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Tim Kaine must not get away with styling himself a ‘Pope Francis Catholic’

Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine speaks at a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina (AP)

With the nomination of Senator Tim Kaine, American Catholic voters once again face a decision about whether to send a pro-abortion, dissenting Catholic to Number One Observatory Circle, the official residence of the Vice President of the United States.

For the past eight years Vice President Joseph Biden has lived there, an abortion supporter for sure, but he never pitched his Catholic credentials to the voters in the way that Hillary, her surrogates, the Democratic Party and Kaine himself have done from the get-go.

Kaine, unlike Biden, was chosen because he’s Caucasian and Catholic. But not just any Catholic. He’s a product of a Jesuit education: Rockhurst High School in Kansas City and the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Honduras. As Mayor of Richmond, Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Virginia, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and Virginia’s sitting Democratic senator, Kaine has remained true to the now dominant Jesuit version of Catholicism: love the poor but don’t make a fuss about the unborn. The poor deserve “preferential treatment” but the babies belong to Herod, so let him have them.

From the perspective of Catholic teaching, of course, this is schtick of the deadliest kind. A recent, and very telling, example was published in the Jesuits’ own magazine, America, following the announcement by the Clinton/Kaine campaign that the vice-presidential nominee would join Hillary in eliminating the Hyde Amendment. (The amendment, first passed in 1976, prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion except in cases of incest, rape or to save the life of the mother.)

The editors of America found Kaine’s capitulation a bit too much for the newly nominated Catholic VP candidate, so they opined, “Defend the Hyde Amendment”. Why? They explained: “The only nuance Mrs Clinton has shown on abortion in this campaign may be in her selection of Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate.”

As I said earlier, Kaine was chosen because he was Caucasian and Catholic, the intended effect being to mollify enough “swing” Catholic voters to ensure control of the White House. But Kaine’s sudden willingness to completely compromise all Catholic principle to be on the presidential ticket spurred the editors at America to demonstrate their political savvy by hauling their student into the boiler room for a few hard whacks.

It worked. The next day America magazine proudly reported that Senator Kaine did, in fact, support the Hyde Amendment in spite of what was announced by the campaign.

To cover his tracks, however, Kaine had to adopt another Hillary tactic: outright lying. When asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper about the flip-flop, Kaine replied: “That is not accurate, and I don’t think Robby has said that, Jake.” (“Robby” Mook is Hillary’s campaign manager, and here is a tweet that tells a different story.)

Lest the reader be moved to congratulate America’s editors for their success, I should point out that the editorial is just another example of eloquent Jesuit schtick. They rightfully take on Kaine’s dichotomy of being “personally opposed” to abortion but publicly supportive, but spin it this way: “But incoherent as it is, being ‘personally opposed’ at least maintains some minimal contact with the difficult moral reality of abortion” (emphasis added).

Are we to conclude that the editors of America consider Kaine’s “minimal contact” enough to rescue his Catholic conscience, and theirs, and make him worthy of America’s support as well as that of Catholic voters?

Indeed, America’s editorial suffers from another sort of dichotomy. How can the magazine not conclude that Kaine, viewed as a Catholic politician, has failed to meet the minimal standard of the values a Catholic politician should represent?

“But as long as Mr Kaine refuses to recognise the unborn among the marginalized and to include them among the children for whom he promises to fight, he has not yet fully embraced the mission of social justice,” the editorial says. “As long as he continues to accept the moral myopia that pretends abortion can fix our society’s failure to offer women the support necessary to feel secure even in unplanned or difficult pregnancies, he has not yet fully responded to the Gospel’s call to care for those in need.”

I’m all for incrementalism, but this stretches it beyond breaking point. Kaine’s “minimal contact” with the “moral reality of abortion”, coupled with his 100 per cent pro-abortion voting record and his full support for abortion provider Planned Parenthood, provides no foothold at all upon which to work towards even the lowering the number of abortions – a position espoused by America’s editors.

Kaine is already on the stump reaching out by name to “Pope Francis Catholics”, as he did in Philadelphia on August 1. The last time I looked, Pope Francis had not changed the Church’s teaching on abortion, contraception or, for that matter, the selling of a dead child’s body parts – all of which Kaine implicitly supports.

Will the editors of America, and the Jesuits in general, allow Kaine to describe Pope Francis in this way? Or will Pope Francis, and his Vatican spokesmen, allow Kaine to describe Pope Francis in this way?

I’m guessing that Senator Kaine will get bitten for invoking the Pope’s name – and he should, for a multitude of reasons.

Deal Hudson is the publisher and editor of The Christian Review