Catholic Conversations: The Young Faithful on the Papacy

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Pope Benedict XVI's surprising announcement nearly two weeks ago that he would retire on February 28th has sparked a time of introspection, anxiety and hope among the Roman Catholic Church's one billion adherents.

A survey of American Catholics by Pew Research Center found them divided on where Benedict's successor should take the Church, with 51 percent saying he should maintain traditional positions and 46 percent saying he should move the Church in "new directions."

You can hear that difference of opinion in All Things Considered host Amy Eddings' dialogue with two young Catholic bloggers.  It's part of a weekly series of conversations WNYC is having with Catholics about what they're thinking, and thinking about, during this historic, transitional moment.

Annie Selak is the 29-year-old author of a Washington Post op-ed, "The Church Young Catholics Want," that generated a lot of responses on the Post's website.  She worries the Church is tone-deaf to the current concerns of young people in the pews, and is in danger of becoming irrelevant to them.

"I think it seems that often the Church is addressing the issues that aren't the burning questions in my life and other young Catholics' lives.  I think a great example of this is the new translation of the Roman Missal.  Given the sex abuse crisis or looking at issues of global poverty, for us to be spending countless resources and energy on something as specific as whether we say, 'and with your spirit' or, 'and also with you,' seemed to have the Church move into an area that they were asking questions that the rest of the world wasn't asking."

Selak wants the next pope to be someone "who really emphasizes dialogue and openness."

Twenty-six-year-old Brandon Vogt, author of The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists and Bishops Who Tweet, hopes the next pope is "outward-oriented," bringing the message of Jesus Christ's teachings to the world: 

"The Gospel is always relevant, no matter what century it's preached.  The Church's role is not to propose anything new, but to re-propose truths that have been carried down since the time of Christ but have maybe been forgotten or dismissed.  I also think it's a lot to expect from one person like a pope to speak to every issue that is relevant to every country around the world.  A lot of that teaching has to come from bishops and the priests of local parishes and I think it's happening."

Click on the audio link at the top of the page to hear Amy's full conversation with Annie Selak and Brandon Vogt.

What do you think?  Should the next pope spend his energies reaching new audiences?  Or should he turn inward and address the divisions within his own flock, divisions for American Catholics that include gender equity, contraceptives, assisted reproductive technology and same-sex marriage?  Should the next leader of the Catholic Church continue the work of John Paul and Benedict, or take the Church in a different direction?

Join the discussion, and tune in to Catholic Conversations on Saturdays during Lent and the papal conclave to hear what others are saying.

Catholic Conversations airs Saturday mornings on Weekend Edition Saturday from 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM on 93.9FM and from 8:00 AM - 11:00 AM on AM820.