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The One Sure Outcome of Tonight’s VP Debate

Many questions are swirling about tonight's veep debate. Who will come away the victor? What hot-button issues will surface? How much will Paul Ryan be made to suffer for his past anti-Medicare comments?

But one question is already decided: the religion of the next vice-president of the United States. He will be Catholic, end of story.

Which raises another question: Why does nobody care that the next VP will be Catholic?

It is the first time in history that two Catholics have faced off for this second-in-command position. Moreoever, as the Washington Post reports, it's a throwdown that serves to highlight the increasing polarization of Catholics in America today:

The problem is that while both men want to try to win over the critical Catholic vote, both candidates have also been at odds with the Catholic hierarchy on different issues — Biden over abortion rights and gay rights, Ryan over budget plans that critics say contravene Catholic social justice principles on the common good and caring for the poor.

The debate showcases two very different styles of Catholicism, in a way that would have been unthinkable half a century earlier in the era of JFK. Then, Catholics banded together across ethnic, racial, and class lines to participate in a historic election that would propel one of their own into history. Today, other than the news reports that 100 Catholic moral theologians released a statement on Tuesday critiquing Ryan's libertarianism, the two candidates' Catholicism has been barely a blip on the nation's radar, in stark contrast to Mitt Romney's much-discussed Mormon faith.

The questions are not what they were in 1960: Will a Catholic leader answer to the pope first and the Constitution second? Will having a Catholic in the Oval Office, or a heartbeat away from it, promote the cause of Catholicism to the exclusion of other religions? Can Catholics be "real" Americans? Those questions sound downright silly when speaking about Catholicism in 2012, because we've been there, done that, and the sky didn't fall in.

Perhaps Mormons, who have faced all of those questions this year from the likes of Garry Wills and others who ought to know better, can take comfort in the fact that in half a century, their religion will follow this same model: people will care not that a candidate is Mormon, but what kind of Mormon she is.

Pass the popcorn and set your DVR.


The image of Joe Biden is used from the RNS Archives.


Topics: Politics, Election
Beliefs: Christian - Catholic, Mormon
Tags: 2012 election, ayn rand, catholic vice-presidents, flunking sainthood, garry wills mormonism, jana riess, joe biden, mitt romney mormonism 2012, october 11 vice-presidential debate, on all our shoulders catholic statement against libertarianism, paul ryan, vp debates


  1. Duh!  We’ve had a Catholic VP for 4 years!

  2. “people will care not that a candidate is Mormon, but what kind of Mormon she is.”

    She? Nice catch!

  3. It amazes me that the politician who more than any other has valued SAVING Medicare more than his own career gets tagged for “his past anti-Medicare comments”!  No, neither Ryan nor anyone else can save Medicare as is - with no changes, Medicare’s own trustees tell us it will be broke in 12 years. 

    So we can either reform it to save just as much of it as possible, or we can ignore it and let it die (or after its bankruptcy, ignore that and try to borrow to fund it as long as we can - until we become another Greece). 

    On the one hand, Ryan has the courage to present the only credible Medicare restructuring plan in view, knowing full well he would be demonized for doing so - “he wants to kill Medicare!”, “he wants to push Granny off the cliff!”.  And on the other hand, we have Obama and Biden with their heads in the sand, proposing no changes to the sinking ship of Medicare, criticizing Ryan’s proposal while pretending nothing need be done differently.

    And why not?  It’s a very popular program, any reforms would be emensly unpopular, and
    Medicare is certainly not going broke in the next 4 years.  Any politician would be foolish to propose any reforms to save as much of Medicare as we might be able to afford.  Only a fool, or that rarity, an actual statesman would do such a thing.

    In my view, it is perfectly legitimate for different people to have differing views as to how best to fix it: raise retirement ages, raise Medicare taxes, cut benefits, go from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution program, whatever.  Reasonable people may certainly disagree about the best path out of this mess.  But what is absolutely unconscionable is pretending there is no problem simply because it is the short term politically expedient thing to do.  That and labeling the only viable plan on the table as the product of one who is “anti-Medicare”.

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