The Pope Made Me Do It
Tim Kaine and Taking Your Faith Seriously
So I did not expect how much flak I would catch from my liberal and honestly largely atheist friends about why the Church hierarchy should say something about Tim Kaine and abortion. (Why exactly they care what the Church says about other Church members is a bit beyond me.)
Anyway the major retort they had is why haven’t I changed any positions of mine since they are in (from their point of view) in opposition to the Church.
I thought this deserved a response so here it is.
First before I get started I think its important to understand that from a theological stand point there is a real difference between ones position on say abortion and ones position on what the exact right minimum wage is, or the right labour rules, or the right cap on carbon production is. One is a grave matter that the Church has said condemns one soul without contrition, and the others are much more gray areas.
They are often right that too many conservative Catholics, myself included, take up the mantle on abortion but then ignore the words from the Church on immigration, economics, labour, etc. In fact, I think one of the blessings for politically right leaning Catholics like myself of the pontificate of Pope Francis is a reminder that God really doesn’t care about the free market and Milton Friedman.
Now before my conservative friends burn me at the stake let me unpack what I mean on this point.
The Church has from its earliest times (in fact we see it in scriptures and the Didache and lots of early church writings) concerned itself with the poor and service to the poor is an unmistakable sign of the faith. In fact, Jesus has an extended sermon in Matthew 25 that should be constantly in our minds.
Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” — Matthew 25:44–46
So caring for the poor and sacrificing for them is at the core of the Christian life, and quite frankly there’s no line about “well unless you think they are on drugs then don’t give them things.” (See my post on the challenge I’ve had for myself on this point)
However, Jesus also doesn’t come out and say “Blessed are those who oppose lower marginal tax rates, and work for a $20 wage.” It is a judgement call on what helps people the most.
The capitalist system has done amazing things to reduce disease, sickness, and poverty. It has made billions of peoples lives immeasurably less brutal. It has clothed, and fed, and housed them with the benefit of it coming largely from their own hands. However, there are excesses that are also really bad and immoral that Christians should speak out against.
So I myself have found that my previous libertarian beliefs on economics have moved leftward as I’ve become more faithful, precisely because I take it seriously.
Another area where my beliefs has changed is the death penalty. Now there is an important note to be made here which is that the Church is not opposed in principal to the death penalty, but rather in implementation. The Church could conceive of very limited applications of it, but the truth of the matter is that none of those are relevant in the United States and the Church opposes all executions here and the Catholic Conference opposes all current death penalty ordinances in the US.
And while I struggle with accepting all of the Church’s argumentation on the fact, I believe as someone who takes these things seriously I should oppose the death penalty and if in some bizarro world I was elected Governor of a state I would never authorize an execution and would work to end it as a legal matter.
What is particularly galling to me about Tim Kaine was his answer on this question. Here a man admits that he believes state executions are on their face immoral and wrong, and yet he for political expediency performs them. Wow. Let that sink in.
So this brings us back to abortion and the Church.
The truth is that the Church’s view of abortion is a serious one, and that it is not to be treated lightly by people who take the Church seriously.
So yes for my friends on this issue who disagree with my assessment of Kaine, I have had my views changed by my faith. How could one not? But yet Tim Kaine looks us in the eyes and says he firmly believes abortion and the death penalty are wrong, but when elected he won’t let those deeply held beliefs effect his decision making.
What in the world?
I pray for Tim Kaine and I hope for him that his remarks do not represent the type of moral twists that they seem to on its face, but it is important we recognize that it is fundamentally unserious to hold the position that Kaine espouses and then say you take your faith seriously.
This brings us to the witness of the Church. I think it does great damage to the witness of Christians when someone says “I think X is really wrong, I have the power to fix it, but I won’t.” This goes for economic justice, the environment, etc, but it goes a hundred times over for the moral gravity of abortion.
Kaine is espousing a position that endangers souls, and encourages others to engage in endangering souls. This is not a trifle, and we don’t do anyone any favors by ignoring that.