Monday, April 14, 2008

Polls, Pilgrims and Protestors

Monday afternoon... 25 hours til Touchdown... and it's already a blitz....

So, let's start off with some links.

In case anyone hasn't yet seen it, the Pope's got himself an approval rating: over 80% of US Catholics, according to CARA -- Georgetown's Center for Applied Research of the Apostolate -- which released an exhaustive survey yesterday on the sacramental practices of the 70 million-strong fold.

More than eight of out of ten Catholics are satisfied with the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI, according to a poll of Catholic adults in the United States. More than seven out of ten are equally satisfied with the leadership of the U.S. bishops, a14-point jump, from 58 to 72 percent, since 2004.

The same poll found that among those who attend Mass at least once a month, Millennial Catholics (born after 1981) pursue religious practice with fervor akin to pre-Vatican II Catholic (born before 1943). However, 36 percent of Millennial Catholics (2.7 million individuals) attend Mass at least once a month compared to 64 percent of pre-Vatican II Catholics (5.5 million individuals.)...

Data on the Millennial generation show young Mass-attending Catholics more akin to pre-Vatican Catholics in regard to religious beliefs as well as practices.

Among Catholics attending Mass at least once a month, the Millennials are just as likely to believe the basic Catholic tenet that Christ is really present in the Eucharist as pre-Vatican II Catholics.

Among this same group, the Millennials are the most likely to observe Lenten practices. More than nine in ten of them abstain from meat on Fridays in Lent (91 percent) and receive ashes on Ash Wednesday (91 percent).

Among those attending Mass at least once a month, Millennial Catholics are more likely than older Catholics to say they are at least somewhat involved in parish life, are among the most likely to consider their faith the most important part of their life, and that receiving the Eucharist is “very” important to their sense of what it means to be Catholic.

Among this group, the Millennials are most likely to say that having devotion to the saints is “very” important to their sense of what it means to be Catholic.

Millennials stand apart when saying which sacrament is most meaningful to them personally. For Catholics overall, 39 percent said baptism is the most meaningful; 43 percent of Millennials said marriage is.

The wide-ranging poll found that Catholics hold that helping those in need is important, and two-thirds agreed with the statement: “Helping the poor and needy is a moral obligation for Catholics.”

The poll offers a snapshot of the Church in the United States today. “Older Catholics, especially those who came of age prior to the Second Vatican Council, are typically more involved in Church life and attend Mass more frequently than younger generations of Catholics,” the report said. “In general, they tend to score higher on most survey items that measure ‘commitment’ to Catholicism.” Knowledge about the Catholic faith varies by generation and is frequently greatest among older Catholics, yet this depends on the topic. “For example, knowledge of Church teachings and obligations is usually higher among older Catholics, but knowledge of the bible is typically greater among younger generations,” the report said. Agreement with Church teachings is, again, often relatively high among the oldest Catholics, the pre-Vatican II generation. To a lesser extent this is also true of the Millennial generation, currently in their mid-20s and younger. Agreement with Church teaching is typically lowest among the generation of Catholics who came of age during the changes associated with Vatican II and among post-Vatican II generation Catholics, though this too depends on the teaching in question....

Other findings of the survey included:
  • Respondents with children are most likely to say it is “somewhat” or “very” important that their children celebrate First Communion (81 percent), followed by Confirmation (78 percent), and finally First Reconciliation (77 percent). Nearly all parents who attend Mass at least once a month say it is at least “somewhat” important that their children celebrate all three sacraments.
  • Nine in ten or more Mass-attending Catholics (attending at least a “few times a year”) say the following aspects of Mass are at least “somewhat” important to them: feeling the presence of God (94 percent), prayer and reflection (93 percent), and receiving Eucharist (92 percent). Aspects of less importance include the music (71 percent) and the Church environment and decorations (66 percent).
  • Twenty-six percent of adult Catholics say they participate in the sacrament of reconciliation once a year or more often (this is equivalent to 13.3 million adults). Only 2 percent of Catholics do so once a month or more often. Thirty percent say they go to confession less than once a year and 45 percent say they never do so.
  • More than three in four respondents (77 percent) agree at least “somewhat” with the statement, “I am proud to be Catholic” (56 percent agree “strongly ) More than eight in ten (81 percent) consider their Catholic faith to be important in their daily life (41 percent say that this is either “among the most important parts” of their life or “the most important part” of their life).
  • Eighty-three percent of respondents say that helping those in need is either “somewhat” or “very” important to their “sense of what it means to be a Catholic.” Eight in ten say receiving the Eucharist is equally important (79 percent), followed by receiving Confirmation (74 percent), living a life consistent with Church teaching (73 percent), having devotion to Mary (68 percent), attending Mass (66 percent), having devotion to the saints (63 percent), and going to Confession (56 percent).
  • Those who have attended Catholic educational institutions are among the most likely to say that “living my life consistent with Church teaching” is “very” important to their sense of what it means to be Catholic. Fifty-four percent of those who attended a Catholic college or university responded as such, as did 49 percent of those who attended Catholic high schools and 46 percent of those who attended Catholic elementary and middle schools.
* * *

As you know, the pilgrims are a-comin' from all over -- to a degree that shocked even the local organizers, who quickly had to change up their initial ticket quotas to handle requests from places further afield than were initially imagined.

For its part, the NYTimes will spend the week following a family of pilgrims from Texas, and other delegations that've gotten coverage include folks coming in from Colorado, Arizona, and St Louis -- site of the last Stateside PopeTrip, in early 1999. Expect more pilgrim stories in the days to come.

* * *

Though muted -- and to a degree that'd probably surprise some -- no more than a mere handful of stories have cropped up on the various protests and demonstrations planned to take place over the week. Arguably the most prominent protest in terms of coverage has come from high-school teachers in the archdiocese of New York, whose union is slated to go on strike tomorrow.

Going a little deeper into media analysis, one wire article's lead went so far as to deem the doctrinal demonstrators "angry," a longer AP piece goes into further depth:
The groups have planned vigils, demonstrations and news conferences to press their causes as the pope visits Washington and New York. On Monday evening, the eve of his arrival, supporters of women's ordination will host what they are calling "an inclusive Mass" at a Methodist church in Washington, presided over by Catholic women — including two who were recently excommunicated.

"We cannot welcome this pope until he begins to do away with the church's continuing violence of sexism," said Sister Donna Quinn, coordinator of the National Coalition of American Nuns.

Participants in the service will include Rose Marie Hudson and Elsie McGrath, who were excommunicated last month by Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis because they were ordained as part of a women-priest movement condemned by the Vatican.

"In the face of one closed door after another, Catholic women have been innovative, courageous and faithful to the church," said Aisha Taylor, executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference. "They continue to make a way where is none."

Gay Catholic activists, who plan to demonstrate Tuesday along the papal motorcade route in Washington, have compiled a list of statements by Benedict during his career which they consider hostile to gays and lesbians. These include forceful denunciations of gay marriage and of adoption rights for same-sex couples.

"He has issued some of the most hurtful and extreme rhetoric against our community of any religious leader in history, and we want to call him into account for the damage that he's done," said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA.

Duddy-Burke said she hopes the protests will be coupled with celebration of the gains made by gay Catholics in America in recent years. She cited the growing number of parishes welcoming openly gay members and the dozens of Catholic colleges that now have gay-straight alliances.

Another gay Catholic group, New Ways Ministry, hosted a news conference at which speakers conveyed what they would tell the pope if they had the opportunity. The speakers included Gregory Maguire, author of the best-selling novel "Wicked," who along with husband Andrew Newman is raising three adopted children as Catholics in Massachusetts, the only state to allow same-sex marriages.

"We invite you to spend a day, a meal, a weekend with us," Maguire said in his message to the pope. "We don't want to serve as a poster-family for gay Catholics. ... We will just be ourselves, in all our confusion, aspiration, need and joy."...

For many American Catholics, the most distressing church-related issue of recent years has been clerical sex abuse. Thousands of molestation allegations have been filed against Catholic clergy, and dioceses have paid out more than $2 billion in claims since 1950.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests, said his advocacy group would not be mollified even if the pope meets privately with abuse victims.

"Extraordinarily few Catholics and victims will be moved in any way by gestures, words, tokens," Clohessy said. "It's as plain as day that three years into his papacy, Benedict has done literally nothing to protect the vulnerable or heal the wounded."

Clohessy said his group will make use of the papal visit to press for tough disciplinary action against bishops who covered up abuses by their priests and to urge pre-emptive steps by the Vatican against abuse by priests in other nations.
For the record, following its Thursday event at the National Press Club, representatives of New Ways were received at the Apostolic Nunciature (i.e. the Pope Hotel for the DC leg of the trip).

In the name of Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal nuncio's priest-secretary received letters from several openly gay Catholics, with the assurance that they'll be given to Benedict.

Re clergy sex abuse -- arguably the most-awaited issue on this week's message-watch -- B16's most substantive comments on the topic came in a 2006 ad limina speech to the bishops of Ireland, where cover-up revelations similar to those here in the States debilitated what had once been among the global church's most faithful bastions.

For those looking for a potential sneak-preview, here's the relevant portion of the text:
In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric. The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged. In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes. In this way, the Church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ. I pray that by the grace of the Holy Spirit, this time of purification will enable all God’s people in Ireland to "maintain and perfect in their lives that holiness which they have received from God" (Lumen Gentium, 40).

The fine work and selfless dedication of the great majority of priests and religious in Ireland should not be obscured by the transgressions of some of their brethren. I am certain that the people understand this, and continue to regard their clergy with affection and esteem. Encourage your priests always to seek spiritual renewal and to discover afresh the joy of ministering to their flocks within the great family of the Church. At one time, Ireland was blessed with such an abundance of priestly and religious vocations that much of the world was able to benefit from their apostolic labours. In recent years, though, the number of vocations has fallen sharply. How urgent it is, then, to heed the Lord’s words: "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9:37-38). I am pleased to learn that many of your dioceses have adopted the practice of silent prayer for vocations before the Blessed Sacrament. This should be warmly encouraged. Yet above all, it falls to you, the Bishops, and to your clergy to offer young people an inspiring and attractive vision of the ordained priesthood. Our prayer for vocations "must lead to action so that from our praying heart a spark of our joy in God and in the Gospel may arise, enkindling in the hearts of others a readiness to say ‘yes’" (Address to Priests and Permanent Deacons, Freising, 14 September 2006). Even if Christian commitment is considered unfashionable in some circles, there is a real spiritual hunger and a generous desire to serve others among the young people of Ireland. A vocation to the priesthood or the religious life offers an opportunity to respond to this desire in a way that brings deep joy and personal fulfilment.
For what it's worth, note the context and the transition....

* * *

And lastly for now, as for 'Dem Bells, it seems the ringing'll be taking place far and wide come Touchdown Time, tomorrow at 4pm Eastern.

Among others, both the Stateside church's oldest cathedrals -- Baltimore's Basilica of the Assumption and St Augustine Cathedral-Basilica in Florida -- will let 'em rip for three minutes. In New York, the Actors Chapel at St Malachy's on Times Square's joining in, as is the capital's oldest parish, St Mary's in Rockville... and somebody said that the idea even got pitched on EWTN this morning.

Forgive the chaos.... Color/background to come in the evening.