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Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 04, 2016
Republican vice-presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence, right, and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine shake hands during the vice-presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., Oct. 4 (AP Photo/David Goldman).

While much of Tuesday’s vice presidential debate between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence focused on foreign policy and defending their running mates from attacks, a question about the role faith has played in each of the candidate’s lives stirred up a few minutes of back and forth between the two men about how political figures should balance religious beliefs in the public square.

Mr. Kaine, a U.S. senator from Virginia, recalled his own religious background, raised in an Irish-Catholic family, educated by Jesuits and volunteering at a church-run vocational school in Honduras.

RELATED: Tim Kaine Seeks to Balance Catholic Faith with Democratic Politics

“They were the heroes of my life,” he said of the Jesuits who ran the school.

Mr. Kaine said the most difficult moment he has had living out his faith in public life was carrying out executions as governor of Virginia, a practice that went against both his own faith and the teachings of his church.

As a young attorney in Virginia, Mr. Kaine offered his legal services free of charge to death-row inmates seeking exoneration, activity the G.O.P. highlighted recently in an attack ad.

But during his time as governor, Mr. Kaine oversaw the execution of 11 criminals, six of them black.

“When I was running for governor, I was attacked pretty strongly because of my position on the death penalty,” he said. “But I looked the voters of Virginia in the eye and said, ‘Look this is my religion and I’m not going to change my religious practice to get one vote. But I know how to take an oath and uphold the law, and if you elect me I will uphold the law.’”

“I was elected and I did,” he said.

Mr. Kaine used the example to say that it is essential for elected officials not to impose their own religious beliefs on others.

“I try to practice my religion in a very devout way and follow the teachings of my church in my own personal life,” he said. “But I don’t believe in this nation, this first amendment nation, where we don’t raise any religion over the other and we allow people to worship as they please, that the doctrines of any one religion should be mandated for everyone.”

Speaking after Mr. Kaine, Mr. Pence said his “Christian faith is at the very heart of who I am,” recalling attending church with his family on Sunday mornings and praying before meals.

Pence was raised Catholic, which he did not mention Tuesday, but he said that his “Christian faith became real for me when I made a personal decision for Christ when I was a freshman in college.” Today, he worships at an evangelical church.

RELATED: Mike Pence’s Relationship with the Catholic Church is...Complicated

The Indiana governor said that his Christian beliefs inform his views against abortion. He said earlier this year that he believes the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion should be overturned.

“We’ll see Roe vs. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs,” he said in July.

Mr. Pence said on Tuesday he could not understand how Democrats “support a practice like partial birth abortion,” and said that his running mate Donald Trump is firmly pro-life. Some Catholics who resisted Mr. Trump during the primaries have come around in part because of his promise to appoint pro-life judges.

Mr. Pence noted that Mr. Kaine is against using taxpayer money for abortion, a policy difference with his running mate.

“I’ve appreciated the fact that you’ve supported the Hyde Amendment that bans the use of taxpayer money for abortion in the past,” Pence said. “But that’s not Hillary Clinton’s view.”

Mrs. Clinton has called for an end to the decades-old amendment that prohibits federal money from paying for abortions.

America’s Editors: Defend the Hyde Amendment

Mr. Kaine defended his position, saying that he and Clinton “support the constitutional right of American women to consult their own conscience” when it comes to choices about reproductive health care.

“I think you should live your moral values, but the last thing, the very last thing that government should do is have laws that punish women who make reproductive choices and that is the fundamental difference between a Clinton/Kaine ticket and a Trump/Pence, ticket that wants to punish women who make that choice.”

Earlier this year, Donald Trump said women who choose to end a pregnancy should face “some form of punishment” if abortion rights are overturned. Mr. Pence suggested his running mate misspoke, saying he is “not a polished politician.”

Mr. Kaine dismissed that assertion and used a Gospel passage to bolster his case.

“A great line from the Gospel of Matthew, ‘From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks,’” he said. “When Donald Trump says women should be punished, or Mexicans are rapists and criminals, or John McCain is not a hero, he is showing you who he is.”

For his part, Mr. Pence said he supports expanding access to adoption, saying “There are so many families around the country who can’t have children.”

“A society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable: the aged, the infirmed, the disabled and the unborn,” he said. If Americans “come together as a nation, we can create a culture of life.”

Mr. Kaine agreed, but said the decision about abortion should be left to women.

“That’s what we ought to be doing in public life, living our lives of faith or motivation with enthusiasm and excitement, convincing each other, dialoguing with each other about important moral issues of the day,” he said. “But on fundamental issues of morality, we should let women make their own decisions.”

This was the only debate between the two candidates for vice president. The two presidential candidates will square off again Sunday night in St. Louis.

Michael O’Loughlin is the national correspondent for America. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
William Rydberg
7 years 7 months ago
RE: HUMAN LIFE FAITH AND MORALS ISSUES ONLY!!! One remembers that not too long ago it was considered a Catholic public virtue to act on your personal beliefs (beliefs, confirmed by publically-known Authoritative Official Church teachings) in spite of, well, any external pressure to the contrary. That acting upon one's (well-formed) conscience was a person's Christian Duty. When the greatest Catholic Prayer was always acclaimed as "Your Will Lord Jesus, not mine.". That God's Will was Manifest in the teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Now. Even Catholic America Magazine doesn't have an opinion on wether it is right for a Catholic to act upon that well-formed Catholic conscience. Pretty sad in my opinion... As far as I see it, Catholic America Magazine's official response appears to be: "WHAT IS TRUTH". Just my opinion. in Christ Jesus-God come in the flesh, Blessed be the Holy Trinity...
ed gleason
7 years 7 months ago
William.... you seem to forget when Catholic judges unanimously decided to award divorces to all comers. Don't want to follow the civil laws? stay out of office. All Catholics staying out of all offices is your stance? .. .
William Rydberg
7 years 7 months ago
Mr Gleason, If I didn't know better, I would think I was reading a quote out of anti-Catholic Jack Chick. Therefore, I take your comment to be inadvertent. in Christ,
ed gleason
7 years 7 months ago
William, You attack a Jesuit Magazine and then site a 92-year-old comic book writer... My Jesuit teachers would throw you off the debate team (< :)
William Rydberg
7 years 7 months ago
Mr Gleason, I had given the benefit of the doubt. It doesn't take a genius to figure that there are a lot of Catholic Countries in the World. That all of the SCOTUS members are either Roman Catholics, or Jewish which according to Catholic teaching is not a different Faith. One finds offence that living out one's Faith is grounds for the exclusion from Public life. I will NOT be replying to your facile arguments on this subject going forward. Such is my opinion, Regards,
John Scaring
7 years 7 months ago
Since Senator Kaine quoted Scripture, one might recall one of the first prayers of the Church: Jesus is Lord. One can't claim to be personally opposed to abortion, but support it publicly and still claim to be Catholic. Senator Kaine claims that he doesn't want to impose his religious views on others, but, Senator Kaine's running mate supports taxpayer funding for abortion. How is that not imposing his views on those of us who don't want to be complicit, however tangentially, in a moral evil? Further, one need not invoke religion to know that abortion is morally wrong. Rationally or logically, if we take one of Senator Kaine's statements and apply it to a different situation, he says "on fundamental issues of morality, [meaning abortion] we should let women make their own decisions." Let's apply that to robbery. We can't impose our religious views that the taking of someone else's personal property is wrong on other people. There are people in desperate situations. Maybe this woman's husband's left her and she has five mouths to feed, so we shouldn't impose our religious views on this woman. We, as a society, impose our moral views on others all the time, that's why murder, rape, and robbery are all prosecuted as crimes. How about scientifically? At 21 days, a fetus' heart starts to beat, before most women even realize they are pregnant. At six weeks, the fetus has a developing brain, eyes and little hands. Is that not a life? People can argue about the arbitrary determination of when a developing fetus is a "person" entitled to legal protection, but one can't argue that there isn't a life growing inside the mother. Governor Pence is right, a society is judged by how it cares for the most vulnerable. Returning to Scripture, the Old Testament is filled with admonishments to care for the widow and the orphan. The single mother is today's widow and the child in the womb is today's orphan. A woman and her unborn child deserve a better option than abortion. They deserve adoption, pregnancy help centers, and the love of neighbor.
Martha Murray
7 years 7 months ago
I remain confused as to why America Magazine continues to encourage debate about the moral issues weighing in on this election. One party has distinguished itself by promising to expand abortion and repeal the Hyde Ammendment to the cheers of its convention audience. As Catholic voters, don't we need to strive for the ideal society that firsts respects and welcomes all human life ? I understand there are many other needs and issues facing our country, but not to the same moral weight/degree as sanctity of life. I get why we see these challenges and debates in secular society, but never expect them coming from the Catholic community.
Crystal Watson
7 years 7 months ago
**** Mr. Pence said on Tuesday he could not understand how Democrats “support a practice like partial birth abortion,” and said that his running mate Donald Trump is firmly pro-life. **** Hillary doesn't support partial-birth abortions, no one does - they have been banned in the US since 2003.
Martha Murray
7 years 7 months ago
That is not exactly accurate. There is an exception when the life of the mother is in danger which is loosely defined. Regardless, induction abortion widely replaced partial birth abortion, which involves direct injections to the baby in the womb. Recent studies cite as many as 18,000 late term abortions occur in the US every year. My point is that there is a candidate who supports abortion and there is one who does not. Voters are the ones with a choice right now.
Michael Barberi
7 years 7 months ago
The overwhelming number of partial birth abortions are performed before 26 weeks which is considered when the fetus is viable. However, the statue is worded broadly and includes the endangerment of the life of the mother including her mental or psychological health. The abortion law does permit the termination of a pregnancy after 26 weeks for fetal anomaly as well as to save the life of the mother caused by the fetus or pregnancy. Such conditions are rare but do occur. In such cases, a normal delivery may be possible to save the life of the fetus/child depending on the stage of pregnancy.
JR Cosgrove
7 years 7 months ago
Is this true?
Five Chaplains Lose Jobs for Praying 'In Jesus' Name'...Virginia Governor Tim Kaine Urged to Stop Persecuting Christians
It was back in 2008 when he was governor. http://bit.ly/2dNSfbW
Carlos Orozco
7 years 7 months ago
As preparations by warmongering, rogue elements are made to start WWIII, in a desperate attempt to avoid the DEFINITIVE COLLAPSE of the heavily armed and mechanized al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda in Syria) in Aleppo, who has time to talk about the phony VP candidates? Fifteen years after 9/11, corporate media whitewashes the atrocities of the Islamic barbarians and spreads the propaganda of the banking-industrial-military complex, blaming Putin and al-Assad for all sorts of war crimes. The neocons cannot be allowed to make their FINAL ESCALATION of the disastrous foreign policy of wars of aggression and bankrupting debt. Incompetent Obama is completely overwhelmed by the situation and would rather run out of Washington to campaign for Clinton. But, in case you still give a damn, Hillary's pro-abortion "Catholic" waterboy lost the debate. Not even seventy-something interruptions from little Timmie could stop Pence from portraying Hillary as the crook that she is.

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