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Locals to get survey from Vatican on controversial issues

NEW ORLEANS - Local Catholics will soon receive a survey from the Vatican on controversial issues like gay marriage, birth control and divorce. It's an unusual move by a new pope bent on doing things differently.

At noon, the bells ringing at St. Patrick's Catholic Church on Camp Street could be heard for blocks. Parishioners leaving a midday Mass pondered more than what they heard during the service.

After Mass, they reflected on the survey Pope Francis authorized to learn their views on various social issues related to families.

During his travels, the Pontiff shared his views on homosexuality with the traveling press corps.

"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and he has good will, who am I to judge?" asked the Pope.

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond said the survey will be available next weekend through the Archdiocese's Clarion Herald newspaper in the form of a pullout item.

"It's all very specific questions that are open-ended, so it's not like yes, no, or fill in the blank," he said.

Aymond said this type of survey is unusual.

"In my lifetime, the pope has requested the opinions of select laity, priests, deacons and so forth, but this is the first time that the Pope says, 'I want to talk about quality of family life,'" Aymond said.

He said the survey could be very helpful in determining where services are needed.

"How can the church reach out to people with specific troubling issues that are going on in the family? And he's saying, well there's no better place to go than to ask families," Aymond said.

One of the questions on the survey deals with how priests minister to same-sex couples.

"Gay marriage, I think, I just don't think it should interfere with anything else. If that's what they want, that's their business," said parishioner Marilyn Casey.

"One way to destroy something is to dilute it, and so if you allow anyone to call themselves  married no matter who they are, what you've really done is you've destroyed it," said Richard  Snee as he left Mass in the CBD.

"Divorce, I don't believe in divorce," said Casey.

And she agreed that birth control is against the church's teachings.

Some observers believe the survey is part of the Pope's pledge to make the Church less Vatican-centric.

"I think he's trying to bring everybody together, and I think he's doing a good job of doing it by keeping an open mind," Casey said.

"The Church can seek advice from whoever they want, okay, but if the Church is true, then the truth doesn't change," said Snee.

Loyola Assistant Professor Daniella Zsupan-Jerome said it would be a stretch to think that the Pope is ready to abandon Church teachings.

"I think he's fully in love with his tradition, with his faith and wants the world to see that and come in to that with him. I think that's what he's fully committed to, so I don't think he's on the get-go about abolishing or changing anything," Zsupan-Jerome said.

"I do not think, nor is it possible for the teaching of the Church to change, but I do think what we will see is a shift on how we take care of people," said Aymond.

Archbishop Aymond must prepare a report of sorts to present at the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference in December.

"My response will take into consideration all that I'm reading from other people," he said.

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