PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — At the behest of Pope Francis, the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese embraced the chance to survey Catholic families on challenges faced in today’s more liberal American culture.

Through the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper and an online survey, Bishop David Zubik invited everyone to participate, and about 3,000 people did.

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Now, in a frank and honest report, the diocese learned all is not well.

“We heard a lot of hurts,” Helen Paharik, who coordinated the survey, told KDKA’s Jon Delano. “We heard stories of when people experience a marital break-up, separation, or divorce. Some felt the church wasn’t present to them.”

At a time when half of all couples get a divorce, Catholic doctrine on this is misunderstood, says Paharik.

“We have divorced Catholics and they’re able to receive the sacraments. There’s a thought that maybe they’re not allowed, but they certainly are,” she says.

Of course, remarriage requires annulment, and some Catholics don’t want to be bothered.

Another big issue — sex before marriage.

The report found over 80 percent of couples are living together before marriage.

Delano: “In many ways, the Catholic teaching is at odds with society’s norms.”

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Parahik: “There’s nothing new there, Jon. That’s the case throughout our history. We’ve always been a little bit counter-cultural.”

The report also confirmed the widespread use of contraceptives by Catholics.

“Again there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in educating couples about natural family planning,” said Paharik.

Paharik says the diocese also heard from gay Catholics, even as the church opposes marriage equality.

“They’re called to a life of chastity,” Paharik said.

So with many Catholics at odds with church teachings, might things change?

Paharik thinks not.

“Is Pope Francis changing the teaching? We’re not able to change the teaching of our faith because we believe it was handed down to us by Jesus Christ,” she said.

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