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Bishop sees new generation seeking truth, rejecting relativism
By Benjamin Mann
Bishop Quinn of Winona, MN at the Altar of the Tomb of St. Peter on March 9, 2012.
Bishop Quinn of Winona, MN at the Altar of the Tomb of St. Peter on March 9, 2012.

.- Bishop John M. Quinn of Winona, Minnesota has welcomed Pope Benedict XVI's call for better instruction of young people, saying it will meet their desire for solid truth over self-centered relativism.

“Our younger generation is breaking out of it,” Bishop Quinn told CNA, observing a growing discontent with worldviews that reject the idea of truth in areas like religion and morality.

“They're looking for the truth. One of them said to me, 'Bishop, just tell us the truth. Don't sugar-coat it. We want to know what the truth is.' And someone else said to me: 'You know, bishop, we've been told so many lies, throughout the culture and by other people. Just give us the truth.'”

Bishop Quinn offered his thoughts on March 9, hours after his second meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Bishops of his state, as well as North and South Dakota, were in Rome for their traditional “ad limina” visit, involving talks with the Pope and Vatican officials about the health of their dioceses.

That morning, Bishop Quinn celebrated Mass with the bishops of his region at the tomb of Saint Peter, a traditional part of the journey to the Vatican that is required of them every five years.

The experience confirmed his sense “that the risen Christ is always with us,” encouraging the successors of the apostles “to be good witnesses out in the world.”

In his March 9 address to the assembled bishops, Pope Benedict spoke of the need for better instruction on the Catholic vision of marriage and sexuality. The Pope told the bishops that young people must hear the whole truth about these topics, “challenging and counter-cultural as that teaching may be.”

Bishop Quinn acknowledged that the bishops would have to “swim against our culture” in order to teach clearly on controversial subjects. But he draws encouragement from the Pope, and from his own meetings with young people who want to escape the “prison of relativism.”

“Society is captured by that,” the Bishop of Winona said.

“It's politically correct only to speak of those things that are subjective, only to speak of those things that you determine 'work for you,' they may not 'work for me' … We're in a prison with that.”

But many young people are finding liberation from these self-centered philosophies, through the teaching of the Catholic Church, he noted. 

“They want to break out of that prison that holds them bound,” said Bishop Quinn, reflecting on his experience teaching young people at Saint Mary's University in his diocese. “Once they know the truth – and the truth is Christ – that sets them free. And then their acts of freedom are rooted in Christ.”

“It leads them to happiness – not to more self-indulgence.”

In his second meeting with Bishop Quinn and his brother bishops, Pope Benedict spoke frankly about the “contemporary crisis of marriage and the family,” which has caused “grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.”

Here, too, the Bishop of Winona sees signs of improvement, despite the damage done by popular culture and inadequate religious formation.

“I think we're doing much better,” he said, noting that Blessed John Paul II's teachings on love and marriage – especially those known as the “Theology of the Body” – were “becoming very popular” in his diocese.

He predicts that the next generation of Catholics will have “a much richer, a much more sacramental, much more beautiful appreciation for the gift of human sexuality,” if they are given a clear and truthful presentation of the Church's vision.

“That's happening now,” said Bishop Quinn. “And the fruit is beginning to be manifest.”


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