“I am Catholic,” Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said in a Sunday interview on ABC. “I’m very, very serious about my Catholicism, and Hillary [Clinton] views that as an asset. She asked me to be on the ticket with her.”
Kaine’s comments were an attempt to explain away anti-Catholic emails that had been leaked from the gmail account of top Clinton aide John Podesta. In one particularly illuminating exchange, various players in Clintonworld discussed Catholicism as if it were some kind of disease.
“There needs to be a Catholic Spring,” wrote Sandy Newman of the group Voices For Progress, “in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a Middle Ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality.” Newman asked how one might “plant the seeds of the revolution,” and blamed the Church’s influence on “the economic power it can bring to bear against nuns and priests who count on it for their maintenance.”
Podesta replied to Newman that he had helped found two nominally Catholic front groups for this very purpose, called “Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good” and “Catholics United.” He lamented their failure to gain traction and blamed their lack of suitable leadership.
Left-wing antipathy toward the Catholic Church is not surprising, although it is helpful to see it in black and white. It is all about the Church’s assertion of Catholic citizens’ freedom to opt out of funding and participating in what Pope John Paul II referred to as “The Culture of Death.” In recent years, this assertion has interfered with government plans to make all businesses underwrite contraceptives and abortifacients, leading to two noteworthy cases in the Supreme Court.
But mostly, the anti-Catholic attitude stems from the Church’s persistent opposition to abortion in particular and its unwillingness to give up the idea of good and evil, right and wrong, in general.
One could hardly blame Kaine, who like Clinton supports both legal abortion and its subsidization by taxpayers, for being over his head in trying to defend his political comrades’ emails. But it only highlights the odd position in which he has placed himself by willingly becoming the Democratic Party’s token Catholic of 2016.
As long as Kaine is comfortable parading his Catholicity for a national political audience, we are comfortable pointing out that Clinton would never have chosen him as her running mate if he took his Church’s teachings seriously in his political career. The reason Clinton’s cronies write emails to each other about working in secret to subvert the Catholic Church is that Catholicism demands too much of its adherents in the modern political space for their liking — more than Kaine and many others are willing to give.
The Catholic Church rejects the idea that one can simply “personally oppose” abortion. It condemns not just abortion itself, but also the support of any laws that make it legal. The Vatican’s oft-cited language on the specific question of modern abortion laws, released one year after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, leaves little room for interpretation: “[M]an can never obey a law which is in itself immoral, and such is the case of a law which would admit in principle the liceity of abortion,” reads the declaration. “Nor can he take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it. Moreover, he may not collaborate in its application.”
Many Catholic politicians ignore the Church’s demands in this regard to get ahead in politics. Most of them do it without wearing their religion so obviously on their sleeves as Kaine has.
On Sunday, Pope Francis declared the sainthood of a Mexican boy named Jose Sanchez del Rio, who was martyred at age 14 in October 1928. Sanchez had been captured serving as a flagbearer in the Cristero rebellion against a secularist Mexican government that had outlawed Catholicism.
When ordered to renounce the tenets of his faith or face execution, Sanchez refused. So soldiers slashed the bottoms of his feet and cruelly forced him to walk to the local cemetery, leaving a long trail of blood. Once there, he remained defiant, so they bayonetted him to death in front of witnesses, to make a public example of him.
Most people would understand if the young Sanchez had, under those circumstances, relented in order to save his own life. But why would the Catholic Church hold this boy up as an example, if it intended that its nominal adherents in public life should freely renounce its doctrines in exchange for something worth so much less — in this case, just to get ahead in Democratic Party politics?
The answer is that it wouldn’t. And it doesn’t intend that. Kaine is free to believe or claim to believe what he likes. But he cannot have it both ways. Catholic voters should not give him an ounce of credit.