This interview, conducted by Beliefnet Editor-in-Chief Steven Waldman, is one in a series with the candidates.
BELIEFNET: A lot of people have strong feelings--positive or negative--about Catholic education. Where do you fit in spectrum?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Very positive. And I attribute it to the [nuns] who dedicated their lives to the religious. I was very fortunate. These are some of the most significant, important people in my life and I treasure their memories.
BELIEFNET: Would it be possible to summarize the message they taught you about the nature of Christianity?
KUCINICH: About always doing the right thing no matter what, about never being afraid to take a stand. About a sense of personal responsibility for one's actions.
BELIEFNET: So what part of your genetic makeup as a politician came from that?
KUCINICH: Social conscience. In the spirit of a Dorothy Day, in the spirit of Pope Leo XIII, in the spirit of Pope Paul VI and Populorum Progressio.
BELIEFNET: Any other Catholic or Christian writers or teachers that have influenced you in particular?
KUCINICH: I would say all the gospels. The letters of Paul to Corinthians. In the Old Testament, the book of Proverbs, the book of Isaiah.
BELIEFNET: In terms of your spiritual practice, did you go to mass regularly or was it a more private practice?
KUCINICH: It was a private practice that included mass.
BELIEFNET: What was the name of church?
KUCINICH: Oh, my family lived in 21 places before I was 17. Are you kidding? I'll give you the names of a dozen churches. You want 'em?
BELIEFNET: Maybe later. The private aspects, anything you want to mention about that?
KUCINICH: Making a connection to anything transcendent--some people feel being in a church helps facilitate that. Other times, the sanctity of one's own thoughts is a church.
BELIEFNET: Do you have a set of prayers that are most meaningful to you?
KUCINICH: I think the Lord's Prayer is a very powerful prayer. And the prayer of St. Francis.
BELIEFNET: You have supplemented or complemented your Catholic upbringing with a variety of other spiritual teachings. What was the nature of your spiritual journey in 1979 and 1980, when you left the mayoralty [in Cleveland]?
KUCINICH: Anyone who really studies Catholicism deeply is aware of the mystical nature of our faith. Even references to Christ's mystical body has connections to that principle. The liturgy of the faith derives from symbology which connects to the universe and which underscores the universality of the church. I had the opportunity to learn about the many different ways in which my Catholic faith connects with the world. And I think this is what was anticipated by Pope John the 23 in the Ecumenical Council.
KUCINICH: I would say there's a sense of which the doctrine of substantiation is connected to the Hindu religion's concepts of shakti, yanim and vipassana.
BELIEFNET: In an essay for Marianne Williamson's book you wrote, "Our greatest challenges are spiritual at their source: a misunderstanding of power, the heavy burden of unrelieved materialism, fear of death. If all that government does is address symptoms, we will always be dissatisfied with the government. Government itself must be moved to a higher level of thought, to a quickened cognizance of its generative role as a convener of consciousness for the country." How can the government play a role of convener of consciousness for the country?