Kathryn Lopez

The election also saw leading Democratic politicians insist that it's a legitimate Catholic view to separate religious beliefs from public policy, especially when it comes to the legality of abortion. At least one Democratic convention speaker even made the case that it was her Catholic faith that made her an advocate of protected and increased abortion access. Perhaps we can all start our remedial civic education work with a reflection on the definition of "authenticity."

"Every American should know these characters and the ideals and principles they fought for," Archbishop Gomez said of the early Catholic missionaries, in what has become a familiar scene: religious leaders reminding us of who we are as a people, as they've tried to remind us why our religious liberty is such a precious gift we are obligated to protect.

"From this story we learn that our American identity and culture are rooted in essentially Christian beliefs about the dignity of the human person," he said in that Napa speech.

"America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed," in short, as G.K. Chesterton put it.

An election can unite and it can divide. It can teach the wrong lessons. Alternatively, it can urge renewal, even as some of us find ourselves on a bit of a penitential walk that has to do with much more than one election.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan quoted Chesterton, too, in his speech as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the group's fall meeting in Baltimore the week after the election. Repeating Chesterton's question, "What's wrong with the world?" Dolan reminded that the answer isn't anyone -- a political candidate or institution -- but "me."

At a time when all too many Americans have forgotten what holds us together as a people, as people, again, it doesn't get more resonant. Whoever is president, our hopes and dreams run deeper than any political party, and knowing our history might help us move forward, together.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.