Cardinal Dolan's benediction was powerful and rather eloquent. It was especially interesting to listen to it because two days ago I was fortunate enough to attend a talk, here in Eugene, Oregon, of all places, titled, "Are We Worthy of the American Founding?" It was given by my friend, Dr. Brad Birzer, professor of history at Hillsdale College, and it was a superbly crafted combination of history, philosophy, political analysis, and theological reflection, focusing on three key principles of the American founding: natural law, natural rights, and freedom of association. Brad emphasized how the founders, collectively, saw themselves as new Romans, establishing a new Republic based upon the Roman tradition as recieved through the prism, as it were, of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The founders, however imperfect and unique as individuals, understood very well the fragility of the American experiment and the essential roles that virtue, honor, and vigilance would have to play in order for it to succeed. By the early 1800s, many Americans believed the experiment was already failing. One wonders what Washington, Jefferson, and Company would think if they visited the U.S. today.
Catholics, of all people, should recognize the place and the limits of politics within the much larger and meaningful realm of society. The Cardinal, in praying for our country's political leaders, said, "Help them remember that the only just government is the government that serves its citizens rather than itself." Amen, amen, and amen.