This tendency is particularly well-advanced in Europe, where the European Union is a relativist superstate hostile to traditional Christian morality. One of Benedict's missions in his trip here is to provide Americans a common vocabulary for resisting an aggressive secularism. This accounted for the extraordinary spectacle of a pope on the White House lawn -- itself unimaginable a century ago -- explaining the fundamentals of American civil religion.
The foundation of our freedoms isn't a thoroughgoing skepticism, but a profound, "self-evident" moral truth: that we have inalienable rights. "America's quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator," Benedict said. The Holy Father quoted the Father of Our Country for the proposition that morality and religion are the "indispensable supports" of our political order.
Of course, Benedict wasn't at the White House to bless any political agenda. If he appreciates Bush's pro-life commitment and his fight against AIDS in Africa, he opposes the Iraq War and "cowboy" diplomacy. Nor is all well with the American Catholic Church. Benedict has been insistent in his condemnation of the child-abuse scandal and its handling.
But the pope came bearing important truths about the roots of our experiment in liberty, from which all Americans can benefit.