In asserting a “my faith” version of Catholicism, Kaine blurs the line between church and state and imposes a false philosophy on Catholics
Donald Trump has a Catholic problem.
Polls from August show that the Republican presidential nominee is facing as much as a 27-point deficit to Hilary Clinton among Catholic voters. The causes, to be sure, are not without merit. Trump’s bombastic, arrogant attitude is the very antithesis of the virtue of humility that Pope Francis represents, while the Republican’s “toxic” rhetoric on immigration policy and social welfare has alienated many potential Catholic voters.
Yet when it comes to the Church, Trump isn’t trying to change doctrine or assert his philosophy as supreme and universal. That would be his opponent’s vice presidential candidate, whose arrogance knows no bounds.
Tim Kaine thinks the Catholic Church will change its position on same-sex marriage.
Note that Kaine, a senator from Virginia, isn’t just advocating that the church should change its position on gay marriage; this isn’t about defending a personal position. Kaine, instead, assumes the Church will change its teaching.
And to justify his view, he cites himself.
“I think it’s going to change because my church also teaches me about a creator who, in the first chapter of Genesis, surveyed the entire world, including mankind, and said, ‘It is very good.’”
Kaine’s comments came Saturday during a dinner hosted by the Human Rights Campaign, which, despite its all-encompassing name, functions solely as a nonprofit group for the advancement of LGBT interests.
“I want to add: Who am I to challenge God for the beautiful diversity of the human family? I think we’re supposed to celebrate it, not challenge it,” Kaine added.
There are a few lessons to draw from the comments, the first being that there are a multitude of ways to celebrate the diversity of the human family, including people of homosexual inclination, that don’t involve changing a fundamental belief about what marriage is. More significantly, though, is the idea of progress that Kaine alludes to when he mentions creation as “good.” In doing so, Kaine is clearly superimposing his political party’s fluid philosophy over that of the Church.
The Catholic understanding is that the goodness of creation is not fixed, but rather “in a state of journeying” toward a “proper perfection.” This conception of moral progression, elaborated during the First Vatican Council, acknowledges an objective, absolute truth. For Kaine and the present-day progressive movement, however, there is no absolute truth. Change becomes inevitable, not so much because it is grounded in any objective idea of marriage or love that has always existed in a universal setting, but because it conforms to the ad populum of the day.
A recent National Review article described this paradigm in which today’s secular form of American liberalism rests:
Progress no longer means getting closer to any particular goal, because progressives now insist that our understanding of what it means to progress, to get better, will constantly change, in defiant rejection of any tyrannical consistency. Who are we to lock future generations, or even our own generation, into a single unalterable course?
The final point to make is the tremendous irony of the timing of Kaine’s speech, which came two days after Pope Francis delivered a homily that warned of a “’do-it-yourself’ faith.” Reflecting on the Gospel message of September 7th, the Pope noted:
Jesus’ admonition is always pertinent: today, too, man forms an idea of God that prevents him from enjoying His real presence. Some people carve out a “do-it-yourself” faith that reduces God to the limited space of one’s own desires and convictions. But this faith is not a conversion to the Lord who reveals himself, but rather, it prevents him from enlivening our life and consciousness. Others reduce God to a false idol; they use his holy name to justify their own interests, or actual hatred and violence. For others still God is only a psychological refuge in which to be reassured in difficult moments: it is a faith turned in on itself, impervious to the power of the merciful love of Jesus which reaches out to others. Others still consider Christ only as a good instructor of ethical teachings, one among the many of history. Finally, there are those who stifle the faith in a purely intimate relationship with Jesus, nullifying his missionary thrust that is capable of transforming the world and history. We Christians believe in the God of Jesus Christ, and our desire is that of growing in the living experience of his mystery of love.
The wording in the final sentence of Pope Francis’ homily is significant. The Church teaches that married love between a man and a woman is a “great mystery” united in that love with Christ; in other words, marriage cannot be reduced to what the state or its leaders wish it to be at any given point in history. Yet in reducing his Catholic faith to his own “desires and convictions,” Kaine gives voice to a dangerous and arrogant precedence which remakes the Catholic faith into whatever is most comforting to any one of us at any given period of time.
In some ways, Kaine’s arrogance is without equal in recent vice presidential politics. A day after Hilary Clinton herself apologized for comments that labeled “half” of Donald Trump supporters as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it,” Kaine was making the rounds on the Sunday talk shows and defending the presidential candidate.
I’m not here to get into a semantic discussion of what defines an “Islamaphobe” (is it mentioning “Islamic” before terrorism?) or a statistical debate that attempts to validate Kaine’s reasoning, but I am here to tell you that it takes a certain kind of person to insist someone is right even after that person admits they’re not.
We in the church have seen Tim Kaine’s before…Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry. There have been, and will always be, vocal Catholic politicians who disagree sharply with the Church on any number of teachings. Yet Kaine’s arrogance in promulgating his version of the faith, in an election season in which the majority of Catholics are favoring his running mate, is disturbing. Trump may have a problem with Catholic voters, but Tim Kaine, in remaking the faith to a personal preference, exemplifies the real “Catholic problem” in politics.