Clinton’s VP pick, a Catholic born in St. Paul, faces criticism for his stand on abortion

| Colleen Dulle | July 25, 2016 | 7 Comments

Only a week after Donald Trump chose as his running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who was raised a Catholic and today is evangelical, Hillary Clinton chose as her vice presidential running mate, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a practicing Catholic who has never lost an election, as her vice presidential running mate.

Kaine was born in St. Paul at St. Joseph’s Hospital, grew up in Kansas outside Kansas City, Missouri, and attended the Jesuit-run Rockhurst High School there before taking time off from Harvard Law School to work in Honduras with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. He has been a member of St. Elizabeth Parish in Richmond, Virginia, for 30 years and an is an on and off choir member — he sang a solo verse of “Taste and See” at Mass there July 24.

Still, the vice presidential candidate has faced criticism from Catholics for his stances on issues such as abortion and the death penalty.

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, posted on Facebook July 23 that Kaine’s positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, among other issues, “are clearly contrary to well-established Catholic teachings; all of them have been opposed by Pope Francis as well.

“Senator Kaine has said, ‘My faith is central to everything I do.’ But apparently, and unfortunately, his faith isn’t central to his public, political life,” the bishop wrote.

Similarly, Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, released a July 22 statement denouncing Kaine’s abortion stance, including his opposition to a bill that would have prevented abortions after 20 weeks, had it passed in the Senate.

“Senator Kaine is good at hiding behind his Catholic background,” Tobias said, “but no one should be fooled. His record and his openly declared legislative goals are as pro-abortion as they come.”

Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond, Kaine’s home diocese, issued a July 22 statement as well “regarding Catholics in public office” that reiterated the church’s pro-life stance though it did not mention Kaine by name.

“We always pray for our Catholic leaders that they make the right choice, act in the best judgment and in good conscience knowing the values and teachings of the Catholic Church,” the statement read.

Kaine’s platform has become more accepting of abortion since his time as governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010, when he approved funding for crisis pregnancy centers and upheld abortion restrictions such as a 24-hour waiting period and parental notification. He followed this term with two years as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Since his 2012 election to the Senate, he has had a perfect rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America, though he has supported the Hyde Amendment, which forbids federal funding for most abortions and continues to be included in many federal appropriations bills for abortions. He hasn’t yet commented on the DNC’s platform update, which says the party aims to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

“I have a traditional Catholic personal position, but I am very strongly supportive that women should make these decisions and government shouldn’t intrude,” Kaine told CNN earlier in July.

Kaine takes the same approach to the death penalty, though this issue seems to be notably more fraught for him personally.

During Kaine’s 2005 run for governor, his personal opposition to capital punishment came under fire, and his campaign produced an ad featuring Kaine telling the camera directly, “My faith teaches life is sacred. That’s why I personally oppose the death penalty, but I take my oath of office seriously, and I’ll enforce the death penalty … because that’s the law.”

Under Kaine, Virginia carried out 11 executions, delaying some of them and granting clemency once when the prisoner to be executed was deemed mentally unfit. He vetoed every attempt to expand the penalty’s use.

Wayne Turnage, chief of staff under then-Gov. Kaine, has told multiple media outlets that on execution days, Kaine would become quiet and somber, spending the evening executions in his office alone with an open phone line to the death chamber until an aide came to report the prisoner’s last words.

Larry Roberts, Kaine’s former chief counsel, told The New York Times June 24 that he was sure Kaine was praying through each execution.

Christopher Hale, executive director of nonpartisan coalition Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, told Catholic News Service July 25 that he personally knows Kaine and sees the strength of his faith.

“The big thing to know with Kaine is he is someone who does take his faith seriously,” Hale said in a phone interview. “This isn’t just some passing facade; it’s the core of who he is.”

“The Catholic worldview has really inspired his politics. That being said, he’s not always perfect on the issues.”

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  • Charles C.

    “U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a practicing Catholic . . .”


    “Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, posted on Facebook July 23 that Kaine’s positions on abortion and same-sex marriage, among other issues, “are clearly contrary to well-established Catholic teachings; all of them have been opposed by Pope Francis as well.

    “Senator Kaine has said, ‘My faith is central to everything I do. But apparently, and unfortunately, his faith isn’t central to his public, political life,” the bishop wrote.”

    So tell me, what does “practicing Catholic” mean anymore?

    • tschraad

      It means trying to get elected. Try as he may, he is using the Pelosi devout Catholic position which will get Cardinal Wuerl all teary eye and allow the scandal of the Eucharist to be downplayed as politics come first.

      In my opinion, Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo should of banned Kaine from receiving the Eucharist publicly. Killing innocent human beings is central to Kaine’s religious life which cannot be separated from his work life. He just wants to have both the benefit of the Catholic vote and the benefit of the pro abortion crowd. The Bishop must condemn Kaine for his stance on this issue in very plain words.

  • Paula Ruddy

    I think there are some assumptions in this news story about the obligation of Catholics in the political sphere that need to be questioned. Does the Catholic Church teach that Catholic citizens and elected legislators are obliged to work for laws to force other citizens to live by Catholic moral teaching? Are Catholics morally obligated to work for re-criminalization of abortion in the US? Who should be penalized? What should the criminal penalty be? Is there Church teaching on that? For bishops to speak about this and condemn legislators, shouldn’t they have thought through the answers to these questions? Why is it newsworthy that a Catholic government executive says he will enforce the laws of his state? Don’t we have a moral obligation to reason these questions out together?

    • Charles C.

      Dear Paula, may I offer an answer? If you disagree, please tell me where your disagreement lies so that the discussion can be narrowed.

      The Church has the authority to declare acts good or evil.

      Catholics are obliged to accept the Church’s teaching (maintained since the 1st century) that abortion is a grave moral evil.

      Catholics are obliged to oppose, as far as is in their power, grave moral evils.

      As citizens, Catholics are encouraged to work for laws and candidates which support their beliefs, and oppose those who don’t.

      The government reduces things by taxing things or making them illegal.

      If Caesar (The government) asks a Catholic (or any Christian) citizen to commit an immoral act, it is the duty of that citizen to object, resist, and ultimately refuse to comply, even at the cost of his career. Church martyrs would say losing a job or career is a small price to pay to avoid denying the faith or committing a grave sin.

      So, yes, Catholics are obliged to oppose abortion to the extent they are able and not to support or encourage it. Besides prayers, protests, counseling centers, etc., voting for laws to make that great moral evil illegal is a perfectly acceptable approach. Voting to support abortion is morally impermissible.

      Questions such as who would be charged with the crime of abortion and what the punishment should be, are prudential judgments left up to the legislators who should look for laws which achieve the desired goal in a morally permissible way.

      It’s not newsworthy for a Catholic governor to enforce the laws of his state. It’s newsworthy that he claims to be a faithful and practical Catholic while acting in opposition to Catholic teaching. He could just as easily have vetoed those provisions, but he didn’t. Now, as a Senator, he votes for abortion whenever it comes up. Again, in opposition to Church teaching. I suppose he is also taking Communion. It’s slightly newsworthy that his Bishop allows it.

    • TimR

      Beautifully said Charles C. Also read canon 915. Eucharistic ministers: ordinary or extraordinary should start refusing communion to these politicians. We can start with our local ones. And that applies to non politicians who make there lack of acceptance of doctrine public. This avoids scandal.

    • Carol Tauer

      When I get a phone call from a pro-life group asking for my support, I ask the caller which of these is their goal: to criminalize abortion, or to decrease the number of abortions. These two goals are not necessarily consistent with each other. There are international studies which show that countries where almost all abortions are illegal generally have a higher per capita rate of abortions than countries where most abortions are legal. A variety of factors influence the rate of abortions in any given country or state of the U.S.: sex education, availability of contraceptives, the status of women, social and economic supports for mothers in need, affordability of health care, assistance for families with disabled and developmentally delayed children, etc. Legality or illegality is a minor factor influencing the number of abortions.

      • Charles C.

        Please allow me to try to find some common ground. This is an explosive subject and difficult to discuss, but I believe it is possible.

        You correctly point out that there are a number of different factors which influence the abortion rate, If we agree that we are looking for the causes of abortion then it might complicate matters to look at other countries which have different attitudes on the role of women, quality of available health care, legal structure, culture, history, religion, etc. Might it not be better to look first at the United States before we bring in different countries?

        Let’s set aside the fact that there were many fewer abortions in the US when the procedure was illegal, and criminalizing it drastically reduced the number of abortions. “Drastically” is far too mild a word.

        So, what should we consider? Return to the list you offered. On the surface it might seem reasonable to some. Now consider two states, Mississippi and New York. Which provides more of the factors presented as reducing the need for abortions? New York is the obvious answer.

        The abortion rate in Wyoming is one percent. It’s 31% in New York. Which of those factors account for the difference?

        California, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are the other states with abortion rates over 22%. What’s their problem? What is the difference between those states and those with abortion rates under 10%? Those states are Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

        (All stats are from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2011. Guttmacher used to be an arm of Planned Parenthood, but is still considered “Pro-choice.” Guttmacher defines the abortion rate as the number of abortions divided by the number of women aged 15-44.)

        Would you say that we should be following the pregnancy policies of the 14 states with low abortion rates an run from the policies of the high nine? It seems that a Puckish observer might conclude that a factor in the high abortion states is the degree of their liberalism (or support for Democrats), while low abortion states tend to be more conservative (supporting Republicans).

        I can understand your reluctance to re-criminalize abortion, but that’s not the only pro-life law available. Let’s set that option aside.

        To use your own phrase, are you interested in decriminalization, or reducing abortions? Would you support universal maternal notification, fully informed consent including having the mother view the ultrasound? How about requiring the mother to receive information and counseling about adoption? Making adoption easier and less expensive? How about eliminating taxpayer funding of abortions? Maybe increased state funded pregnancy support? A 24 – 72 hour waiting period? (After all, we do it with guns.) Disallowing “Wrongful Birth” lawsuits? Perhaps requiring abortions to be performed by a doctor? A provision requiring that an abortion be performed within 30 minutes (or 60) of a hospital in case of an emergency injury to a mother?

        None of those suggestions require criminalizing abortion, yet does anyone doubt that they would reduce the number of abortions? Perhaps we can agree to support some of those ideas.