When President Obama nominated former GOP senator Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary there was some murmuring — behind the louder concerns about his past issues with Jews and gays — that Obama was developing a “Military-Catholic Complex.” (Sorry, Ike.)

Hagel is Catholic, succeeding Leon Panetta, a Catholic, while his National Security Adviser is Tom Donilon, a Catholic (and brother to Terry Donilon, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s spokesman). Not to mention that veep Joe “Last Man in the Room with the President” Biden is Catholic as is the incoming secretary of State, John Kerry.

Oh, and Obama’s counterterrorism chief, John Brennan, was nominated to head the CIA the same day as Hagel. (And the rest of the governmnet is looking quite RC, which must unnerve the Catholic bishops, who keep telling us Obama is persecuting the Church.)

As Pat Lang wrote at his blog:

“I would not have picked Brennan. He seems to me to be a rule obsessed product of too much Catholic education.”

Well, all is not lost! Yes, like Brennan, Hagel was a product of a Catholic education. But  sharp-eyed Episcopal Cafe readers saw that his Wikipedia entry was wrong (take note, youngsters) and that Hagel now attends an Episcopal church.

From Charles Pierce at Esquire:

He married, divorced, and remarried, this time to Lilibet Ziller of Meridian, Mississippi, a congressional aide whom he’d met while working in Washington. He was prairie Catholic. She was Southern Baptist. As a compromise, they and their two teenage children, Allyn and Ziller, go to an Episcopal church.

And this widely-cited 2006 New York Times Magazine profile says of Hagel:

A regular churchgoer, an Episcopalian who sends his two children to Catholic school, he thinks religion is a private matter.

So, I guess we can all breathe a sigh of relief, eh? I mean, Episcopalians are cool. Heck, the National Cathedral is marrying gay couples, which seems pretty “aggressively” gay-friendly.

But wait, there’s still that whole pro-life thing Hagel insists on! Odd — so far, pro-choicers seem to be giving him a pass, and the Internet Outrage Machine has been fairly quiet on this issue. After all, Hagel isn’t a legislator any more.

That also saves pro-lifers from having to give the POTUS props.

Categories: Politics

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David Gibson

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.


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