Like he does in his new memoir Promises to Keep, Biden dishes to The Christian Science Monitor about how his Catholic upbringing shaped his worldview and politics, in contrast to the religious reticence shown by a certain Catholic Democratic nominee for president in 2004. Also unlike Kerry, Biden challenges the notion that his liberal record on social issues like abortion rights casts doubt on his Catholic credentials, even as he avoids antagonizing the Roman Catholic Church: “My views are totally consistent with Catholic social doctrine. There are elements within the church who say that if you are at odds with any of the teachings of the church, you are at odds with the church. I think the church is bigger than that.”
Biden even frames his differences with some church positions as a result of the Vatican II era in which he came of age: “I was raised at a time when the Catholic Church was fertile with new ideas and open discussion…. Questioning was not criticized; it was encouraged.”
God-o-Meter doesn’t want to make too much if it, but this lone CS Monitor profile reads like a corrective to so much that Kerry bungled religion-wise in 2004, which helped explain why the former altar boy lost the Catholic vote, traditionally a reliably Democratic bloc. One Kerry problem was that he had no overtly Catholic surrogates to stick up for him when a handful of Roman Catholic bishops denounced his liberal social positions. Biden, for his part, has Monsignor William Kerr of the Claude Pepper Center at Florida State University at his back: “”Joe Biden is one of the most sincere Catholics I’ve known in my 40 years as a priest.”

Having participated in a Boston College forum on Catholicism and public policy (video here) and with a forthcoming book on his father’s stint as a lawyer at Nuremberg, God-o-Meter would think Chris Dodd had cornered the market on moral values. Instead, God-o-Meter finds itself asking: will Dodd ever publicly discuss is religious faith? At last weekend’s Democratic debate in Iowa (video here) Dodd parried a question on the power of faith with convoluted and noncommittal politospeak: “I would not want to try and second-guess the lord’s intentions… and to assume that part of his great plan includes some of these actions we see, for a variety of different reasons.” Huh?

Somewhat surprised to hear Dennis Kucinich speaking against the separation of “spiritual values” and state in yesterday’s Democratic debate, God-o-Meter did some digging and discovered that the Catholic Kucinich grew up studying the lives of the saints and Scripture in Latin. In 2004, The Christian Science Monitor called him possibly the “most overtly spiritual of the Democratic candidates.” Oh what a difference three years makes.

Answering a question about faith in yesterday’s Iowa Democratic debate, Mike Gravel was the only candidate to forego any mention of religion or spirituality: “What I believe in is love. And love implements courage. And courage permits us all to apply the virtues that are important in life.” And yet God-o-Meter remembers that as a U.S. Senator, the Unitarian Universalist Gravel helped get the Pentagon Papers published in book form through Beacon Press, a department of the Unitarian Universalist Association. And since Unitarian Universalists eschew specific religious beliefs, God-o-Meter concludes that Gravel may have been invoking his personal faith after all.