April 14, 2005


Young Catholics Seek to Restore Old Values on Sex (LAURIE GOODSTEIN, April 14, 2005, NY Times)

No matter who is chosen as the next pope, John Paul II has left behind a generation of committed young Roman Catholics who are already shaping the church in a more conservative mold than did their parents. Church leaders call them Generation John Paul II.

At Catholic universities, these are the students studying the "theology of the body" - John Paul's theological justification for a conservative sexual ethic that includes opposition to contraception, abortion, premarital sex and some forms of assisted reproduction.

In seminaries, they are the young priests who wear the long black cassocks cast off by an earlier generation of Vatican II priests.

In their parishes, these are the youth group members who are reviving traditional spiritual practices like regular recitations of the rosary or "Eucharistic adorations" - praying for long stretches in front of the consecrated host.

"One of the great shocks to me was how conservative the people younger than me are, and these are Catholics from all over the world, not just the United States," said James Keating, 40, an American theologian who is spending his sabbatical in Rome running the Lay Center at Foyer Unitas Institute, a guesthouse for Catholic students.

"Their Catholicism is quite focused on John Paul II, especially his teachings on contraception and the family," said Mr. Keating, who teaches at Providence College in Rhode Island. "It's fairly significant. They are a force in the church."

Contraception was a fad.

John Paul a saint? U.S. Catholics in favor: Poll also finds 8 in 10 felt his conservative views helped church (The Associated Press, April 14, 2005)

“On right-to-life questions like abortion and the death penalty, they are thoroughly traditional and right in step with John Paul,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute. “But on some other issues like married priests and women priests, they are more liberal.”

Eight in 10 Catholics said the pope’s traditional stance on many issues was good for the church, and two-thirds say he should be made a saint.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 14, 2005 7:27 PM

Behind the prickly persona of every curmudgeon beats the heart of a romantic.

Posted by: catamount@verizon.net at April 14, 2005 8:28 PM

Shhh. Daniel will hear, might ruin his day.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 15, 2005 12:17 AM

Don't worry Jim, as far as OJ's hyperbole goes, the claim that contraception is a fad is rather mild (at least he didn't want to commit mass murder this time). Anyways, for a sober analysis of the sexual revoultion and the economic forces and scientific advantments that made contraception permanently main stream see:


Some main points:

Of fundamental importance is the changing role of women in society. The rise of the service economy, with its abundance of physically light jobs, together with the advent of highly efficient household labor-saving devices, has greatly increased womens job opportunities outside the home. That increase has in turn increased womens financial independence and thus reduced the gains to them from marriage. It has also increased the opportunity costs of childbearingthe higher a womans income, the more she gives up if she leaves the labor force, whether temporarily or permanently, to have children. So this is another factor raising the cost of marriage to women.

Another factor that influences behavior in the same direction, though one that predates the developments that I have just been discussing, is the long-term decline in child mortality, as a result of which it is no longer necessary for women to be almost continuously pregnant in order to have a reasonable number of children survive to adulthood. In addition, with the decline of the farm population and the rise of social security, childrens value as farm labor and old-age insurance diminishes, and as a result the demand for children falls.

Pope John Paul II seemed unusually conservative in matters of sex not because he was making Catholic sex doctrine more severe, but because he was refusing to yield to strong pressures to relax it. He was swimming against the tide. Even though the United States is in the midst of a very striking religious revival, religions grip on behavior has weakened. ... Hence, too, the great difficulty the Catholic Church is having in attracting young men into the priesthood, especially young heterosexual menan all-male occupation holds obvious attractions for homosexual men, especially if the behavioral constraints of religious doctrine are weakening even for persons who desire a religious career.

A reason more directly relevant to our topic this week is that the conflict between the actual behavior of most Catholics, and the Churchs doctrines on contraceptive use and other family matters, is not unusual when dealing with culture and norms. Indeed, it dramatically illustrates the fact that powerful economic and social forces usually trump religious views and other social norms, until these views and norms adjust to the new forces. Birth rates, divorce, and pre-marital sex provide a powerful example of this well-known principle.

91% of American Catholics reject the ban on birth control between married couples. Statistically speaking, support amongst the laity for this part of Humanae Vitae barely exists, being slightly higher than the poll's margin of error. I hate to be the one to tell you and OJ, but the days of keeping women barefoot and pregnant are over and never to return.

Posted by: daniel duffy at April 15, 2005 8:20 AM

We'll see Daniel won't we.

Kudos to you tho for citing Becker and Posner's blog.

(BTW How's a culture of birth control working out for the Europeans?)

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 15, 2005 7:14 PM