Conspiracy theorists of the internet, pay heed: Catholics are taking over the world.
Over the weekend, Vice President Joseph Biden sat down for an exclusive interview with Fr. Matthew Malone, SJ, the editor-in-chief of America Media (the parent company of Jesuit Post). In their touching 30-minute interview, Biden and Malone discuss faith, family, Pope Francis, grief, and politics:
We have seen a lot of Uncle Joe discussing his faith in public recently, in a surprisingly tender way. Not long ago, the vice president made a heartfelt appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. For those of us familiar only with Biden’s flinty stares and toothy State-of-the-Union smiles, these two Biden interviews reveal the inner life of a good, honest man. He has dealt with grief and loss, like so many of us. He has wrestled with demons, but keeps his head up. He remains grateful to God, family, and friends in spite of setbacks. It is a rare spectacle watching two public American figures discussing, without pride or nerves, the pain of loss and the strength they draw from their Catholic faith:
As I watched the Late Show interview, I found myself wondering, is this CBS or EWTN? Something new seems to be afoot in American public discourse. Stephen Colbert, deft comedian and interviewer extraordinaire, can turn a witty phrase faster than you can say strategery. But this media-darling Renaissance man is also a vir ecclesiasticus — Colbert can turn off the cultivated snark, and speak easily about matters of faith. At root, the Catholic faith has showed Colbert how to frame the losses and pain of life, letting them transform over time into the fertile grounds of his joy. Colbert does this with a twinkle in his eye and a self-effacing grin that say, I can laugh, yes… because I have first learned to mourn.
Something new is afoot: Colbert is making it ‘okay’ for public figures to talk about their inner faith life, without slipping into maudlin over-sharing or pious blandishments. He elicited earnest reflection from Joe Biden, and Biden goes even deeper in his interview with Fr. Malone.
With Pope Francis’s visit later this week, all eyes are on Catholic politicians. When Fr. Malone asks Biden whether religion and politics should be kept apart, Biden responds, “fundamental religious convictions in all the confessional faiths, not just Catholicism, are incapable of being separated from politics with a small ‘p’, not a capital ‘P’, not Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative.” Religious convictions, in other words, have urgencies that necessarily flow beyond one’s personal life into the public square. As we at TJP have noted earlier, being Catholic entails caring about our society, which means we get involved.
When asked what the Pope might say to the joint session of Congress later this week, Biden adds, “I would be surprised if [Pope Francis] didn’t enunciate those principles underlying all the major confessional faiths, particularly ours, and imply that there is a collective obligation to try to give meaning and life to these principles we all agree to.” Believing Christians may disagree on particular policies, but we can find unity on the undergirding principles that guide or nation. We will all find out what the Pope has to say to Catholics — and non-Catholics — in America later this week. Until then, take a few minutes to hear the personal reflections of a leader who is a father, a son, a politician, and a believer. A man who today can smile, because he has learned how to mourn.