Barack Obama has made his decision on a running mate and as everybody knows, he has chosen Senator Joseph Biden. Obama, aware of how weak he is in the area of foreign policy (given that he was dog catcher in Illinois just 15 minutes ago), he chose someone who is perceived to have a strong CV in this area by virtue of his long tenure on the Senate Foreign Relations committee.
Now some might argue that his membership on this committee does not endow him with any special insight into foreign relations and foreign policy, diplomatic or otherwise. Like I said, some may argue. However, I am not going to argue this today. Rather, I am going to make a parallel argument, that Joe Biden’s long time membership in the Catholic Church clearly has not provided him any insight into what it means to be a Catholic. You can extrapolate from there. All the following quotes are taken from a weirdly informative article in the Christian Science Monitor.
As with just about everything with Joe Biden, his religion is all about, you guessed it, Joe Biden. Take this classic line from the Senator, “I get comfort from carrying my rosary, going to mass every Sunday. It’s my time alone.”
So in a nutshell, the rosary is about his comfort and mass is his alone time. For alone time, I lock myself in the bathroom, Joe Biden goes to mass. One might be tempted to think that this is just verbal slip from the notoriously overweening and wordy pol. There is a whole lot more where that came from. Take this humdinger.
“My idea of self, of family, of community, of the wider world comes straight from my religion. It’s not so much the Bible, the beatitudes, the Ten Commandments, the sacraments, or the prayers I learned. It’s the culture.”
Get it? His whole worldview comes straight from Catholicism, except for well … all the Catholic stuff. Reread that paragraph again. Not the Bible, the beatitudes, the Ten commandments, or the sacraments. In short, everything that God has taught or given us in order to make us holy does not inform Biden’s worldview. No not that stuff, the culture.
What does Biden mean by Culture? Well, unfortunately it means whatever Biden wants it to mean. His abortion support, while not in line with the formal teaching of the Church, is in line with his idea of his Catholic culture.
“My views are totally consistent with Catholic social doctrine,” says Biden, a six-term Democratic senator from Delaware. “There are elements within the church who say that if you are at odds with any of the teachings of the church, you are at odds with the church. I think the church is bigger than that.”
“If I were an ordained priest, I’d be taking some issue with some of the more narrow interpretations of the Gospel being taken now,” Biden says. “But my church is more than 2,000 years old. There’s always been a tug of war among prelates and informed lay members.”
The church is bigger than its teachings, you see. Just big enough, thank heavens, to encompass Joe Biden. You can oppose the Church, and still be in it. Unlike say, the Democrat party. Joe Biden doesn’t like those narrow interpretations of the Gospel. His is broader, more cultural.
Where does this “Catholic culture” come from, where did it start? Biden tells us in no uncertain terms. It came from his mother and from a weak Catholic education.
In junior high school, Biden considered, briefly, entering a seminary in Baltimore to become a priest. His mother had other ideas. “I told him: ‘Wait until you start dating girls, then go,’ ” said Mrs. Biden, in a brief conversation after a speech her son gave at the National Press Club Aug. 1. Biden later confirmed the incident. “I can’t believe she told you that,” he says. “My mother thought I had to experience life first, and she was right.”
“I was raised at a time when the Catholic Church was fertile with new ideas and open discussion about some of the basic social teaching of the Catholic Church,” Biden says. “Questioning was not criticized; it was encouraged.” He recalls a question in a ninth-grade theology class at Archmere. “How many of you questioned the doctrine of transubstantiation?” the teacher asked, referring to the teaching that the bread and wine change into the body and blood of Christ during the Eucharist. No hands were raised. Finally, Biden raised his. “Well, we have one bright man, at least,” the teacher said.
What about the Pope? At least this cultural Catholic would still have some reverence for the Pope and his office. Joe’s mother would have none of that, either. When Biden, by now a Senator (he has been since he barely had hair on his chin and his fake smile was still new) was on his way to visit the Pope, his mother told him, “Don’t you kiss his ring.” So much for reverence for the Pope and his office. Biden seems to have internalized this lesson and eventually it led to this exchange.
Monsignor Kerr recounts a conversation with Biden on Pope John Paul II’s efforts to discourage President Bush from going to war in Iraq. He says that Biden told him: “I just have to tell you the pope’s wrong on this, I’m going with the president. That was morality, this is politics.“
In the Catholic culture of Joseph Biden, morality and politics are mutually exclusive propositions. This sort of hubris is shocking even to those used to seeing it. Of course, Biden changed his tune on the war and its morality when it became politically expedient to do so. This is an awful big church that Biden has created for himself.
As can be readily observed, Biden is not a Catholic by any normal definition of the word. But, in the world of Joe Biden, Catholicism is what he defines it to be. Even a church as large as the one Biden has created cannot ultimately hold that ego and ultimately breaks beyond the meager constraints that had previously held it. The church is for Joe Biden, not Joe Biden for the church.
So this brings us back around to the question of Biden’s foreign policy experience. If being a lifelong Catholic, Biden has evidently failed to internalize even a modicum of actual Catholic teaching, to what will years on the Foreign Relations Committee ultimately avail? One will not likely be chagrined if they were to conclude, not much.