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Kaine’s Faith Background

As Barack Obama gets closer to his choice of a running-mate, speculation today is focusing on Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, whose allies are letting it be known that he’s being fully vetted as a short-lister. 

Kaine’s political strengths and weaknesses are pretty well known.  He’s a very successful politician in a state that hasn’t gone Democratic in a presidential election since 1964, but that may be winnable this year. He’s a civil rights lawyer by profession, but has built on Mark Warner’s efforts to reach beyond party lines for both electoral and legislative support. On the other hand, he’s still in his first term of office (and ineligible to run for re-election in 2009), and has no significant foreign policy experience. 

It’s Kaine’s faith background that makes him an interesting option for Obama. 

He’s not only a practicing Catholic (an area of relative weakness for Obama during the primaries); he once served as a missionary in Central America. (His Spanish-language fluency is definitely an asset beyond Virginia). And in his 2005 gubernatorial campaign, he provided an interesting example of how faith can provide a defense against wedge-issue attacks.  

His Republican opponent, Jerry (No Relation!) Kilgore, launched a barrage of ads attacking Kaine’s opposition to the death penalty, as part of an effort to convince Virginians that the Democrat was well to the left of the popular Warner.  Kaine responded by attributing his death-penalty position to Catholic teaching, and then argued that he could be trusted nonetheless to enforce the death penalty after he took the oath of office on a Bible.  By most accounts, Kaine won this exchange decisively, without changing his position or acting evasively.    

If Obama and his team are fully familiar with this incident, it may add to Kaine’s appeal as a running-mate, given the avalanche of wedge-issue attacks the Democratic ticket is going to undergo in the fall.

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posted July 29, 2008 at 12:12 pm

It will be interesting to see how he handles Catholic teaching on abortion, too. But it’s somehow amazing to me that a qualification for office should be willingness to kill people for killing people, or possibly not, in the cases of those convicted who did not commit the crime.

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posted July 29, 2008 at 2:28 pm

Ed, waht’s Kane’s approach on abortion?

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Ed Kilgore

posted July 29, 2008 at 4:17 pm

Rob and Comcon:
Kaine fits the common “personally opposed, but would not illegalize” stance of many Catholic Democrats. He defends Roe v. Wade, but has supported a “constitutionally defensible” (i.e., with a “health” exception) ban on so-called “partial-birth abortion,” and is also an avid supporter of “abortion reduction” efforts via greater availability of contraceptives and abstinence-based anti-teen- pregnancy efforts. These positions would cause a lot of heartburn for many pro-choice activists, who are already beginning to object to him as a running-mate for Obama.
Ed Kilgore

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posted July 29, 2008 at 4:46 pm

Ed, thanks for clarifying that. To me, it sounds like he’s mostly supporting sensible, although not necessarily Catholic, alternatives to abortion.
I used to think that nobody was actually “in favor” of abortion, until I visited a Unitarian-Universalist church where the female minister announced from the pulpit that her first abortion was merely a right of passage, but her most recent abortion brought her a feeling of control over her life. But she’s not someone I see voting for McCain in any instance.

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Dudley Sharp

posted July 29, 2008 at 8:32 pm

It is quite clear that the anti death penalty position is not Catholic dogma. Quite the opposite, it is a matter of prudential judgement or one’s own persoanl opinion.
So, Gov. Kaine would remain a Catholic in good standing if he supported an expansion of the death penalty.
Catholic References: Support for the Death Penalty
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below
The biblical and theological record is very supportive of the death penalty.
The strength of the biblical, theological and traditional support for the death penalty is, partially, revealed, below.
Some references:
(1)”The Death Penalty”, Chapter XXVI, 187. The death penalty, from the book Iota Unum, by Romano Amerio, 
Thoughtful deconstruction of current Roman Catholic teaching on capital punishment by a faithful Catholic Vatican insider and expert theologian.
titled “Amerio on capital punishment “Friday, May 25, 2007 
 (2)  “Catholic and other Christian References: Support for the Death Penalty”, at
 (3)  “Capital Punishment: A Catholic Perspective”, by Emmanuel Valenza (Br. Augustine) at
(4) “The Purpose of Punishment (in the Catholic tradition)”, by R. Michael Dunningan, J.D., J.C.L., CHRISTIFIDELIS, Vol.21,No.4, sept 14, 200
(7) “God’s Justice and Ours” by Antonin Scalia, First Things, 5/2002
(8)  “A Seamless Garment In a Sinful World” by John R. Connery, S. J., America, 7/14/84, p 5-8).
(9) “The Death Penalty”, by Solange Strong Hertz at
(10) “Capital Punishment: What the Bible Says”, Dr. Lloyd R. Bailey, Abingdon Press, 1987. The definitive biblical review of the death penalty.
70% of Catholics supported the death penalty as of May, 2oo5, Gallup Poll, Moral Values and Beliefs. The May 2-5, 2005 poll also found that 74% of Americans  favor the death penalty for murderers, while 23% oppose.
copyright 1999-2008 Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

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Noodle Beach

posted July 29, 2008 at 8:58 pm

So many Christians including Catholics, want it both ways. Defending Roe v. Wade is defending man’s definition of “life,” not God’s. Defending Roe v. Wade is defending one person’s decision to end another person’s life, however emerging and fragile that life is. How can people who call themselves “Christians,” i.e. followers of Christ, be so opposed to capital punishment yet support the killing of an infant in the womb?
Yes this is the 3rd rail of politics and has been for some time. Which is why most politicians won’t go near it, and if they do, they espouse the “sensible” view — the cowardly view in my opinion — of defending the status quo on abortion while advocating “abortion reduction” meaures….and oh yes they are practicing Catholics, Protestants, or whatever.
Opponents will say the Bible never mentions abortion. So what? It also never mentions genocide with nerve gas, mercy killings for terminally ill, child sex abuse, kidnapping for purposes of extortion, and a host of other horrors that are both illegal and immoral in the 21st century world.
“Thou shalt not kill.” It’s hard to kill something that isn’t alive. I don’t know exactly when a human is considered “alive” but I’ve seen enough abortion videos to decide at least for myself that the timetable in Roe v Wade is a bit too late.

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posted July 29, 2008 at 10:18 pm

“””waht’s Kane’s approach on abortion?””” Ill bet your opinion is that it is wrong..but the death penalty is just fine???? My take on this blog is that it is some kind of Christian thing. If so may I be blunt: You cannot execute…not even you. You cannot sign death warrants..not even you. Life is given, and will be taken, by I right?
How is that from an atheist?

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posted July 30, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Kaine’s position on abortion and the death penalty are consistent…as a practicing Catholic he opposes both, but he recognizes that in a Democracy he must obey the rule of law if he is to govern constitutionally, and unfortunately the law in Virginia permits the death penalty. If he didn’t sign death warrants he would be in violation of the very laws he had sworn to uphold. I am sure nothing would make Tim Kaine and a lot of the rest of us happier than to see the Virginia General Assembly repeal the death penalty, but so far that hasn’t happened. It’s the law though many of us wish it were not. I
suppose he could have stayed out of politics entirely if didn’t want to have to obey Virginia law (even though he personally opposes capital punishment) but if everyone who disagreed from a religious standpoint with any law of any state stayed out of politics that would be a sad thing.
I live in Virginia, and I can tell you that Tim Kaine is THE REAL DEAL. A moral, kind, honest and wonderful person. How anyone like that ended up in politics is a mystery I know. But everyone who has ever met him or had any dealings with him will tell you that he is a very fine man indeed.

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recovering ex-Pentecostal

posted July 30, 2008 at 2:01 pm

I thought this ‘new’ blog was supposed to be about the ‘new’ “rising religious left”.
Instead we get this nonsense.
“Kaine’s response is the type of thing you’re more likely to hear from Republicans, or conservative judicial nominees.”
How this is in any way indicatvie of this “new rising religious left” escapes me entirely.

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posted July 30, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Perhaps it shows that the rising religious left will be a “big tent”…unwilling to exclude fine men like Tim Kaine. He has served the citizens of Virginia well, without letting his personal religious views affect the exercise of his constitutional duties. In my view that’s not inconsistent with the religious left in the least.

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Reaganite in NYC

posted July 30, 2008 at 3:54 pm

Let’s look at the thinking behind this.
Four years ago, the Democrats nominated a Catholic as their Presidential candidate …. and the GOP candidate still got the majority of Catholic voters.
Now, the Democrats will nominate a Catholic as their VICE Presidential candidate … and they think that will produce better results?
Say again?

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Reaganite in NYC

posted July 30, 2008 at 3:57 pm

Let’s look at the thinking behind this.
Four years ago, the Democrats nominated a Catholic as their Presidential candidate …. and the GOP candidate still got the majority of Catholic voters.
Now, the Democrats will nominate a Catholic as their VICE Presidential candidate … and they think that will produce better results?
Say again?

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