As an update, here is the text of Benedict's address to the U.S. Catholic bishops, in the evening. It's pretty easy to scan this and see the quote of the day, after many passages of open praise for the religious marketplace in the U.S.:
While it is true that this country is marked by a genuinely religious spirit, the subtle influence of secularism can nevertheless color the way people allow their faith to influence their behavior. Is it consistent to profess our beliefs in church on Sunday, and then during the week to promote business practices or medical procedures contrary to those beliefs? Is it consistent for practicing Catholics to ignore or exploit the poor and the marginalized, to promote sexual behavior contrary to Catholic moral teaching, or to adopt positions that contradict the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death? Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.
To keep up, here's the basic Vatican site for texts during the trip.
And here is a link to a column by someone who is not actually a top Vatican official, but he's someone who probably has dozens of top Vatican officials in his speed dial (if he has become high-tech enough to have speed dial). I refer to the veteran religion writer Kenneth L. Woodward, semi-retired from Newsweek, who wrote a very interesting essay for the New York Times on the plot points to watch for in the upcoming lecture by Pope Benedict XVI to a national assembly of Catholic campus leaders and educators about Catholic identity in higher education (click here for a flashback on that issue).
It has one of the best headlines ever: "God and Man at Notre Dame." Woodward's points here will upset some Catholic traditionalists. But his background information is essential to anyone needing to understand the issues at play (that includes reporters working the event tomorrow):
... (The) question of Catholic identity has as much to do with the changes in Catholic students and their parents as it does with faculty members and administrations.
In the early 1960s, half of all Catholic children attended Catholic grade and high schools. The 10 percent or so who went on to college had some 300 Catholic colleges and universities to choose from -- more, in fact, than in the rest of the world combined. Catholics were expected to attend one of these; those who wanted to attend, say, an Ivy League college often had to get permission from their pastor.
Today few Catholic students or parents are likely to choose a Catholic university if Princeton or Stanford is an option. A Catholic higher education, in other words, is less prized by many Catholic parents -- including complaining conservatives -- than the name on the college diploma.
Another difference is this: Well into the 1960s, Catholic college freshmen arrived with a knowledge of the basics of their religion -- enough, at least, to question the answers they were given as children or, among the brighter students, to be challenged in theology classes toward a more mature grasp of their faith. Most of today's Catholic students, however, have no such grounding. Even the graduates of Catholic high schools, theology professors complain, have to be taught the fundamentals. As one Methodist theologian at Notre Dame wryly put it, "Before I teach my course on marriage I have to tell them first what their own church has to say on the subject."
Then came the 1960s -- which changed all kinds of things on multiple levels. Read it all.