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Opinion: Line between religious devotion and political loyalty not often clear


Opinion contributor President Joe Biden’s town hall event at Mount St. Joseph University precipitated perennial questions about the relationship of religion and politics generally, and Catholic faith in the United States particularly. The controversy surrounding the visit illustrates the tension that will always persist when religious believers either publicly express the practical implications of their faith in a pluralist society, or else seem to set that faith aside for the sake of political ambition. In either case, events like this highlight the confusion that often persists between religious devotion and political loyalty.

In his famous 1961 book, “We Hold These Truths,” the late American priest and political theorist, Father John Courtney Murray, S.J., asked whether Christians should consider the two clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as “articles of faith” or “articles of peace.” While Father Murray posed the issue in terms of the First Amendment, the thought experiment can be applied more broadly to the kind of commitments that religious believers should (or can) give to the moral and political principles that inform American law and public policy. The question is important, because each respective choice sets a person in one of two irreconcilable trajectories.

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