Tim Kaine

Journalists cover candidate Kaine's LGBTQ prophecy, but words of his bishop? Not so much

Journalists cover candidate Kaine's LGBTQ prophecy, but words of his bishop? Not so much

Let’s settle one issue right up front, so that readers know what this post is about and what it is not about.

Yes, it is bigger news -- in the heat of a White House race -- when the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential candidate (he would be one blood clot away from naming several U.S. Supreme Court nominees) openly attacks a sacramental doctrine of his church, as in the Church of Rome (Catechism reference here).

Truth is, a giant chunk of space rock could wipe out Jerusalem -- at this point in the sacred rites of American horse-race politics -- and elite journalists would immediately calculate the impact on Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers.

My question today is whether news organizations should have paid any attention to the response by the actual Catholic bishop who, for those who care about Catholic theology and tradition, is the shepherd for the church in which Sen. Tim Kaine is an active communicant. Also, if a newsroom decided to cover that story, would the bishop’s actual words deserve attention? How much attention? 

So let’s start with a flashback to the original story, care of The Washington Post:

Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine, a practicing Catholic, on Saturday described his evolution on same-sex marriage and predicted that his church would change its views as well.
“My full, complete, unconditional support for marriage equality is at odds with the current doctrine of the church that I still attend,” Kaine said at a dinner celebrating gay rights. “But I think that’s going to change, too.”

It’s crucial that Kaine also signaled that God is for same-sex marriage and the Vatican has not caught up to the implications of it’s own theology. Kaine threw down a doctrinal glove and asked for a fight.

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Devout Catholic™ Kaine breaks with his church on gay marriage, with media blessing

Devout Catholic™ Kaine breaks with his church on gay marriage, with media blessing

Tim Kaine has officially joined the ranks of Devout Catholic™.

How do we know? Because he says he's Catholic, yet criticizes the Church.

The Democratic vice presidential nominee played weekend prophet and theologian when he told the Human Rights Campaign that the Catholic Church will eventually change its teachings against same-sex marriage. 

But that wasn't the cardinal sin of the day. The worst was the unthinking, habit-bound, codeword-laced coverage by mainstream media -- especially calling Kaine yet another Devout Catholic™.

Count the Chicago Tribune among the worst offenders:

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine is predicting that the Roman Catholic Church may eventually change its opposition to gay marriage.
Kaine is a devout Roman Catholic as well as a U.S. senator from Virginia and a former governor of that state. He told the Human Rights Campaign during its national dinner Saturday in Washington that he had changed his mind about gay marriage and that his church may follow suit one day.
"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 said. He then recalled Pope Francis' remark that "who am I to judge?" in reference to gay priests.
"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 said.

We've done a fair amount of dissection on media who toss around the Devout Catholic™ term too freely.  As I wrote two years ago, many reporters seem to use Devout Catholic™ in two ways: (1) “Doing more Catholic things than I do”; (2) “Claiming to be good Catholics while breaking with the Church over major doctrines.”

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What did God say? Mike Pence prayed and then changed his mind on needle exchanges

What did God say? Mike Pence prayed and then changed his mind on needle exchanges

What we have here is a rather complex, not-so-shallow, for the most part fair-minded New York Times news feature about (wait for it) a crucial political event in the life of Gov. Mike Pence, the evangelical Protestant running mate of Citizen Donald Trump.

Yes, faithful GetReligion readers, there are times when this story actually allows people close to Pence to talk about issues linked to religious faith and you cannot hear a snarky newsroom Greek chorus in the background. I know that you are all asking the same question: How did this miracle happen?

Actually, it's not a miracle at all because this story fits some rather familiar patterns that can be seen in work at the Gray Lady, as well as in other prestige newsrooms from time to time. What are these patterns?

(1) The story is about a complex and controversial moral and cultural issue -- in this case needle-exchange programs to stop the spread of H.I.V. among drug users -- but it is not an issue linked to the Sexual Revolution.

(2) Savvy evangelicals (Catholics, Mormons, etc.) who work in the public square know that all they have to do to improve their press coverage is to take actions that some would see as progressive and/or offensive to their core constituents in evangelical pews and pulpits.

(3) The politico in question, as part of his or her decision making process, goes to God in prayer and, lo and behold, in this case the voice of God is said to agree with the editorial-page policies of the New York Times.

So take a quick read through the feature that ran under this headline: "Mike Pence’s Response to H.I.V. Outbreak: Prayer, Then a Change of Heart." Do you see what I see?

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Prosperity gospel vs. social gospel: What religion means to Trump, Clinton & Co.

Prosperity gospel vs. social gospel: What religion means to Trump, Clinton & Co.

In back-to-back features this week, NPR delves into the faiths of the Republican and Democratic presidential tickets.

It's safe to say that these profiles — by Godbeat pro Tom Gjelten — are not definitive journalism on what Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton & Co. believe.

In fact, these reports are more like CliffsNotes study guides for those interested in a crash course on the candidates' religious backgrounds. But taken as such, these accounts are really nicely done.

On the Republican side, NPR focuses on how positive thinking and the prosperity gospel define Trump's faith outlook.

On the Democratic side, Gjelten explores how Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine are driven by their faith in a social gospel.

In each case, the author allows the candidates to describe their faith in their own words.

Trump:

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For news media, Kaine is a 'Pope Francis Catholic,' other than all that moral doctrine stuff

For news media, Kaine is a 'Pope Francis Catholic,' other than all that moral doctrine stuff

Look at it this way: When it comes to the death penalty, The New York Times is to the left of Sen. Tim Kaine. That appears to have been the key factor in producing a rather nuanced news feature on Kaine that, for many liberal Democrats, may be a sobering read.

Then again, maybe not. The message of the Times story("On Death Penalty Cases, Tim Kaine Revealed Inner Conflict") appears to be that Kaine is a strong Catholic, but when push comes to shove he gives voters what they want. That may comfort Democrats on the left, since the nation (or the courts at least) appear to be swing their way on moral and social issues.

The key -- according to the contents of this story -- is that Kaine's Catholic faith is right where the Times editorial page would want it (other than on the death penalty). It's in his heart and in his campaign ads.

That whole "be doers of the word, and not hearers only" thing? Not so much.

Before we move on, let me confess (once again) that I am a pro-life Democrat who -- believing that life is sacred from conception to natural death -- is opposed to the death penalty. Kaine is, or was, the kind of Democrat who once gave me hope that there might be ways to at least compromise on the hot-button moral issues that have dominated American politics most of my life.

The point of that Times piece is that Kaine remains that guy -- in appearance. That's why Hillary Clinton picked him. But read carefully:

For Mr. Kaine, now a senator and Hillary Clinton’s newly named running mate, no issue has been as fraught politically or personally as the death penalty. His handling of capital punishment reveals a central truth about Mr. Kaine: He is both a man of conviction and very much a politician, a man of unshakable faith who nonetheless recognizes -- and expediently bends to, his critics suggest -- the reality of the Democratic Party and the state he represents.
He opposes both abortion and the death penalty, he has said, because “my faith teaches life is sacred.” Yet he strongly supports a woman’s right to choose and has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood. And Mr. Kaine presided over 11 executions as governor, delaying some but granting clemency only once.

Note that 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood. Now read on:

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Rolling Stone, Slate note the lack of God-talk during Donald Trump's victory lap

Rolling Stone, Slate note the lack of God-talk during Donald Trump's victory lap

Although he threw in everything but the kitchen sink, Donald Trump barely mentioned religion or culture wars themes during his 116-minute speech Thursday night. As the Charlotte Observer noted, were it not for Mike Pence, the God mentions by major speakers at this convention would have been pretty sparse.

Maybe that's because Trump knows that nearly every time he refers to the Bible, he makes some kind of mistake? It's one thing to mess up in front of Liberty University students; it's another to goof up when you're accepting your party's nomination for President. 

For the record, here's the only religion content in Trump's speech:

At this moment, I would like to thank the evangelical and religious community in general who have been so good to me and so supportive. You have much to contribute to our politics, yet our laws prevent you from speaking your minds from your own pulpits. An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson, many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views.
I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and protect free speech for all Americans.

An earlier draft of Trump's speech that got leaked did not have the words “and religious.”

Here's an explanation of that Johnson amendment, courtesy of Politifact. Thursday night was such sparse pickings for anyone looking for divine content that Slate termed it "The GOP's Godless Convention." Fortunately for us, Rolling Stone -- yes, Rolling Stone -- released this analysis Thursday afternoon about infighting among evangelicals over the GOP nominee.

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Capital punishment, abortion and a Catholic politician

The Washington Post’s front page today featured a long profile focused on the faith and religious underpinnings of former Virginia Gov. — and current U.S. Senate candidate — Tim Kaine.

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