UPDATED (9:15pm, Pacific; July 22): Sen. Kaine has been chosen to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate. In the meantime, CWR’s managing editor, Catherine Harmon, reminded me of this interesting story from last year:
U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a practicing Catholic and former missionary, had a clear message Wednesday for Pope Francis: Allow women to become priests.
Kaine said ending the church’s centuries-old rule that only men can be ordained would be the most significant thing the pope could do.
“If women are not accorded equal place in the leadership of the Catholic Church and the other great world religions, they will always be treated as inferiors in earthly matters as well,” Kaine said in a statement. “There is nothing this Pope could do that would improve the world as much as putting the Church on a path to ordain women.”
Nothing. Nothing! If only Jesus could have had such sage advice.
A recent piece in The Washington Post about Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who is a possible VP choice for Hillary Clinton, is both pathetic and revealing. First, it is titled “‘A Pope Francis Catholic’: If Clinton picks Tim Kaine, will his faith matter?”, and it describes Mr. Kaine in mostly glowing, if occasionally cautious, terms:
In the scheme of Catholicism, Kaine might be described as a “Pope Francis Catholic,” said William D’Antonio, a Catholic University sociologist who writes books on U.S. Catholic voting.
“Serving the poor has been a key aspect of [Kaine’s] work — and social justice, however you define it. He’s always looked upon that as a crucial part” of his life, D’Antonio said of why he puts Kaine in the Francis mold.
“At some point, if you ask: Who reflects more the way Francis looks at the world? To the degree that’s important, it’s certainly not Donald Trump,” D’Antonio said.
So it must be Kaine—as if the pope is being forced to choose between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kaine? Good grief. Having said that, one has to admit that Mr. Kaine’s credentials as a staunch Catholic—sarcasm alert!—are impressive: “In [a WaPo] interview, Kaine said his parents were so devout when he was growing up in Missouri, that ‘if we got back from a vacation on a Sunday night at 7:30 p.m., they would know the one church in Kansas City that had an 8 p.m. Mass that we can make.’” (To be fair, the senator made a joke about this, which merely highlights the particular slant of the WaPo piece being discussed.)
Do you also sense sainthood on the horizon? If not, surely this will convince you:
While he was a student at Harvard Law School, Kaine took a year off to work as a missionary in Honduras, where he ran a program teaching carpentry and welding. “I do what I do for spiritual reasons,” Kaine said during the C-SPAN interview. “I’m always thinking about the momentary reality, but also how it connects with bigger matters of what’s important in life.”
Kaine’s Catholicism has been strongly influenced by the Jesuits – the order Pope Francis is part of that has long been associated with education and social justice. In the United States, Jesuit schools and parishes are often seen as the most progressive and open-minded. Kaine was educated at an all-boys Jesuit high school in Kansas City, and the program where he worked in Honduras was founded by Jesuits.
Kaine is known to personally oppose the death penalty, which Catholic teaching comes close to banning totally. He has also spoken about his personal opposition to abortion, which is in line with his church. However, in both cases he has been able to convince voters he would not interfere with the law.
Because, of course, certain actions considered a grave sin by the Church should never be touched by lawmakers. And it is only certain actions, because we hardly ever hear Senators say, “Well, I’m personally opposed to domestic violence, but…”, or, “I’m personally opposed to racism, but…” No, it’s when the issues of abortion and homosexuality arise that “Catholics” bow deep and low before the secular altars, intoning, “I’m personally opposed, but…but…but…”
And, as it turns out, Sen. Kaine has a 100% approval rating from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL. How, exactly, does that make him a “Pope Francis Catholic”? Has the WaPo forgotten that Francis explicitly condemned abortion in Laudato Si, stating, “Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? ‘If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away'” (par 120).
In other words, Francis understands, as every good Catholic should, that social justice is not a matter of cafeteria-styled belief and action. Or how about in Amoris Laetitia, where Francis reiterated that “the Church strongly rejects the forced State intervention in favour of contraception, sterilization and even abortion” and further stated that “[s]uch measures are unacceptable” (42). Or, in an address in Cuba: “Children aren’t loved, they’re killed before being born.” Or, in his address to American bishops during his 2015 visit:
I encourage you, then, to confront the challenging issues of our time. Ever present within each of them is life as gift and responsibility. The future freedom and dignity of our societies depends on how we face these challenges.
The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature – at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters. It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent.
Of course, it should go without saying that Catholic teaching doesn’t have anything but condemnation for abortion, which is a grave evil. After all, unborn lives matter.
I mentioned homosexuality; can it be said that a politician who supports “same sex marriage” is really a “Pope Francis Catholic”? Sen. Kaine, to no one’s surprise, has evolved quickly and along Reign of Gay lines, as The Advocate explains:
Kaine, considered a moderate, was once only a lukewarm supporter of LGBT causes and an outright opponent of marriage equality. In 2001, when he was running for lieutenant governor of Virginia, he told the Associated Press, “I have never said I supported gay civil unions, gay marriages. I do believe that people shouldn’t be kicked out of their jobs or discriminated against because of who they are.” He did say he supported some way to give same-sex couples in long-term relationships access to certain benefits enjoyed by married opposite-sex couples. But in 2006, as governor, he campaigned against a measure to amend the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage; it passed anyway. When running for governor in 2005, he opposed adoption rights for gay couples or individuals, but by 2011, running for Senate, he had changed his mind and said they should be able to adopt if a judge determined that it was the best interest of the child. As governor he issued an executive order banning antigay discrimination against state employees. In 2013, his first year in the Senate, he announced his support for marriage equality. So far in his Senate service, he has received a 90 percent rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard.
Once a missionary, now a mission field! He has come so far—and yet many Democrats remain deeply concerned, as New York Magazine explains:
An article this week in The Hill calls abortion policy Kaine’s one big “weakness.” Like many observant Catholic Democrats over the years, Kaine’s mantra on reproductive rights is that while he’s “personally opposed” to abortion, he’s largely inclined to keep the law out of women’s reproductive decisions. Yes, he’s favored parental-notification laws, but has carefully insisted on ensuring young women in danger of parental pressure to carry a pregnancy to term will have a judicial workaround. Yes, he’s favored bans on so-called “partial-birth abortions,” but only with exceptions where the health of the mother is at risk, which separates him from the entire anti-abortion movement, which uniformly hates health exceptions. He has a 100 percent rating of his votes in the Senate from Planned Parenthood. His policy positions on abortion may not be ideal to reproductive-rights advocates, but they are acceptable, particularly if the top spot on the ticket is occupied by an old friend like Hillary Clinton.
But in recent years, there’s been a trend among pro-choice folk that’s less friendly to the old “personally opposed to but” pivot, or to any other attitude that condemns abortion morally while tolerating its legality. More and more feminists are insisting on recognition of abortion as a routine medical service like any other, if not an actual social or moral good. This evolution can be tracked in the language on abortion policy in Democratic Party platforms in recent years. In 2004, the platform included the 1992 Bill Clinton formulation pledging to make abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” In 2008, after a behind-the-scenes battle, the platform dropped “safe, legal, and rare,” but included language indicating reduction of abortions as a goal. In 2012, there was no longer any language referring to abortion as a bad thing that needed to go away as much as possible.
My point here isn’t to note that a Democrat politician supports abortion—something that hasn’t been news for decades. Rather, it’s to point out that The Washington Post is playing free and easy with the facts, trying to paint Sen. Kaine as a good and faithful Catholic man and politician who is fully in line with what the Church and Pope Francis say about abortion and homosexuality when it simply isn’t true. Yet secular journalists think—with some good reason—that if they simply toss about the term “social justice” (see my recent post on that topic) and mention the poor, they can provide cover for those who “personally oppose” but publicly support the killing of the unborn and the open assault on authentic marriage. And so it goes, and so it will continue to go, apparently, for years to come.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!