Two articles in the New York Times are about the Catholic Church.  One article is about some parishioners who have staged a live-in to save their church, which the local Archdiocese is trying to sell.  The other is about lose of Church influence in Spain.

 As an atheist I have an anti-religion bias.  I don’t know what the “facts” are but it’s my perception that religious doctrine is losing influence in America as well.  As example more gay people are coming out and my guess is that most Americans under 25 seeing nothing wrong with being gay.  My perception is that where there appears to be a conflict between religious doctrine and science based theory, such as evolution, increasingly young people believe in the science.

My guess is that church attendance overall in the US is down and a growing number of citizens do not use the Bible as a resource.

I am interested in knowing what you think?

1) Is “religion” losing it’s influence on American society?

2) If yes, how do you think the religious organization should react, if at all?

1) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/06/us/06vigil.html?em – By Abby Goodnough

From the article:

“There are sleeping bags in the sacristy at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church and reclining chairs in the vestibule, but no one here gets too relaxed. “Please be ever vigilant!” a sign by the door warns, and the parishioners who have occupied the church since it closed more than four years ago take it as seriously as a commandment.

St. Frances was among dozens of churches that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston decided to close and sell in 2004, not least because of financial turmoil made worse by the abuse scandal in the clergy. But while most churches closed without a fight, parishioners at St. Frances, a brick A-frame on a wooded hill, and at four other churches rebelled.

For 1,533 days, the group at St. Frances has taken turns guarding the building around the clock so that the archdiocese cannot lock them out and put it up for sale. They call it a vigil, but by now it is more of a lifestyle.

“It’s much more of a living 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week faith,” said Margy O’Brien, 78, a parishioner since St. Frances opened in 1960. “My generation of Catholics have paid, prayed and obeyed, but you get to a point where you’ve had it.”

The archdiocese will not provide priests to most of the vigil churches, and it has removed most statues, altar cloths and sacred objects. It changed the locks at St. Frances in October 2004 but unwittingly left a fire door open, an error the parishioners call a miracle.

The archdiocese has not tried to evict the parishioners or shut off the heat and electricity. Three of the five vigil groups have appeals pending with the Vatican, but if the appeals fail, as is likely, Cardinal Sean P.O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, may run out of patience.

“They can’t go on for infinity,” said Terrence C. Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese. “These have to end at some point, but how, I don’t know.”


2) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/06/world/europe/06church.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=catholic%20church&st=cse by Rachel Donadio

From the article”

“The Macías Picavea primary school hardly looks like the seat of revolution. But this unassuming brick building in a sleepy industrial town has become a battleground in an intensifying war between church and state in Spain.

In an unprecedented decision here, a judge ruled in November that the public school must remove the crucifixes from classroom walls, saying they violated the “nonconfessional” nature of the Spanish state.

Although the Roman Catholic Church was not named in the suit, it criticized the ruling as an “unjust” attack on a historical and cultural symbol — and a sign of the Spanish state’s increasingly militant secularism.

If the judge’s ruling was the latest blow to the Catholic Church’s once mighty grip on Spain, the church’s response showed Spain to be a crucible for the future of church-state relations in Europe.

For Pope Benedict XVI, who has staked his three-year-old papacy on keeping Europe Catholic, Spain, with its 90 percent Catholic population and rich history, represents a last hope in an increasingly irreligious continent.

That hope is quickly dimming. Since 2004, the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has legalized gay marriage and fast-track divorce, and it is seeking to loosen laws on abortion and euthanasia.

But in response, the church and religious Catholics have been pushing back, seeking a greater voice in public life. The result is that the church is in a full-throated war with the government.

As such, Spain represents not only the Catholic Church’s past in Europe, but perhaps also its future: an increasingly secular country with a muscular Catholic opposition, or what Benedict has called a “creative minority,” smaller in number but more ardent in faith.

At stake is the vision of the country: Will Spain join the rest of secular Europe or stand as a final Catholic foothold?

“I’d say that certainly there’s a worry; it would be naïve to deny it,” the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said of Spain. “It’s a critical point in the church’s confrontation against secularization in Europe and in the Western world.”