May 28, 2004

Cheap shot

Don't get me wrong, I have tremendous respect for some aspects of the tenure of Pope John Paul II, and I recognize that he's frail and ailing, but when he says something like this:

The American church "is called to respond to the profound religious needs and aspirations of a society increasingly in danger of forgetting its spiritual roots and yielding to a purely materialistic and soulless vision of the world," John Paul said.

...I can't help wondering what planet he's on. With all due respect, it appears to me that Europe has moved far further toward yielding to "a purely materialistic and soulless vision of the world" if organized religion is the benchmark by which this is measured. And this unfortunate comment,

"Taking up this challenge, however, will require a realistic and comprehensive reading of the 'signs of the times,' in order to develop a persuasive presentation of the Catholic faith and prepare young people especially to dialogue with their contemporaries about the Christian message and its relevance to the building of a more just, humane and peaceful world."

...only reminds me that of the rather unwelcome attention that some in the American church paid to youth in the past, which I'm not entirely sure the Pope was all that interested in dealing with at the time.

Yes, I know, it's a cheap shot from me, but I think suggesting that America is "a society increasingly in danger of forgetting its spiritual roots and yielding to a purely materialistic and soulless vision of the world" is every bit as cheap, and far less grounded in reality.

Posted by Ideofact at May 28, 2004 11:07 PM

Does the Pope simply watch America's international presence (via TV) ? That would appear to fit his description, possibly.

Or does he get large numbers of disturbing reports from bishops, cardinals, and priests in the US...?

Even more disturbing, have the Pope's advisors become acculturated to the European religious scene, and not able to see it for what it is?

(Note to self--do I have any better grasp of the European church than he has of the American church? )

Posted by: steve h at May 30, 2004 07:58 PM

Good questions one and all, Steve. I wish I knew the answers.

I can't help but think that perhaps the Abu Ghraib pictures played into this -- certainly an example of the potential for depravity among Americans, but I'm not so sure how that's worse than, say, the Casa Pia scandal in Portugal.

Posted by: Bill at May 31, 2004 01:28 AM

Just going by that article, I don't see any reason to believe that he was comparing modern America to modern Europe. At one point he speaks of preaching the Gospel to "contemporary Western society", which would presumably include Europe. It sounds more like he's comparing the American present to the American past, and it is true that fewer people go to church now than formerly.

Posted by: Camassia at May 31, 2004 08:19 PM

It occurred to me that perhaps the report itself was worse than the Pope's remarks; I'll try to dig them out and see what they look like in context.

Still, I don't think there's a spirit of soulless materialism abroad in the land, even among those (like myself) who don't belong to any particular denomination, or profess any creed.

I think this can be measured fairly simply: no political candidate for national office runs on a program that espouses a materialistic view of the universe. When someone wins a national election while touting the man machine, I might change my mind.

Posted by: Bill at June 1, 2004 09:49 AM