Do the Vice President and Larycia Hawkins Worship the Same God?

The answer appears to be “yes”:

And I know there’s a lot of fear and unease around the world. The President and I travel around the world a lot, and all you got to do is just look at the recent attacks in Belgium and Turkey and Pakistan. And while fear is understandable, exploiting that fear is absolutely unacceptable. When innocent people are ostracized simply because of their faith, when we turn our backs on the victims of evil and persecution, it’s just wrong.

So it’s up to us — and you’ve been the leaders in this country — to recognize that fear, but also try to allay that fear, and to help people understand that what unites us is a lot more than what divides us. And it’s embodied in just not what we believe but what we say.

We all practice the same basic faith but different faiths. I happen to be a practicing Catholic, and I grew up learning from the nuns and the priests who taught me what we used to call Catholic social doctrine. But it’s not fundamentally different than a doctrine of any of the great confessional faiths. It’s what you do to the least among us that you do unto me. It’s we have an obligation to one another. It’s we cannot serve ourselves at the expense of others, and that we have a responsibility to future generations.

All faiths have a version of these teachings, and we all practice and preach that we should practice what we say. Opening doors to the victims of war, as the President has been trying to do — a war of terrorism and oppression. Accepting people of all faiths and respecting their right to practice their religion as they choose, or choose not to practice any religion. Resisting the urge to let our fears overcome what we value most — our openness, our freedom, and our freedom to practice our faith.

And a faith that sees and shines light in dark moments is what you’ve preached. And my favorite hymn in my church is based on the 91st Psalm, Mr. President — it’s “On Eagle’s Wings.” And it’s my wish for all of you. You may remember the refrain. It says: He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, and bear you on the breath of dawn. Make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand.

Why doesn’t Vice President Biden even consider that this view of faith might be scary from the perspective of the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism on which he was reared (I suppose)?

Coincidence?

I’ve likely watched too many episodes of that HBO Series that shall remain nameless for the sake of the weaker siblings, but was anyone else struck by the timing this week of Hilary Clinton and Joe Biden? While Hilary goes before Congress to carry the water for the Obama administration in Libya — it was after all the executive branch that looked bad with the attack in Benghazi, not just the State Department — and oh by the way Joe Biden decides to not to run for president.

It is hard for me to imagine that Hilary’s compensation for enduring Congress’ examination was an agreement that Biden would not run on the president’s coattails.

Call me Norman Wilson.

Rome, 2K, and the Limits of W-W

Readers may recall the post last week that referred to Fr. McCloskey’s hope for a Christian America through Roman Catholicism. Two-kingdom proponents would likely want to advise McCloskey to tread cautiously with this idea of a Christian nation since Christianity itself admits of no Christian nation (except Old Testament Israel) and the record of Christian politics is not so Christian.

A fairly recent story adds reasons for further caution. It contrasts the two vice-presidential candidates, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, both of whom are Roman Catholics and are at odds with their church’s teaching. If he holds to the planks of the Democratic Party’s platform on abortion rights, he is obviously in opposition to Roman Catholic morality. And Ryan’s budget plan has generated lots of criticism for being antithetical to Rome’s social teaching. The report observes how Biden and Ryan represent different generations and segments of Roman Catholicism in the United States.

Catholicism is complicated, says Deal Hudson, a Catholic strategist for the Republican Party. It can’t be pigeonholed as conservative or liberal. He says that, increasingly, the divisions within the Catholic faithful are sharpening — and this race reflects that.

“These two vice presidential candidates represent the old and the new in the Catholic church in the United States,” Hudson says.

Biden comes from a more traditional generation of Catholics, says Stephen Schneck, a political scientist at Catholic University of America.

“This is the Catholicism of our old ethnic neighborhoods, and our union halls, and St. Christopher medals on the dashboard sort of thing,” Stephen says.

It is a working-class Catholicism, he says, where the Mass and the rosary are part of the warp and woof of daily life in places such as Scranton, Pa., Biden’s boyhood town. As Biden said when he visited Scranton in 2008, “This is where my family values and my faith melded.”

Those values — of the cop, the fireman, the union leader — placed Catholics solidly in the Democratic camp for decades. Schneck, who co-chairs Catholics for Obama, says these Catholics tend to have a positive attitude toward government.

“Think about John Kennedy’s famous ‘ask not’ lines here,” Schneck says. “For that generation of Catholics, it’s a recognition that government and civil society have a profoundly positive role to play.”

But that generation now has moved on, says Robert George, a conservative Catholic and professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University.

“We have a younger generation of Catholics who are more conservative, especially on moral and cultural issues,” he says.

George says these younger Catholics — who are sometimes called “intentional Catholics” — tend to be more committed to conservative parts of Catholic doctrine. Many, like Ryan, 42, came of age during the papacy of John Paul II. They see themselves in Ryan, who opposes same-sex marriage and abortion except when the mother’s life is in danger. In fact, Ryan sponsored a “personhood bill” that would define a fertilized egg as a human being.

At the very least, this kind of diversity within the church in the United States should undermine the notion that Roman Catholicism is going to save the country. It is proof once again of the wide spectrum of believers in fellowship with an infallible bishop. It may also recommend two-kingdom theology to Roman Catholics (who should already know it if they read Augustine). Salvation only comes from the Lord. A decent and orderly society comes from basic notions of right and wrong, hard choices by civil authorities, and honest and hard-working citizens. It’s not rocket science. Nor is it the new heavens and new earth.