Italian journalist Sandro Magister's latest column is entitled "The America of Benedict XVI, a Model for Catholic Europe":
With this pope, the United States is no longer held up for scolding by the Vatican authorities. Until a few decades ago, it was tasked with being the temple of Calvinist capitalism, of social Darwinism, of the electric chair, with a hair trigger in every corner of the world.Magister is impressed by the significant presence Catholics have in the public life of the United States, "much more so than the Catholics in Italy, and they belong to a strongly Christian country, with rates of religious participation much higher than in Europe":
Today these paradigms seem to have been set aside to a great extent. The Church of Rome vigorously contested the military attack on the Iraq of Saddam Hussein. Even Benedict XVI. But it is not now pressing for the withdrawal of the soldiers. It wants them to remain there "on a peacekeeping mission," including the defense of the Christian minorities.
In any case, the general judgment on the United States has shifted to the positive, to the same extent that judgments on Europe have become more pessimistic. To ambassador Glendon, Benedict XVI said that he admires "the American people's historic appreciation of the role of religion in shaping public discourse," a role that in other places – read, Europe – is "contested in the name of a straitened understanding of political life." With the consequences that stem from this on the points that are most crucial to the Church, like "legal protection for God's gift of life from conception to natural death," marriage, the family.
In the presidential elections of 2004, Catholics played no small role in the reelection of George W. Bush. But the members of the hierarchy did not tell them how to vote, nor will they do so in the upcoming elections. Pro-life Catholics are inclined to vote for the Republican John McCain, while Catholics in favor of peace and justice are for the Democrat Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. The Church authorities appreciate in any case the fact that all of the candidates have given a prominent place to the religious dimension.
Because that's the way the United States is. It is at the vanguard of modernity, and at the same time is the most religious nation in the world. It is a model of separation between Church and state, at the same time is a country with a significant public role for the religions. The study by the Pew Forum has found that at the numbers of atheists and agnostics are very small, 1.6 and 2.4 percent respectively, in spite of the fact that they seem much more numerous and outspoken in the media.