Pope Benedict's remarks about American Secularism to the U.S. Bishops were quite erudite and inspiring, here is a short breakdown I gave to our Adult Ed. on Tuesday mornings.
Secularism- denoting activities, attitudes, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis
America, while holding a separation of Church and State has retained a fundamental respect for religion and its voice in the public life. In this balance, the Pope notices a specific problem—allowing for belief in God and a public role of religion while, at the same time reducing religion to a lowest common denominator.
“Faith becomes a passive acceptance that things “out there” are true, but without practical relevance for everyday life. The result is a growing separation of faith from life... This is aggravated by an individualistic and eclectic approach to faith and religion: far from a Catholic approach to "thinking with the Church", each person believes he or she has a right to pick and choose, maintaining external social bonds but without an integral, interior conversion to the law of Christ. Consequently, rather than being transformed and renewed in mind, Christians are easily tempted to conform themselves to the spirit of this age (cf. Rom 12:3).”
In other words, we can’t take this freedom of American Secularism for granted. We cannot reduce our faith to a commonality that we share with everyone else at the forfeit of its distinct Catholicism. We need to promote every aspect of the Church’s teaching: Scripture and Tradition, Faith and Reason, and the Human person- all seen within the drama of sin and grace. “In a word, the Gospel has to be preached and taught as an integral way of life, offering an attractive and true answer, intellectually and practically, to real human problems.”
Our enemy, in this is “relativism.” Relativism is the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morals exist in relation to culture, society, and human context, and are not absolute. Bishop Swain, my ordinary, would add that relativism is also the fear to tell someone they are wrong. Do not be afraid. Speak the truth in love.
“I believe that the Church in America, at this point in her history, is faced with the challenge of recapturing the Catholic vision of reality and presenting it, in an engaging and imaginative way, to a society which markets any number of recipes for human fulfillment.”
--Taken from Pope Benedict’s discussions with American Bishops.
April 16, 2008