Synod questionnaire: Is this the first time the Church asked for input from laity?

I don’t remember any other instance in the Catholic Church when input from laity on that kind of scale had been sought.

Sure, they do get lay experts in different fields to give advice. But I can’t think of any cases when regular churchgoers were asked for their opinion. Ecumenical Councils and Synods, as far as I know, have always sought advice from the local Bishops about what the agenda should be, and in theory they would be in touch with what the people from their local Churches would say and they could convey that for them. But that seems to be as far as it has ever gone, all the way back to the Council of Jerusalem.

Can anyone back this up or correct me? The historicity of this all is fascinating.

I remember we had an Archdiocesan Synod in 2003 here in Los Angeles, where the input of the laity was gathered through parish councils. I do not recall anything on a global scale like this before either, but I’m sure those better versed in history will correct me if I’m wrong. I wonder how much the digital age we live in now, where everyone seems to be already connected online, went into the Church’s decision to involve the laity in this way in the upcoming synod. It certainly makes the logistics of gathering information easier than it would have been in times past.

It’s at least the second time. In some memoirs of Evelyn Waugh, the British author, he writes about how the bishops of England and Wales asked their flock to voice their opinions on the Church during the Second Vatican Council, on the prompting of his holiness Pope Paul VI. I believe that laypeople at the time used editorials and op-eds in Catholic newspapers as their organ.

In Waugh’s opinion, it was not very successful since it fell to self-selection to see who would respond. He felt that small, organized groups of radical laity overwhelmed the responses, while the vast majority of the faithful felt that their bishops would speak just fine for them and didn’t respond.

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