Hot on the heels of the diocesan phase for the 2023 Synod of Bishops, a new online survey from the Vatican is seeking responses for the meeting from the world’s Catholics—including those who have disaffiliated from the institutional Church.
The news was shared on social media by popular Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, one of several influencers reportedly contacted by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications to spread the word and share a personalized link.
“They are interested in hearing from a wide range of people who may or may not be active Catholics,” he wrote on the site Monday evening.
Akin, who has over 60,000 followers across social media, also shared the link on his blog and in a mini-episode of his podcast, “Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World.” The link was later picked up by Catholic News Agency as well as overseas on The Irish Catholic.
The survey link, hosted by the Latino Catholic podcast site Juan Diego Network with an introductory page from Akin, consists of roughly 20 questions concerning the respondent’s faith background and how they feel the Church interacts with the world and connects (or does not connect) to them personally.
In line with the theme of synodality, which undergirds the upcoming synod—scheduled for October of next year—a number of questions seek to understand how the Church might make positive changes in the future, with the survey allowing responses in multiple-choice and short-answer formats.
Akin’s post received a variety of responses itself, including those skeptical of the survey’s origins—as the official phase of collecting lay responses for the Synod ostensibly ended in June, and the response form from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has already been allowed to remain open for the duration of the synodal preparation process.
Even so, the survey contains English written in a markedly European style and La Croix International reported last month that similar Vatican surveys were transmitted via influencers to young adults in France and Spain. Notably, the intermediaries in those cases were priests.
Akin, a layman based in Southern California, admitted that the survey he was asked to share may not reflect the concerns of more conservative practitioners—many of whom told him on social media that the new survey omits avenues for them to express their views.
“It was clear that whoever composed the questions and answers was not thinking from the perspective of many active, engaged, orthodox Catholics,” he told CNA, adding that he feels this is not in itself reason to forgo a response.
“My view is that if the Vatican asks for your opinions, it is better to cooperate and give them, even if the instrument is imperfect. Having your voice heard is better than not having it heard at all.”
Responses to the survey will be added to the lay input already received from around the world since last October, which came to the Vatican via syntheses formulated by officials from each participating diocese. The next Synod prep phase will consist of continental gatherings among bishops, who will dialogue before creating their own texts concerning the feedback they have received by that point.
Those interested in completing the new Vatican survey have until Monday, August 15 to submit their responses and can do so here.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).