It brings up an interesting question: Is the United States really united anymore by anything other than constitutional formalities? Is compromise between religions or between religion and secularism even possible? These are questions that will be controversial among the religious followers of people like the late Richard John Neuhaus, founder of First Things magazine, who were such ardent signatories to the compromise.
As Kalb explains it:
Christian societies, Muslim societies, and secularist societies are all different from each other. One excludes another, so we can’t favor them equally. It seems then that we must choose one over the others, or else live with a compromise that is likely to prove awkward and shifting—a situation, of course, that is often very difficult to improve upon. That view of the matter makes people today uncomfortable.
They would like to agree with the political philosopher John Rawls, who wanted basic questions put aside in public life as divisive, and claimed that could be done in a principled way to the satisfaction of all reasonable citizens whatever their outlook. Rawls devoted a great deal of effort to working out those views, and they have become extremely influential.
The apparent hope behind such tendencies was that lessened emphasis on transcendent absolutes would make the Faith more accessible to modern man, and enable the Church to cooperate in the construction of a peaceful and tolerant world in which Catholics could maintain personal and religious integrity as citizens of a free and open society. They would serve God by serving man, acting as a leaven and transforming hearts and minds.
The hope hasn’t panned out, and the transformation has gone the other way. Integration of Catholics into a society that rejects the Faith ever more comprehensively has mostly led them to redefine Catholic belief as strictly private opinion or an idiosyncratic restatement of existing social aspirations. For conservatives, Faith often merged with faith in America. For liberals, who have had more intellectual and organizational influence, Love became mostly equivalent to social welfare as understood by their secular colleagues, and the Divine Other tended to give way to the human other, so that outreach and inclusiveness came to substitute for the mystical union.But whether Catholics can stay within the compromise may be a moot question due to the metastasizing of secularism into a doctrinaire and punitive ideology. In other words, it isn't really the religious signatories to this compromise who are bringing it down. It is dogmatic secularists who have basically declared war on all meaningful religious expression: You can follow your religious inclinations all you like, as long as it doesn't have any tangible consequences.
Groups like the ACLU and the Democratic Party are all fundamentalists when it comes to the First Amendment—except that troublesome part about freedom of religious expression, which we not only don't interpret literally like the part about free speech, but which think really must go.
Secular liberals have issued an Edict of Milan turned upside-down; they have flushed the Flushing Remonstrance.
Catholics may or may not have been wise in signing the cultural treaty: I suspect Kalb is right in thinking they should not have. But it doesn't matter: Secularists have already violated their end of the bargain and declared war.