Francis Cardinal George, the Archbishop of Chicago, has sounded a rather grim note in recent years. He fears the steady secularization of American society and believes that it poses a grave danger for institutional Catholic life. Reflecting on these fears to a group of priests in 2010, he despaired: "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square." By then, he predicted, we shall be dealing with a "ruined society," but in the end some future Archbishop will help rebuild "civilization." This is a lament that would have fit well in fifth-century Rome, as Huns, and Goths, and Vandals threatened the gates of the Eternal City. And it might genuinely describe the state of the Church in some corners of the world (think of the Christians persecuted in today's Middle East). But is western Christianity really under such extreme threat? Is it really fair to believe that within ten or so years we shall see the next Archbishop of Chicago jailed and ten years after that his successor murdered in the streets? I tend to think not. There is no doubt that American culture is becoming increasingly secular. But American secularism is not marked by hostility to the faith, but by indifference to it. "The Church of the Sunday Morning Brunch Buffet" is not an enemy of religion. It has simply excluded faith from the orbit of its concerns. Where we have seen the Church come into conflict with secular culture is on the matter of support for what is perceived to be an overly partisan political agenda. Republicans have routinely denounced Democrats as being the opponents of God. This trend accelerated in last year's election cycle. We were treated to the spectacle of the Republican Party's Vice-Presidential nominee -- Paul Ryan -- denouncing the Democrats as being "against God" all the while publicly proclaiming his Catholicism. We witnessed Mitt Romney run a television commercial denouncing Barack Obama's "war on religion." Lamentably, but unsurprisingly, 14 % of New Jersey Republicans told a pollster they believed Obama to be the "anti-Christ" (another 15 % were merely undecided). (New Jersey?!) When God becomes weaponized, when God becomes the tip of the spear one political party uses to thrust its way to electoral victory, is it any wonder how the other party (which is already more secular) will react? The truth is, neither party has a monopoly on God, morality, virtue, or any other good thing. When Democrats react to being described in the political arena as "anti-God" or the "anti-Christ," it is not a display of hostility to religious faith, as such, but the give-and-take of electoral politics. This brings me back to Cardinal George and his fear of impending doom. I think the public mood regarding Christianity, and more specifically, Catholicism, has improved significantly in the last six months or so. Why? Because Pope Francis seems to sense the need to return the faith to the fundamentals. And by fundamentals, I don't mean Bible-thumping and a fiery furnace for scoffing unbelievers or the celebration of quaintly baroque liturgies. Pope Francis has reminded us, rather, that the faith is not about the formation of political action committees. Through actions, not words, he tells us that Christianity begins with the premise that we share a common humanity, all of us alike made in the image and likeness of God. We are called to follow the Good Shepherd, who sought his lost sheep. We celebrate the return of the Prodigal Son. We welcome the lepers and the tax collectors into our homes. Yes, Catholics live in a secular society but it is not an inherently hostile one. You don't pull people away from the Church of the Sunday Morning Brunch Buffet by calling them the anti-Christ. You win them over by doing what you are called to do above all -- be friends with humankind. As Saint Francis de Sales remarked famously, "You can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than a barrelful of vinegar."