In his latest assessment of U.S. society, Pope John Paul II has denounced the acceptance of abortion and marriage for same-sex couples as "self-centered demands" erroneously depicted as human rights.
The pontiff told visiting U.S. bishops that the trend in the past few decades has been that "rights are at times reduced to self-centered demands: the growth of prostitution and pornography in the name of adult choice, the acceptance of abortion in the name of women's rights, the approval of same-sex unions in the name of homosexual rights."
"In the face of such erroneous yet pervasive thinking you must do everything possible to encourage the laity in their special responsibility for evangelizing culture and promoting Christian values in society and public life," John Paul told the bishops, who are based in several Western states. The Catholic Church forbids abortion and considers homosexual activity a sin. Last week John Paul warned another group of U.S. prelates that American society is in danger of surrendering to a "soulless vision of life."
Greeting the latest group of bishops on the same day he held a private audience with President Bush, John Paul acknowledged the challenges to Catholic Church teaching and faith. "Ambiguous moral positions, the distortion of reason by particular interest groups...are just some examples of a perspective of life which fails to seek truth itself and then abandons the search for the ultimate goal and meaning of human existence," John Paul said.
He urged church leaders to be courageous despite detractors. "Some today view Christianity as weighed down by structures and failing to respond to people's spiritual needs," he said. Every bishop must visit the Vatican every five years for periodic consultations. Bishops from the United States have their turn this year.