A Turn Toward TruthCOLLEEN CARROLL CAMPBELL
The increasing concern with society's moral decadence has surfaced among the young. Growing numbers of young Americans are gravitating toward traditional faith and mores, and pollsters have detected a rightward shift among the young on issues of sexual morality.
The chattering classes were aghast.
"We're entering another dark age," declared columnist Maureen Dowd, in The New York Times. Religious conservatives like Bush want to "turn the clock back to the black-and-white Manichaean values of the '50s."
Elizabeth Cavendish, interim president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, released a similarly shrill statement warning that "anti-choice zealots" could take over the Supreme Court if Bush interprets his win as "a mandate to roll back women's rights" to abortion.
Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, told the Associated Press that the election and gay marriage bans were like a death blow, orchestrated by right-wing, anti-gay leaders seeking "to demonize us."
Is Change on the Way?
At first glance, it seems that the proponents of abortion-on-demand, gay marriage, and libertine sexual mores have no reason to be so worried about the future. After chipping away at traditional sexual morality for decades, the champions of so-called sexual "liberty" have achieved many of their goals. The birth control pill is widely available and widely used, even among Catholics. Abortion is legally protected as a "fundamental right." No-fault divorce laws have made marriage merely a provisional commitment. And the sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s seems irreversible, as public schools encourage teenagers to have "safe sex," prime-time television programs celebrate the pleasures of adultery and adolescent promiscuity, and judges redefine marriage to accommodate gay couples.
For faithful Catholics seeking to follow Church teachings on issues of sexual morality, it often seems as if secular hedonists have won the day.
But those who embrace traditional morality on matters of sex and marriage may not be as outnumbered as they think. As the recent elections proved, Americans still cling to some traditional values. And they are still willing to work together to promote the candidates and causes who support those values.
Consider the results of a March 2004 poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Inc. The survey found that nearly two-thirds of Americans worry that children are not learning values and respect, and about half worry about the amount of sex and violence on television. Nearly half believe abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. And 42 percent say the institution of marriage is under attack. A critical mass of Americans is worried about our culture, and change may be on the way.
Reason for Hope
new generation is ushering in a new springtime of faith in America. Their willingness
to proclaim their beliefs boldly and their desire to understand God's plan for
human sexuality have led to the birth of dozens of apostolates and ministries,
study groups, and fellowships.
This new generation is ushering in a new springtime of faith in America. Their willingness to proclaim their beliefs boldly and their desire to understand God's plan for human sexuality have led to the birth of dozens of apostolates and ministries, study groups, and fellowships.
Chief among these issues is abortion. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll found that among young adults, support for legal abortion which has been steadily dropping since the early 1990s hit a new low in 2003, with less than four in 10 young Americans agreeing that abortion should remain generally available. That's down from nearly 50 percent who supported abortion rights a decade earlier.
Surveys of college students have also shown declining rates of approval of casual sex. And a recent poll from the University of California at Berkeley found young Americans more amenable to traditional faith and mores than their parents, and more willing to see religion and politics mix. The lead Berkeley researcher concluded that "if the youth of today maintain these positions on religious politics and abortion as the years go by, then the American public as a whole could become more conservative on these issues."
In the course of researching and writing my book, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy (Loyola Press, 2002), I met hundreds of young adults practicing a robust faith and adhering to traditional moral standards. Many of these young men and women were not raised in religious homes. Some were raised with no religion at all. But their hunger for God and disgust with the decadence of popular culture led them to seek God, to embrace the faith, and to reject the excesses of the sexual revolution that had seduced so many in their parents' generation.
These "new faithful" are attracted to the Catholic Church's traditional morality. They love Pope John Paul II and eagerly study his "Theology of the Body." And they are staunch defenders of the Church's most countercultural teachings from the sanctity of human life to the indissolubility of marriage and and the proscription against artificial birth control.
This new generation is ushering in a new springtime of faith in America. Their willingness to proclaim their beliefs boldly and their desire to understand God's plan for human sexuality have led to the birth of dozens of apostolates and ministries, study groups, and fellowships. They often feel outgunned in the profligate popular culture, but they are making their presence known and they are making progress.
In my next few columns, I will examine the reasons behind this sexual "counter-revolution" and highlight some of its manifestations in parishes, universities, and local communities. I also will explore the influence of Pope John Paul II on this trend. The Holy Father has spent his life proclaiming the truth about human love in the divine plan, and the connection between love and responsibility. His wisdom has captivated a generation and ignited a revolution of love to replace the morally bankrupt sexual revolution. Thanks to his witness and the work of the Holy Spirit, we stand at what may be the dawn of a new age not the "dark age" predicted by secular pundits, but an age illumined by the splendor of truth.
Carroll Campbell. "A Turn Toward Truth." Lay Witness (January/February
Lay Witness is the flagship publication of Catholics United for the Faith. Featuring articles written by leaders in the Catholic Church, each issue of Lay Witness keeps you informed on current events in the Church, the Holy Father's intentions for the month, and provides formation through biblical and catechetical articles with real-life applications for everyday Catholics.
© 2005 LayWitness
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.