A Survey, A Synod and a Carthusian Fruitcake

A Survey, A Synod and a Carthusian Fruitcake August 11, 2022

My veteran readers may recall that I am fond of surveys.

I like to have my opinion asked, safely behind the anonymity of a multiple choice fill-in-the-bubble form. So I was thrilled when I heard that the Vatican has allegedly released a survey for us to reply to. I have all kinds of opinions I’d like to tell the Vatican. So I was excited when the blogger Jimmy Aiken claimed that he was recently contacted by the Vatican with a survey for him to post to his blog, the answers to which will be presented to the upcoming “Synod of Bishops,” which is quite the honor. I wanted to answer that survey.

Mind you I’ve never been 100% sure what a “synod” is, and I don’t know that I want to know. It’s just one of those important-sounding words Catholics like to repeat, like “fecundity” and “hypostasis.” But I would be glad to have my opinions presented to a Synod of Bishops if the synod didn’t bite. In this case, I don’t think my opinions will be presented to the Synod of Bishops. The link to the survey doesn’t lead to the Vatican website, it just leads to a weird survey site and then spills you right back onto Jimmy Aiken’s blog. Others who have taken the survey tell me they can’t find a link to it anywhere actually purported to be from the Vatican. It’s certainly not on the “Synod of Bishops” page on the Vatican website. I have no idea where this survey came from or where the answers will be stored, if they’re stored at all. But I took the survey anyway, because I am a Catholic. When a Catholic blogger tells me to repent and submit to the Vatican, I do everything that blogger says.

I have written my reaction to the Synod Survey here, with screenshots taken in accordance with fair-use principles for the purpose of parody. If you think your anti-virus software is good enough you can take the survey yourself. The rest of you can read my cliff notes.

Question Number One: “Have you ever had a personal encounter with God?” followed by a thumbs up or thumbs down  you can click on instead of “yes” or “no.” Easy. I was raised in the Charismatic Renewal. I was once at a Charismatic conference where Father DeGrandis wouldn’t let people leave the auditorium until we received the gift of tongues. He literally said “no tongues, no lunch,” and I was speaking in tongues within a few minutes because I hate crowds and wanted to get out of there. Thumbs up.

Question Number Two: “What option best describes your faith?” And then we get an odd list of choices:

“A. I am a practicing believer (I try to lead a life of grace). B. A believer with religious practices (I go to Mass on Sundays but nothing else). C. Non-practicing believer. D. Agnostic (I neither affirm nor deny that God exists. E. Atheist (I think that God does not exist). F. Spiritual but not religious (I believe in a higher being but not in religion.) ”

I wish there was a “G: other please specify” but there is not. No place for a former Charismatic estranged from her abusive family in the middle of a painful deconstruction. I guess I’ll click on A to get some brownie points.

Question Number Three: In which ways do you participate in the Church? Here we get an eccentric list of choices you’re going to have to see to believe:

I’m concerned that this is just another attempt to filter out the impure, sending your answers down the memory hole if you click on Option H. I guess I’ll click on Option E: I participate in social media or church-related websites. Social media: the eighth work of mercy! I am good at social media. Next!

Question Number Four: What do you think are the main reasons why people leave the Church? And again, a list of eccentric answers to choose from with no slot to type in other reasons. You’re going to have to see it for yourself again:

I am extremely concerned with any survey that puts “pederasty” in the same list as “boring Mass,” quite frankly. Also, why did they pick that word when the same priests are abusing adult men, girls and women? It’s clearly another attempt to make young males the only acknowledged victims so that they can continue to pretend the abuse crisis is  a problem of gay men infiltrating seminaries.

Question Number Five was something like “Do you think the Church listens to other groups including journalists and LGBTQ” but I smashed “no” before I could get a screenshot to double check the exact wording. It occurred to me after I did so that the wording of the question implied that LGBTQ people are an “other group” and not real Catholics. As a queer Catholic who is monogamous with a man and has been following Church rules my entire life, this irks me. LGBTQ people and journalists continue to be the redheaded stepchildren of the Catholic Church.

Question Number Six! “In your opinion, which of these best describe the Church?” And again we’re given a list of adjectives to choose from with no “other please specify” box. Supportive, selfish, authoritarian, participative, innovative, outdated, close, distant. I now have the template for a new Dungeons and Dragons character. I also fear that I’m not going to get a very good score on the survey because there’s no way to click “one, holy, Catholic, apostolic.”

Question Number Seven! “When you talk about “the Church,” what comes to mind?” And again, you’re going to have to see the multiple choice answers to believe them:

What in the name of corned beef and cabbage is a “religious influencer?”

Is that what Jimmy Aiken considers himself to be?

Is that what I am? Please, God, no. I’ve already disappointed my loved ones enough. Let there be a better name for what I do than “religious influencer.”

Question Number Eight: “Which of these activities do you consider urgent for the Church to address better and have more presence?” I can’t even show you all the multiple choice answers to this, because the page was so big I couldn’t take a single screenshot. There are answers galore including “accompaniment to LGTBI people.” At first I thought “LGTBI” was a weird typo but apparently it’s a real thing, and it stands for “lesbian, gay, trans, bisexual and intersex.” I don’t know why they went with that instead of plain old LGBTQ. I am excited that the Vatican at last admits that trans and intersex people exist, when you usually get slapped for saying such a thing. Male and female He created them. Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Pay no attention to that intersex person behind the curtain. Another possible choice for Number Eight is “digital world and social media” as if we’re all deeply disappointed the USCCB Twitter page doesn’t banter back when we troll them. When fall the Catholic Social Media accounts, then falls the Church.

Anyway, let’s move on.

Question Number Nine: “Write 3 way in which you think the Church could be closer to the people.” Oh goodie, we finally get an option to write in the answers.

Question Number Ten: “Have you been baptized?” Okay hold up, why would I be taking this survey if I wasn’t baptized? Is Jimmy Aikin just phishing people? If there’s a question about my birthdate and first pet’s name I’m shutting this down.

Question Number Eleven: “Which of these actions could the Church perform in order to listen better to everyone?” this is the one that’s got everybody rolling in the aisles. It reads like it was written in English and then put through a Babelfish translator into German and back into English, and the multiple choices don’t make much sense:
Raise awareness about the importance of listening? Priests and religious dedicate more time to listening?
My personal favorite answer is “Dedicate further channels (telephone, social networks, places) and people to listening.” I sort of like the idea of the Church designating certain people to just sit there with intent looks on their faces, taking it all in. I dislike the idea of more social media networks, however. The ones we have are already too hot to handle. And as for the telephone, I can’t think of anything worse. What would that even look like? A nine hundred number where you could call the Vatican and a random prelate who only speaks Italian would breathe into the phone while you scream and cry and rant?
There’s that “more interaction on Church’s social media channels” option popping up again as well. Perhaps the Vatican needs snarky people to tend their Twitter account just like Wendy’s and Steak-ums has.
Question Number Twelve: “which aspects of your life and daily decisions do you consider are influenced by the message and teachings of Jesus?” The babelfish translator strikes again. I read this over and over and over and eventually it made sense, sort of. If I were generous I’d say that this is evidence that the survey really did come from the Vatican, and was originally written in ecclesiastical Latin. But I am not generous.
Question Number Thirteen: “I believe the fundamentals of the Catholic faith (the creed).” Yet again, multiple choice answers, from “yes” to “yes with reservations” all the way down to a flat “no.” You can’t fool me, Jimmy. I’m morally certain that if I answered with anything other than assent, a virus would infect my computer and burn down my whole house. Nobody expects the Religious Influencer inquisition.
Question Number Fourteen: “You are a (man) (woman) (don’t want to respond).” For one sad moment the Vatican acknowledged the existence of queer people, but no more. We’re back to Adam and Steve. Pick one or be too surly to reply. I’ll go with “Man” because this is a Catholic survey, so I assume the other two answers flush the entire thing down the memory hole.
Question Number Fifteen: “How old are you?” You aren’t supposed to ask a lady her age, Jimmy. And I’m more and more convinced this is a phishing scam anyway. If I get a question about my birth date and first pet’s name, I’m shutting this down.
Question Number Sixteen: “select your country of origin.” In Christ there is no East or West.
Question Number Seventeen: “If you selected “other” on the previous question, please specify your country of origin’ and a space to write something in. What a time to add the “other please specify” option.
Question Number Eighteen: “what’s your email?” No, Jimmy, you are not entitled to my email address. And that goes double if this somehow makes its way to the Vatican. I don’t want some Cardinal texting me eggplants in the middle of the night. I don’t want ads for Benedictine-brewed coffees or limited edition Carthusian fruitcake. I am sorry for whoever has the email address “poopitypoop@poop.edu,” I had to think of something or it wouldn’t let me click “Ok.”
And with that last question, the survey spits me back onto Jimmy Aiken’s website.
And there you have it. I’ve done my duty for the Synod of Bishops. I’m excited for them to hear my opinions and take them to heart. After all, I’m a Christian Influencer with a social media account. Jimmy and I may not be the Vatican, but we’re the next best thing.
And now I’m in the mood for some fruitcake.

First image via pixabay, all other screenshots are taken in accordance with fair-use principles for the purpose of parody from this mysterious survey whose author is unknown. 

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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