'He Wants To Get At How People Feel Toward The Church,' Vatican Watcher Says

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In his latest move, Pope Francis has ordered bishops to do some survey work to find out what the faithful really think about the church’s teachings on marriage and family.

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As CBS 2’s John Slattery reported, in what is considered a radical move, the pope wants to find out what rank-and-file Roman Catholics think.

“You know, for young people, saying the Catholic Church doesn’t take polls – well, guess what? We take polls now,” said the Rev. James Martin, a Vatican watcher and contributor to America Magazine.

Martin said he is thrilled by the latest move. Pope Francis wants bishops to survey Catholics on hot-button issues — pre-marital cohabitation, contraception, gay marriage and others.

“You know, he knows that divorced and remarried Catholics feel unwelcome, gays and lesbians feel unwelcome,” Martin said. “So, he wants to get at how people feel toward the church and church teaching.”

The survey will arm bishops with critical information when they meet with the Pope next October.

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“To me, that’s amazing that he wants to hear from the Catholics in the pews and parishes,” said the Rev. Rev. Gil Martinez of St. Paul the Apostle Church on Ninth Avenue. “This is when all those teachings come into play.”

Martinez is one of the priests in the trenches, and he said the survey is important for bringing back Catholics on the fringe. Some parishioners agreed.

“You need to see if the rules in place really apply to the society as it is today,” said Jim O’Brien.

The survey may not result in a change in church teaching, but it could change the way people are treated in parishes.

In September, Pope Francis signaled greater openness, saying the church was too tied up in “small-minded rules.”

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