Pope Francis's latest surprise: Conducting a survey on the modern family

The pontiff with a penchant for surprises is making new waves by launching a survey of his flock on issues facing modern families — from gay marriage to divorce.

Very specific questions are being sent to parishes around the globe in preparation for next year’s synod of bishops, a grassroots effort that experts say is unprecedented.

“It’s fascinating,” said Thomas Groome, a professor of theology at Boston College.

“It’s pretty astonishing,” agreed Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of the gay Catholic organization DignityUSA.

Vatican watchers say Francis’ polling attempt is extraordinary on two levels: first, because it seeks input from rank-and-file Roman Catholics and second, because it touches on issues that might have been considered off-limits in past papacies.