Presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has announced that Tim Kaine, the junior Senator from Virginia, will be her running mate on the Democratic ticket.
Tim Kaine’s faith is a guiding element in his life’s work, and in 2013 he said the following about the influence of faith and religion in his life:
What I’ve always said to candidates, Democrats or others: ‘Share what motivates you.’ Share your motivations even before you share your policies, because people want to know your motivations to make a gauge of your authenticity. And for me, my motivation is a spiritual and religious one.
If the Democrats win the White House in November, Kaine would serve as only the second Roman Catholic vice president in American history, with his predecessor, Joe Biden, serving as the first.
Here’s what you need to know about Tim Kaine’s faith and religion.
1. He Was Raised Catholic & Educated by Jesuits
Kaine was raised by devoutly Catholic parents in Missouri. In an interview with C-SPAN Kaine talked about the extent of his parents’ Catholic devotion, stating: “If we got back from a vacation on a Sunday night at 7:30 p.m., they would know the one church in Kansas City that had an 8 p.m. Mass that we can make.”
Kaine also attended a Jesuit all-boys high school. Catholic Jesuits, or the Society of Jesus, are priests who live by four oaths or principles, including obedience to worldwide mission. The Order focuses on issues of poverty, service, and justice.
2. He Served as a Missionary in Honduras
While attending Harvard Law School Kaine realized that he had been drifting away from the Catholic church and was uncertain about what he wanted to do with his life. Between 1980 and 1981 he decided to take some time off, and after appealed to Jesuits in Honduras they allowed him to volunteer in charge of a vocation school teaching carpentry and welding skills to teenage boys. Kaine said that his year in Honduras put him back on a path to service and Catholic worship.
In 2008, Kaine told Charlie Rose how much his time as a missionary meant to him (skip to 4:30 in the video above):
The transformative event in my life, next to being a husband and father, was this year that I spent as a missionary in Honduras, not only informing my views of our country, but giving me a sense of mission in life at a time when I lacked it. That was a powerful faith experience for me.
3. He & His Wife Have Been Members of the Same Church For 30 Years
Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton attend St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in a poor, predominantly black working-class neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia. It is the same church that they have been attending for 30 years, and where they were married in 1984. Kaine is also a Tenor in the church choir. In an interview with NPR, Father Jim Arsenault, the priest at St. Elizabeth, had the following to say about Kaine as church parishioner and member of the close-knit community:
This past Good Friday, we were about ready to start the procession for the veneration of the cross. And Tim was in back of church. And I said to him, hey Tim, we need your help. Help us carry this cross. It was sort of life-size. And he said sure. And gospel choir was singing some gospel spiritual songs. And Tim was there as people with tears in their eyes would venerate the cross. And they’d come up, and he’d help them up after they were kneeling or something. And he’d shake their hand, and he’d practically pull them up. And then they’d give Tim a nice hug. Everybody knows Tim Kaine.
4. He Struggles With ‘Issues of Congruence Between Life & Faith’
Kaine has grappled with “issues of congruence between life and faith” with regard to the death penalty. He has said that he struggled as Virginia governor in a state that not only uses the death penalty, but has done so significantly more than most other states. While he commuted one sentence of an individual on death row, at least 11 or 12 other inmates were executed, which conflicts with his church’s teachings about the sanctity of life. (skip to 2:15 in the video above to hear Kaine discuss his struggle with the death penalty.)
With regard to sex education and abortion, Kaine has largely governed as a pro-choice Democrat despite his strong Catholic faith and personal pro-life beliefs. He had been a supporter of abstinence-only sex education, but in 2007 cut funding for the programs. In a review of emails Kaine sent while Governor of Virginia between 2006 and 2010, Politico reported that in an email from Kaine to Vicki Sant of the women’s rights group Summit Foundation he addressed his shift in policy from promoting abstinence-based sexual education programs to those that focused more broadly on contraception and sexuality, stating:
I like abstinence-focused programs, but I do believe (and the research confirms) that youngsters must also be given information about sexuality and contraception or the programs will not accomplish the goal of reducing sexual activity and unwanted pregnancy. Abstinence-only is more of a political statement than a true effort to help youngsters.
While Kaine has been criticized for some of his policies regarding abortion, namely parental consent requirements and bans on “partial-birth” abortion, he has also spoken openly in support of upholding Roe vs. Wade. It has been noted that Kaine’s struggle with abortion – namely that he is personally pro-life but politically pro-choice – is representative of the view that is held by many in America: a personal opposition to abortion, but a respect for the law and a woman’s right to make her own choices.
5. He Believes Women Should Be Allowed To Become Priests
Like Kaine, Pope Francis is a fellow Jesuit, and his efforts to modernize the Catholic church have included liberalizing views of homosexuality. When the Pope visited Washington D.C. in 2015, Kaine made an appeal to the Pope to allow women to be ordained in the Catholic church, arguing that allowing women to become priests would have a significantly positive influence on the world. He stated:
If women are not accorded equal place in the leadership of the Catholic Church and the other great world religions, they will always be treated as inferiors in earthly matters as well. There is nothing this Pope could do that would improve the world as much as putting the Church on a path to ordain women.