In the internal drama of America, though, liberal Catholicism is an interesting candidate to claim the religious center, to fill the Mainline’s vanished role.

If you wanted to make a case for its prospects and potential influence, you would emphasize three distinctive liberal-Catholic qualities: an abiding institutionalism, in contrast to the pure dissolving individualism of so much American religion; an increasingly multiethnic character, which matches our increasingly diverse republic; and a fervent inclusivity, an anxiety that nobody should feel discriminated against or turned away.

This inclusivity means that liberal Catholicism sometimes seems to capture the universalist aspirations of the church better than its conservative and traditionalist subcultures. The latter are supposed to be for everybody, but at the moment they tend to appeal to distinctive personality types (he said, looking in the mirror) while remaining somewhat alien to the normal run of Americans — with “normal” lately meaning not just anyone who doubts certain of the church’s harder teachings but anyone who doubts the wisdom of a vote for Donald Trump.