The US vice-presidential debate tonight between Mike Pence and Tim Kaine will be a showdown between two very unconventional Catholics, reports The Daily Beast.
Senator Kaine, as is well known, is a progressive Catholic whose focus on the Church’s social gospel was sharpened during a year’s mission in Latin America. But while media coverage of Indiana Governor Mike Pence has tended to depict him as a standard right-wing conservative Christian, this label belies the complexity of his own spiritual journey.
To be sure, Governor Pence’s views are beloved of the Christian Right, and anathema to progressives. He is perhaps the most anti-choice, anti-LGBT governor in the nation, going out of his way to find innovative ways for the State to impose conservative Christian moral views on everyone else.
But he is also very much a creation of the last half century of American political-religious life. Born and raised Catholic, he became a youth minister and reportedly wanted to be a priest. But according to interviews Governor Pence has given over the years (interestingly, he has more recently declined to talk specifically about his spiritual evolution), while in college from 1978-81, he began blending his Catholicism with Evangelical Protestantism.
“I made a commitment to Christ,” he said. “I’m a born again, evangelical Catholic.”
Interestingly, Governor Pence’s religious evolution came at precisely the time “evangelical Catholic” ceased to be an oxymoron.
From the mass migrations of Catholics to the United States in the 19th century through the 1960s, Protestants and especially Evangelicals regarded Catholics as disloyal, superstitious idolaters.
Many openly preached that the Pope was the Antichrist. And it is widely understood that anti-Catholic sentiment doomed the presidential candidacy of Al Smith in 1928, and almost cost John F. Kennedy the election in 1960.