BY RACHEL ZOLL
AP RELIGION WRITER
NEW YORK -- The Vatican is taking the unusual step of conducting a worldwide survey on how parishes deal with sensitive issues such as birth control, divorce and gay marriage, seeking input ahead of a major meeting on the family that Pope Francis plans next year.
The poll was sent in mid-October to every national conference of bishops with a request from the Vatican coordinator, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, to "share it immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received."
The survey reflects the pope's pledges to move away from what he called a "Vatican-centric" approach toward one where local church leaders are more involved in decision-making.
Among the questions are whether gay marriage is recognized in their country and how priests minister to same-sex couples, including how churches can respond when gays seek a religious education or Holy Communion for their children. The poll also asks "how is God's mercy proclaimed" to separated, divorced and remarried couples. Additional information is sought on the pastoral care of men and women who live together outside of marriage. The survey also asks parishes whether they believe married men and women tend to follow church teaching barring the use of artificial contraception.