With the close of both the Republican and Democratic conventions, the faith of both vice presidential candidates has been thrown into the spotlight.
Late last year, a very public dispute between Catholic Charities agencies in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Indiana’s governor, Mike Pence, on the resettlement of a Syrian refugee family illuminated the complicated relationship Donald J. Trump’s running mate has with the Catholic Church.
Pence was born and raised a Catholic, and attending Mass and serving as an altar boy were an important part of his life. Sometime during college, he began attending a nondenominational church, where he met his future wife. He now describes himself as, “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican,” in that order.
But Pence nonetheless supports many issues important to some Catholics.
In 2011, he advocated shutting down the federal government in order to defund Planned Parenthood, a tactic still proposed by some conservative lawmakers.
After he was sworn in as governor in 2013, following a campaign that largely eschewed social issues in favor of economic concerns, he pushed for the passage of a controversial bill that critics said would allow businesses to refuse service to L.G.B.T. people for religious reasons.
He eventually backtracked on the issue, after several big businesses threatened to boycott the state, to the consternation of some of his supporters.
Other Catholics are more skeptical of Pence, in part because of their opposition to Trump’s policy proposals. And though Catholics make up a sizable chunk of the electorate, it is likely that Trump was far more concerned with how his choice would be perceived by evangelical voters.
Like many other Democratic politicians who are Catholic, Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, struggles with the challenge of living out his personal faith in a party that does not always share his church’s views on complicated issues.
Kaine attended Rockhurst High School, run by the Jesuits, which is where, he said, he first started “talking about faith and spirituality.”
Later, after being admitted to Harvard Law School, Kaine took a year off to volunteer at a Jesuit vocational school in Honduras, teaching welding and carpentry, skills he learned from his father. It was in the town of El Progreso that he became fluent in Spanish.
In 2013, Kaine became the first lawmaker in history to deliver a speech from the Senate floor entirely in Spanish. “It is time that we pass comprehensive immigration reform,” he said in Spanish.
But on other public policy positions, Kaine is at odds with Catholic teaching.
Speaking to CNN earlier this month, Kaine was asked if he is “pro-life,” to which he said, “I’ve never embraced labels.”
“I have a traditional Catholic personal position, but I am very strongly supportive that women should make these decisions and government shouldn’t intrude,” he continued. As governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010, Kaine took a similar position on the issue of the death penalty, being personally opposed while respecting the law.
When pressed by The Washington Post in 2012 on how he makes peace with his personal beliefs and public stances, Kaine said, “I have really struggled with that as governor.” He continued, “I hope I can give a good accounting of myself on Judgment Day.”
Yet Kaine told C-SPAN he is constantly considering the bigger picture when he is voting or pushing an issue, something he traces back to his time with the Jesuits.
“Everybody has motivations in life,” he said. “I do what I do for spiritual reasons.”