Religiously, liberal individualism has become a solvent for the faith, in the United States as well as Europe. Politically, liberalism has imposed via the judiciary, the least democratic branch, a constitutional right to abortion, a form of lethal violence that the church opposes for the same reasons it opposes infanticide — and after 50 years of small-d democratic activism by pro-lifers, the pro-choice side seems to be hardening into a view that such activism is as un-American as racism. Legally, elite liberalism is increasingly embracing arguments that would make it difficult or impossible for the church to operate hospitals and adoption agencies today, and perhaps colleges and grammar schools tomorrow. And in its internal life, beneath the post-Protestant tendency I’ve just described, progressive politics is also nurturing a fashionable occultism, whose rituals may be practiced somewhat ironically or performatively but whose anti-Catholicism seems quite sincere.
If you have a sense of Catholicism’s history that’s deeper than the last 50 years, these turns are not, as Serwer suggests, the first time that a privileged church full of privileged white people has had to deal with defeat or disappointment. Rather, they threaten the return of longstanding tendency in modern secular polities — an institutionalized anti-Catholicism that effectively oppresses the church even if it stops short of persecuting it, a form of liberalism that is (if you will) integrally opposed to my religion’s flourishing.