"Disquieting Words For the Faithful", by E. J. Donne (Washington Post April 18, 2008):
The most jarring word that Pope Benedict XVI is using during his visit to the United States is "countercultural." The American sense of that term is shaped by the 1960s: free love, drugs, hippies, rock music and rebellion. Needless to say, that's not what Benedict is preaching.
That word is the key to understanding how Benedict's message runs crosswise to conventional liberalism and conservatism. Benedict came to the United States as a quiet but forceful critic of "an increasingly secular and materialistic culture," as he put it during yesterday's Mass. Almost any American who paid attention to his sermon had to be uncomfortable because all of us are shaped by the very forces he was criticizing.
Benedict directly challenged an assumption so many Americans make about religion: that it is a matter of private devotion with few public implications.
Not true, said the pope. "Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted," he told the country's Catholic bishops on Wednesday. "Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel."
That is a demanding and unsettling standard for the right and the left alike. . . .