Covering Pope Benedict's Visit

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Here we go … today, I begin a stint of daily blogging on these pages about Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States.

There will be a plethora of information on television and the Internet about all of the events, but here I want to offer you something different; an analysis and discussion of the pope’s message as it relates to our personal lives and the future of our country.

A word about method. We will go against the facile approach you will see in many media outlets that will fixate on fabricated and stale controversy. They will refer to the pope as a hardliner (as did the New York Times this morning) because he actually believes and teaches Catholic doctrine. They will say he is divisive and has a public relations problem because some radical Muslims were offended by his rejection of religiously motivated violence. They will call him naïve when he speaks at the United Nations and outlines a path for arriving to a universal consensus about human rights and religious liberty. They will say he is irrelevant because many Catholics are not going to church and don’t all follow Church teaching on core issues.

Instead, I will try to summarize and offer context to the pope’s daily message and analyze his interlocutor’s responses. We won’t avoid real controversy and the tough questions, but we won’t manufacture things for our own purposes.

I will keep in mind a very broad audience — Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, and non-Christians of all stripes.

Let’s start by looking here at some data about the pope’s approval ratings, church attendance, and the spirituality of Catholic youth from a new poll released by Georgetown University. It is interesting that only one third of the country’s 65 million Catholics attend mass on a given Sunday. But just as significant, in my opinion, is that the poll found that Catholics born before 1960 — among the most faithful parishioners — and those born since the 1980s have similar outlooks. In other words, today’s youth are not following their parents, who in the 1960’s and 1970’s famously threw out tradition for a free-loving and Godless approach to life.

What data in this poll do you find of interest? What would you like the pope to talk about on his trip? If you are not a Catholic, are you interested in his trip, and why?

E-mail me your thoughts and I will post another blog this afternoon to continue the discussion.

God bless, Father Jonathan
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