K of C: Young Catholics interested in faith, but open to relativism

I am always way leery of polls or surveys done by special-interest groups or groups with a clear point of view.

Almost every time, the poll happens to show public support for whatever point of view the group has or promotes.

That’s life, right?

So when I got an email promoting a “new survey of young Catholics” from the Knights of Columbus, I expected to open a press release proclaiming that all is right with the Catholic world from the point of view of young Catholics.

But no.

When I clicked on the email, I got this headline:

“New Survey of Young Catholics Shows Promise and Challenges for the Catholic Church: Believe in God, interested in the faith and clear on personal morality, but see morality overall as relative”

The release explains that high percentages of Catholic Millennials (ages 18-29) believe in God, see religion as at least “somewhat important” in their lives and believe that “commitment to marriage is under-valued.”

At the same time, pretty high percentages accept the kind of religious relativism that Pope Benedict has railed against.

61% believe “that it is all right for a Catholic to practice more than one religion (although 57% of practicing Catholics disagree). And 82% of Catholic Millennials see morals as “relative” (with only 54% of practicing Catholics disagreeing).

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson says: “It is very important for the Church to understand the outlook of the next generation of adult Catholics. Catholic Millennials support Church teaching in a wide variety of areas, including contentious issues like abortion and euthanasia. In other areas, the cultural relativism that Pope Benedict XVI has spoken so much about is very evident, and it confirms the wisdom of his attention to this question as central to the New Evangelization.”

So, congratulations to the K of C for being direct and honest and producing a poll that seems to jive with what’s going on out there.

Unitarians need support, too

It can’t be easy being a Unitarian Universalist.

As I go about my reporting, Unitarianism is often cited as the example of what other faiths don’t want to be or become.

If we’re not careful, we’ll be no different than the Unitarians.

When he says that, doesn’t he know he sounds like a Unitarian.

Stuff like that.

It’s true that Unitarians have no creed. They don’t have to believe (or not believe) anything. Instead, they are dedicated to the search for meaning. And they are very happy to look for wisdom in other faith traditions.

Of course, for many other traditions, this approach is the relativism that they disdain.

It makes sense that Unitarians can use some support now and then from fellow Unitarians. But there aren’t many around. Only 220,000 or so in this country.

That’s why a Croton fellow decided to arrange a European exchange program for Unitarian teens from the burbs. European Unitarians have even fewer brothers and sisters to confide in.

I talked to some Unitarian teens the other day about what they believe and why they’re visiting Europe (apart from the obvious reasons). I’ll write about what they told me in tomorrow’s FaithBeat column.

By the way, there are plenty of Unitarian jokes, too.

How ’bout this one: When an airplane was about to crash and the flight attendant asked a UU minister on board to pray, what did the minister say?

“Let us all join hands for silent meditation.”

A semi-lucid thought

Ah, the morning after.

I’m so exhausted that I don’t know that I can wrap things up in any meaningful way (although that’s going to have to change, since I’m writing a pope wrap-up today for tomorrow’s paper).

44a2e2d14bfb4570b69629c19e17b3f01.jpgThere’s no reason that people should care all that much about what the media went through. But, boy, it was harsh. Waiting for hours — sitting, standing, riding in buses. More than a few people got cranky. I tried to keep my cool. It was nothing personal, I told myself. The powers that be had to keep the pope safe and the media were just in the way.

But we did get to St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yankee Stadium and everywhere else. We got our texts of the pope’s homilies and talks (which I, for one, really needed. When I really, really tried to listen to the pope talk at St. Joseph’s Church, I simply couldn’t understand him).

So what did I take from the whole thing?

Yes, it was significant that Benedict spoke so often about the sex-abuse crisis. He clearly wanted to show that it had hurt him personally, but should he have said more about how and why it happened? Just a bit?

Yes, he challenged America’s Catholics to enjoy their nation’s freedoms and to fully engage its politics and culture without giving in to religious assimilation and the temptations of relativism. (I have to say, I’m kind of proud of the article I did a few weeks back about Benedict’s fear of relativism. This turned out to be one of the main themes of his trip.)

Yes, B16 did show some warmth and personality, particularly at the seminary. He’ll never be a great orator, but he won the people over, no doubt.

But the main thing I take away from the papal extravaganza is this: it’s about the office, not the man.

When I covered JPII a few times, I saw tens of thousands reaching for him, crying for him, and assumed that they were drawn to the man in white, the Polish fellow with the round face and undeniable charisma. And they were, to a degree.

But here comes Benedict. Very different personality. Very different style. German. Shy. Bookish. And the people reach out in the same way, cry for him in the same way.

The only conclusion that I can draw is that it’s about the papacy, not the pope. For Catholics, it’s about the man they believe to be the vicar of Christ, the successor to Peter — no matter who he is. (And for everyone else, it’s about the man who represents, spiritually, 1 out of every 6 people in the world.)

If someone else had been elected in 2005, the same crowds would have been out there. People still would have lined up for hours for a glimpse of the popemobile. People still would have called out “Papa! Papa!” but for a different Papa. There still would have been 25,000 kids at Dunwoodie, talking about how it was a “once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity-to-see-the-pope.”

I’m not knocking Benedict, mind you. He got the job done and deserves a nice rest. But I’m sure that he would be the first one to say that it’s all about the papacy and not Joseph Ratzinger.

A weekend worth of pope previews

Eight days and counting to the pope in the U.S.

In case you missed them over the weekend, the Journal News/LoHud.com has run a few more features about B16.

tjndc5-5jgjgzo3hbn1l7uks57x_layout.jpgOn Saturday, I had an “explainer” about the pope’s concerns regarding moral and religious relativism.

Days before his election, Benedict said:

We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism, which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.

On Sunday, I had a feature about how Christian leaders from non-Catholic traditions see this pope so far. I spoke to several people who will attend an ecumenical prayer service with the pope in NYC on April 18, including two who will officially greet Benedict.

The consensus: Protestant and Orthodox leaders don’t always agree with the pope, of course, and often have strong disagreements with him. But they respect B16 as a clear thinker and straight talker.

As Bishop Mark Sisk, head of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, said:

The clarity of his positions can be off-putting to those who are used to more muted edges. I say his clarity invites conversation.

And today, my colleague Rich Liebson has a piece about Benedict’s Bavarian roots. The pope is German, yes. But the fact that he hails from Bavaria is particularly important.

I learned that Benedict often uses a greeting that is used only in Bavaria — “Grüss Gott.”

It means “Greet God.”

If you haven’t already, please check out our pope page.