Thursday, February 11, 2010

Religious Relativity: New Survey on Catholic Millennials.

Firstly, consider the source: The Knights of Columbus, a notoriously conservative organization. So watch the spin.

The one stat that jumps out at me is 82% of Millennials think faith is relative?! What exactly does that mean for a church whose hierarchical, paternalistic laws regarding reproduction, for instance, are already ignored by a majority of older believers?

Believe in God, interested in the faith and clear on personal morality, but see morality overall as relative

ROME, Feb. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Religious attitudes of young Americans, and young Catholics holds both promise and challenges for the Catholic Church according to the results of a new Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll.

Some of the good news for the Catholic Church in the survey includes:

  • 85% of Catholic Millennials (those 18-29) believe in God.
  • The top priorities for Catholic Millennials are getting married and having a family (33%) and being spiritual or close to God (18%).
  • 82% of Catholic Millennials believe commitment to marriage is under-valued. 63% say the same about concern for the less fortunate.
  • 66% of Catholic Millennials say abortion is morally wrong, while 63% say the same of euthanasia.
  • 80% of Catholic Millennials see religion as at least "somewhat important" in their lives. 98% of practicing Catholics agree.
  • 55% of Catholic Millennials think that religious values should influence business decisions. 75% of practicing Catholics agree.

Among the challenges for the Church in reaching young people in the United States, the survey found that:

  • Nearly 2 in 3 Catholic Millennials see themselves as at least somewhat more "spiritual" than "religious." On the other hand, 55% of practicing Catholics see themselves as more "religious."
  • 61% of Catholic Millennials believe that it is all right for a Catholic to practice more than one religion. 57% of practicing Catholics disagree.
  • 82% of Catholic Millennials see morals as "relative." The majority of practicing Catholics (54%) disagree.

Despite whatever differences Catholic Millennials may have with the Church, nearly 2 in 3 (65%) are very or somewhat interested in learning more about their faith.

"It is very important for the Church to understand the outlook of the next generation of adult Catholics," said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, in Rome for meetings at the Vatican. "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."

Anderson concluded: "There is much good news for the Church in this survey, especially when we consider that 2 in 3 Catholic young people want to learn more about the faith. The Church has a great opportunity to evangelize, and has much to build on with the next generation of Catholics, but it must act and teach in a way that makes clear the reasons for Church teaching as part of what our pope has called our 'yes' to Jesus Christ."

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Who Decides Patients' Rights?

Barbara Coombs Lee of Compassion & Choices has a new post up at DailyKos. Here's a clip:

Here’s another scenario:

The phone rings. It’s the assisted living facility’s care supervisor; my father collapsed just after dinner. "The EMTs are taking him to Mercy Hospital." An hour later I am driving down Baltimore Pike into southwest Philadelphia.

I find my father in the ICU. Hooked up to all the tubes and equipment he looks so much older than a week ago. Over the next day and a half of tests and waiting – learning it’s a stroke – he doesn’t wake or stir. I’m sitting with him mid-morning when the neurologist arrives. He goes over results and treatments they’ve tried. "It’s unlikely that your father will regain consciousness, and if he did, very unlikely that he would return to normal mental function. We need to think about next steps."

My father designated me his health care proxy for a moment like this. His advance directive is clear, and he’s been blunt in conversation. "Look, I’m eighty-three years old, and I’ve had all the breaks. If something happens, I don’t want to sit in a chair and drool for years."

I make an appointment to see the social worker in her office, where we’re joined by a priest. I tell them we’re ready to remove life support. She turns to the priest. He says, "Mercy Hospital is committed to honoring advance directives for health care decisions as long as they do not contradict Catholic principles," The priest has a copy of my father’s advance directive and reads from it. "If I am ever consistently and permanently unable to communicate, swallow food and water safely, care for myself and recognize my family and other people, and it is very unlikely that my condition will substantially improve, I would want to die rather than have life-sustaining treatments."

The priest looks up. "Your father’s living will suggests that in his unconscious state his life is no longer worth living. Under these conditions, removing life support would be an act of euthanasia by omission."

Catholic bioethical thought has evolved over centuries. The ERDs that govern care in Catholic hospitals and nursing homes are extremely nuanced. Your directions about life support may or may not be honored in a Catholic institution. Your concern about the burdens of medical interventions might justify forgoing life-sustaining medical treatment. But a wish to be allowed to die under certain circumstances might not.

Have you talked with your family about end-of-life options? Good.

Is an advance directive in place? Excellent!

Will that directive be honored in a Catholic health care facility? We cannot know for sure.

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Proposition 8: How Many Souls Have You Saved?

Ashby Jones at the Wall Street Journal's "Law Blog" quips that while little should be happening in the Proposition 8 case in California at the moment - the trial has ended, the post-trial brief isn't due until the end of the month - there's still a lot happening in the case.

Not only have supporters of the law gone bonkers over reports that the judge is gay (perhaps threatening any public support gains the case could have made 'cause, you know, those gays stick together) but the Alliance Defense Fund is now screaming that supporters of "traditional" marriage are being discriminated against for their religion:

One of the lawyers handling the case for the defendants (that is, defending the constitutionality of Prop. 8) sent us a note recently attacking the plaintiffs’ approach in the case. Specifically, Brian Raum, the head of marriage litigation for the Alliance Defense Fund, has accused the plaintiffs and their lead lawyers, David Boies and Ted Olson, of unfairly attacking religion.

In an email, Raum wrote to us:

As one of the attorneys defending California’s marriage amendment, I’ve been uniquely privileged to be at trial in federal court over [recent] weeks. As the proceedings unfolded, though, something became perfectly clear that can only be described as outrageous. This lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the voter-enacted state amendment protecting marriage. But the plaintiffs, who want to redefine marriage, have focused unabashedly on a systematic attack of orthodox religious beliefs.

The defenders of Prop 8 have been standing on two feeble legs, really: they claim that the vote to define marriage as only between a man and a woman was a democratic process; and that the state has an interest in protecting "traditional" marriage. While the first premise may be true, huge amounts of church money (protected from disclosure by the government's lobbying laws and tax-exempt status for churches) ensured that the proposition passed by 52%. That "traditional" ideas of marriage are defensible has proven a more difficult case to make. Everything from the need for procreation to arguments that homosexuals are not monogamous has been thrown up as justification for a "defense" of heterosexual marriage.

What the defendants tried hard to stay away from during the trial were overtly religious arguments for same sex marriage, fearing that the Establishment Clause could be called on to disprove their arguments. Same sex marriage, they claimed, is a moral wrong, not a religious one.

Yet the overtly Christian Alliance Defense Fund was started in 1994 by the likes of Campus Crusade's Bill Bright and Focus on the Family's James Dobson in order to inhibit the legal rights of non-Fundamentalist Christians. They've made an art out of claiming that individual rights are "religious opression," even if those rights in no way impact the lives of others.

As the cornerstone of what I call the Legal Right (similar in purpose to the Religious Right and the Medical Right), ADF is a well-funded, savvy, highly effective force in law today. Their founding principle, that religious freedom is defined as tolerance by society of their particular religious proselytizing, is neither sweet nor benign.

When you define religious freedom as a one-sided demand that all others tolerate your proselytizing (because your faith is right and others need to be converted), any resistant non-believer becomes opposition to your goal of saving souls. Theologically, fundamentalism is designed to measure a believer's chances at heavenly afterlife by how he's lived (though a little deathbed salvation can fix that) and how many he has converted. It's this work to convert - to "reform" the gay, to make chaste the whore, to assert God's laws on society - that ADF is after.

From abstinence education to school prayer, from ahistorical text books to ten commandments statues in court houses, the primary goal is to teach the word of God - a very specific God - and to win all of society into that faith. Religious freedom, in this frame, doesn't mean freedom to believe as one's conscience dictates - no Christian then would need the ten commandments in a courthouse or to be kept from condoms - but freedom to spread that view either by conversion or imposition of laws unchecked.

It is the intolerance demonstrated by religious forces and their desire to convert and govern that Proposition 8 most highlights, not a greater need for tolerance of religion.

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