels. Stimulate volunteer work and activities with young people. Promote women’s equality in society and the Church, participate more in the digital world. Points of encounter with journalists and scientists.
The conclusion is that an organic, systematic and institutional digital pastoral care is necessary
The full 15-page Report can be read at this link.