This is long, but worthwhile: from Politico, a very good dissection of Joe Biden’s faith, and the public disputes that are raging over it. The reporter, Ruby Cramer, does an exceptional job of laying out the extensive history involved in what she describes as “a collision of religion and politics never seen in the American presidency.”
The president’s faith is one of the most public things about him. You can read it on his body: the way he turns his eyes upward, or crosses himself, or fingers the rosary around his left wrist, his late son Beau’s, the one he wore before he died. Biden’s faith is always on display, and therefore so is his grief, his Irishness, his Irish-gothicness, his brashness, his quickness to tears, the words he recites from his mother or his grandfather — “Joey, you’re not dead until you see the face of God,” “Joey, keep the faith.” “No, Joey, spread it!” — getting tangled up with his favorite lines from Heaney, Yeats or Joyce. “My idea of self, of family, of community, of the wider world comes straight from my religion,” Biden wrote in his 2007 memoir. “It’s the culture.”
At the heart of the communion dispute, for Biden, is a question of authenticity and identity. “The implication is that he’s being phony,” said Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Ky., describing the view of the bishops who view Biden as a problem. “That he’s being phony when he travels with a rosary in his pocket or goes out of his way to attend Mass every Sunday. I don’t see any reason not to take him at his word that he’s done that all of his life…”
… His role as a Catholic president, to the extent that his aides and supporters are willing to admit that such a role exists, is a subject that confounds people when asked to define it.
“One of my favorite yet most painful subjects!” said Tom Perriello, a Catholic and former Democratic Congressman from Virginia who has been critical of the church’s U.S. hierarchy. “It’s a public role. But it’s public in a private way,” said John Carr, who once served as a top staffer to the bishops at the USCCB and now runs Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought. “His soul is a private matter,” said Sister Carol Keehan, former president of the Catholic Health Association who became close with Biden when they worked together on the Affordable Care Act. “His relationship with his God is a private matter — he can share what he wants to share with you, but it’s a private matter,” she said. When I asked one of Biden’s friends if the president had been bothered by the way the bishops went after him this summer, he became visibly frustrated, taking issue with the word “bothered,” though never quite explaining why. “If you think after 36 years in the Senate and eight as vice president that Joe Biden wasn’t expecting a problem with the bishops,” he said, “you’d be wrong.”