THE last time the Chair of St. Peter stood vacant, during Pope John Paul II’s funeral in 2005, the Roman Catholic Church enjoyed a wave of unusually favorable coverage from the American press. The Polish pope had a way of disarming even his most stringent critics, and that power extended beyond his death, turning his funeral into a made-for-television spectacle that almost felt like an infomercial for the Catholic faith.  
Perhaps not coincidentally, the mid-2000s were the last time the Catholic vision of the good society — more egalitarian than American conservatism and more moralistic than American liberalism — enjoyed real influence in U.S. politics. At the time of John Paul’s death, the Republican Party’s agenda was still stamped by George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” which offered a right-of-center approach to Catholic ideas about social justice. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, was looking for ways to woo the “values voters” (many of them Catholic) who had just helped Bush win re-election, and prominent Democrats were calling for a friendlier attitude toward religion and a bigger tent on social issues.

And then Douthat's challenge:
But if there is another Catholic moment waiting in our nation’s future, it can only be made by Americans themselves. 

Read the rest here.


But in the meantime: challenge accepted.