What Uncle Sam could learn from the Catholic Church

We absolutely ought to have a safety net for the very needy — but it won't come cheap

Edward Morrissey

Over the past few days, we have seen a number of conversations arise over the relevance of Catholicism in America, thanks to the historic resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. More than 57 million Catholic adults lived in the U.S. in 2008, according to census figures, far and away the largest religious affiliation, with Baptists second at 36 million. Catholics accounted for almost a third of all self-identifying Christian adults, a group that comprises 76 percent of the total adult population; Catholics alone are 25 percent of the adult population.

With those numbers in mind, it might have surprised some to see The New York Times' Ross Douthat proclaim an end to "the Catholic moment" in his Sunday column. Douthat argued that the Catholic influence has waned due to scandals, and that overall, Christian thought on what makes a properly ordered society has been largely abandoned by both parties. Eight years ago, at the last papal transition, "a Catholic view of economics and culture represented a center that both parties hoped to claim," Douthat wrote. "Today's Republicans are more likely to channel Ayn Rand than Thomas Aquinas, and a strident social liberalism holds the whip hand in the Democratic Party."

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