August 23, 2008
For those who don't have time to read the full Christian Science Monitor piece on Joe Biden's faith, here are the most salient parts.
He went to high school at a Catholic boys school called Archmere, and goes to mass almost weekly. "I get comfort from carrying my rosary, going to mass every Sunday. It's my time alone," he says.
He carries a rosary. When he had brain surgery for an aneurism he asked the doctors if he could keep the rosary under his pillow.
In Junior high he briefly considered entering seminary to be a priest but his mother urged him to wait until after he'd had some experience dating girls. "I told him: 'Wait until you start dating girls, then go,' " said Mrs. Biden
When he faced unspeakable tragedy - his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident - he turned heavily to faith. The Monitor reports:
His spiritual crisis was not so readily resolved. "I never doubted that there was a God, but I was angry with God," he says. "I was very self-centered: How could God do this to me?"
Friends close to Biden during this time credit his faith for helping pull him through the despair. "In times of crisis, he goes to church a lot," says Ted Kaufman, a former chief of staff who was with Biden for 22 years.
What also helped break his rift with God was a cartoon his father, Joe Biden Sr., gave him. It showed "Hagar the Horrible" blasted by lightning. The bubble read, "Why me, God" - and the answer: "Why not." Biden says: "I realized, who am I to think that I'm so special?"
He was as Vatican II Catholic, meaning he was encouraged to question and discuss Church doctrine. "Questioning was not criticized; it was encouraged," Biden says. He recalled a question in 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.
The teacher didn't say criticizing the church was good. "He led me to see that if you cannot defend your faith to reason, then you have a problem," Biden says.
More thoughts soon on how Biden's Catholicism has affected his views on public policy.
This article is cross-posted from Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.