Last Tuesday, the two vice presidential candidates took part in their one debate of the campaign season.
The Guardian posted a good article about their Catholic origins on October 4, several hours before the debate. A summary follows.
I always say, ‘Tell me what you are/were and I can better understand you.’ By ‘what’, I mean religious upbringing. Whatever we have learned about religion at home has shaped our lives: attitudes, mores and so on.
Both Tim Kaine (Democrat) and Mike Pence (Republican) grew up in Irish Catholic households where obligatory Mass attendance was adhered to and where the Kennedys were revered.
Each man had a religious epiphany of sorts during young adulthood.
When he was 21, Kaine went on a nine-month mission to Honduras in 1980. The country had just returned to civilian rule in 1979, after years of political instability and conflict with neighbouring El Salvador. The Jesuits there were promoting liberation theology, which promotes social justice over the kingdom of God. Kaine embraced liberation theology and said that his time in Honduras was a ‘turning point’ for him.
Although traditional Catholics have difficulty accepting social justice cloaked in religion, Kaine’s outlook is shared by a sizeable proportion of American Catholics today:
Back in Virginia, where Kaine attends a historically African American Catholic church, the Democratic nominee has also had a run-in with his local bishop, a conservative named Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond. When Kaine said at a Human Rights Campaign gala dinner last month that he believed the Catholic church could change its position against same-sex marriage, DiLorenzo quickly issued a press statement saying the church’s 2,000-year position on marriage was “unchanged and resolute”, despite rumblings on the campaign trail.
“Kaine is really falling in line with the majority of American Catholics who believe same-sex marriage should be legal and who – perhaps – have more complex views on abortion laws than culture warriors would have us believe,” said Michael O’Loughlin, national correspondent for American magazine, a Catholic publication.
This translates as follows:
Like other Catholic Democrats, Kaine has said he is personally opposed to abortion but supports a woman’s right to choose the termination of pregnancy. When he served as governor of Virginia, Kaine oversaw 11 executions, despite his own stated objection to the death penalty, which is also opposed by the church.
The social gospel
There seems to be a movement today whereby not only Catholics, but mainstream Protestants as well, view left-wing politics as being in line with the New Testament, hence the continuing popularity of the social gospel, to which many clergy also adhere.
The social gospel has a long and chequered history, no matter how ‘nice’ some of its adherents have been:
I will never forget the following words, which come from the 1953 Committee on Un-American Activities of the U.S. House of Representatives, which I discussed in my aforementioned post on the origins of ‘social justice’ (emphases in the original):
Deceit was a major policy of Communist propaganda and activity: ‘They made fine gestures and honeyed words to the church people … ‘
Please pay attention, readers! The Bible comes first. Social justice can mask a lot of Satan’s finest work.
Pence calls himself an ‘evangelical Catholic’.
He became born again at university:
it was the introduction in college to a group of young evangelical Christians who espoused a much more personal and direct relationship with Jesus that led the Indiana native to become a born-again Christian.
His conversion happened at a Christian music festival in Kentucky. “I gave my life to Jesus Christ and that’s changed everything,” he has told reporters.
However, Wikipedia says he continued to go to Mass and met his wife at a Catholic church. He was also a Catholic youth minister. In 1994, he self-identified as Catholic. In 1995, however, Pence and his family joined a large Evangelical congregation, Grace Evangelical Church. In 2013, he explained that they were ‘kind of looking for a church’.
So, it would appear that he is attending a Protestant church whilst remaining a Catholic.
Senior social justice warriors in the Catholic Church find Pence’s stances problematic:
As governor of Indiana, Pence – one of the most staunchly conservative politicians in the US today – had a high-profile run-in with the archbishop of Indianapolis last year following a disagreement over the church’s support of Syrian refugees who were settling in Indiana. Archbishop Joseph Tobin ultimately ignored Pence’s effort to block the refugees and asked for Catholic charities to assist them. Later, Pence ordered state agencies in Indiana to cut off aid to Syrian refugees, claiming they posed a security risk.
But Tobin, who is considered a more social-justice-minded archbishop, dismissed Pence’s remarks, and said in what could have been interpreted as a dig at Pence: “[Helping refugees] is an essential part of our identity as Catholic Christians, and we will continue this life-saving tradition.”
Pence, who has signed every abortion bill to cross his desk since he became governor, has made Indiana a lightning rod for controversy.
“If we see Pence not as a Catholic, but as a Republican evangelical Protestant, they are very much opposed to bringing in Syrian refugees, and it makes total sense,” said Andrew Chesnut, the Bishop Walter Sullivan chair in Catholic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Pence got into trouble with both left-of-centre Indiana residents and Evangelical pastors with his statewide Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It was meant to allow business owners to operate within their conscience by refusing business to LGBT persons. The uproar was so great — from individuals and corporations alike — that Pence watered down the bill. In April 2015, USA Today reported:
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, in unveiling the revised law, said it will “unequivocably state that Indiana’s (religious freedom) law does not and will not be able to discriminate against anyone, anywhere at any time.”
The amendment means that for the first time an Indiana law will include the language “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
After that, Evangelical pastors felt betrayed. The Guardian says:
he was accused by evangelical pastors of abusing their trust.
Pence’s ‘evangelical Catholic’ self-identification is confusing for some:
“During the John Paul years, being ‘evangelical Catholic’ meant being firmly Catholic but with a preaching instinct. We didn’t mean someone who left the church and became evangelical and then tried to put Humpty Dumpty together again,” said John Allen, a veteran Vatican reporter.
However, conservative Protestants could find voting for Donald Trump less unsettling with Pence on the ticket:
Pence’s views – which some have described as fundamentalist Christian – may assuage their concerns.
We can but see in the early hours of November 9 when the result will be announced.