U.S. bishops are excited and happy to be able to consult everyday Catholics about the challenges to family life.
All the people's responses will be taken seriously, he said.
He said the bishops agreed they wanted a broad consultation from the people, and they would not try to interpret the data collected.
"People are looking right now at us and wondering what are we going to do. We're not (US dioceses) all going to do it in the same way," Bishop Barber said.
One problem, the bishop said, was that after two hours of meetings, the bishops appeared to be going different ways with no single format on gathering data. The other problem is time. All dioceses must have their reports to the USCCB in Washington by Dec. 31.
"Some dioceses are having each parish council answer the questions, then send them to the bishop," he said. Others like Chicago, have questions on the diocesan website, and ask people to print them out, answer them and mail them back. Others are using an online survey service.
Bishop Barber said the diocese was adopting a two-pronged approach.
• A link on the diocesan website to provide input online. "This is our concrete way of providing the widest possible consultation possible."
• For those who prefer, people can collect a questionnaire from their parish, fill it out and either give it back to the parish to be mailed in, or mail it directly to the Department for Evangelization and Catechesis at the Chancery, 2121 Harrison St., Suite 100, Oakland 94612.
The bishop added that Keith Borchers, director of DEC, is in charge of the consultation process for the diocese. The bishop will send in the diocese's collected results to the USCCB in Washington for compilation with the other USA dioceses, which will then be sent to Rome for the synod.
Cardinal Dolan said he didn't think it would constitute skating on thin ice to say that any bishop could rework the questions from the Vatican so that they are clear to the general public.
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said he has asked for the questionnaire to be made available on the archdiocesan website.
Archbishop Chaput observed that the bishops of Great Britain have created a website to be used nationwide for people to weigh in on the questions for the synod.
"I've had emails saying people expect to do this," Archbishop Chaput said.
Cardinal Dolan and Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, who has participated in numerous synods, bantered a bit about how the preparatory questions are sort of an antipasto before the main course of the full synod and the "dolce" or dessert course, the post-synodal apostolic exhortation that typically follows.
(Catholic News Service contributed to this report.)
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