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? )
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.
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.
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.