Watch: 5 questions with E.J. Dionne

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A few years ago, when Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne addressed the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington together with conservative commentator William Bennett, the panel’s moderator noted that both belonged to the same parish. He quipped that their pastor had to be either very good or very vague. When Dionne told his pastor the story, the monsignor smiled and said, “Sometimes I like to believe I’m both.”

Dionne, who lives and breathes politics, enjoys the Beltway culture of the nation’s capital, especially at church.

“I like the fact that in our parish you can run into Bill Bennett over here, Ted Kennedy over there, Henry Cisneros here, and it also was Pat Buchanan’s parish. We are all together in this one place, and that shows me that the word catholic has meaning.”

His newest book, Souled Out (Princeton), examines the currently changing dynamic of religion and politics in the United States, with particular attention to the role of the Catholic Church in public life. The book is a model for the thoughtful, passionate, and productive dialogue that is so urgently needed in the religion-in-politics debate.

While Dionne approaches issues from a self-described liberal Catholic perspective, his analysis and his arguments for a synthesis of social and personal responsibility build bridges across the partisan divides both in Washington and in the church.

Watch: 5 questions with E.J. Dionne.