Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Ways Past the Culture Wars

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Ways Past the Culture Wars

Article excerpt

The choice of Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware as the Democratic vice presidential candidate brought an immediate and predictable reaction from those intent on using this election cycle to revive the Catholic culture wars.

Suddenly pundits knew "what kind of Catholic" Biden is and they were eager to frame his deepest motivations on the basis of a vote here and there on "life issues," which in the world of the culture warrior translates as only one issue--abortion. And they picked up immediate encouragement from on high when Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput issued the pastoral wisdom that Biden should refrain from receiving Communion.

To take that last matter first, Chaput's pronouncement momentarily grabbed a portion of the national news cycle, but Catholics shouldn't overreact. They would do better to read his book, Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, a far more nuanced and challenging presentation of his view of Catholic responsibilities.

They'd do better, too, by reading the U.S. bishops' valuable and thorough reflection on political responsibility, "Faithful Citizenship," which, while placing the protection of innocent life as the central consideration in pursuing the common good, also acknowledges the complexities of political life and the ambiguities that can sometimes confound even the most purposeful legislator.

Mr. Biden is, we suspect, closer to the people most priests face in the pews every week than the culture warriors would have us believe: devout, faithful, prayerful and questioning. The problem for him, of course, is that he plays out his life in public. Most Catholics don't have to contend with a chorus demanding absolutes where sometimes only compromise and negotiation can serve the common good.


According to a recent Associated Press story, Biden has said in the past that he is "prepared to accept" church teaching on when life begins, but at the same time he believes that Roe v. …

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