Thursday, July 28, 2016
A “Man for Others” . . . Well, Some Others, But Not All
Tim Kaine had this to say last night in his speech (here) accepting the Democratic nomination for Vice President:
I went to a Jesuit boys high school, Rockhurst High School.
Wow, that’s a big line for the Jesuits.
Now we had a motto in my school, “men for others.” And it was there that my faith became something vital. My north star for orienting my life. And when I left high school, I knew that I wanted to battle for social justice.
No doubt later today, there will be many posts on social media and on various Jesuit, and Catholic, and political blogs extolling the virtues of a Jesuit education and repeating with pride the phrase that Pedro Arrupe made so famous: “Men for others.”
And no doubt many of these same commentators will hold up Tim Kaine as an exemplar -- beaming with pride at the fact that Kaine is both the product of Jesuit education and that he openly identifies himself as such. And, indeed, Kaine tied his Jesuit education to his vocation in politics – the “north star” that oriented his life and made him want to “battle for social justice.”
To truly be a “man or woman for others” is surely to follow the “north star” by which to set one’s course in life. But to do so authentically and with integrity means acting with justice towards all the members of the human family.
Unfortunately, Tim Kaine’s political career is marked by a conscious disregard for the most vulnerable human beings. He insists, of course, that he’s “kind of a traditional Catholic” in that “personally I’m opposed to abortion” (here), but he strongly affirms Roe v. Wade. His rationale for this position is the same intellectual drivel and incoherence that Mario Cuomo offered back in 1984 that has become the pat answer of pro-choice politicians who claim to be Catholic. (For my critique of Cuomo’s address see here).
Kaine claims that abortion is in “the personal realm,” that abortion and other matters of “intimacy” are “moral decisions for individuals to make for the themselves and the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”
This, of course, is not an argument as to why the abortion decision should not be a matter of public concern, only a reaffirmation that it should not be. And it makes no sense if, as Kaine says (together with Cuomo, and Biden, and Pelosi, and many others) that he believes what the Church holds concerning the sanctity and inviolability of innocent human life in the womb. Or rather this makes sense only if belief in the sanctity and inviolability of innocent human life is inherently religious, and so unfit as a goal of public policy. This is intellectually vapid. Seeking to protect the lives of unborn human beings is no more incapable of being described and justified in secular terms than the humanitarian work that Tim Kaine performed in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Honduras.
Indeed, the Society of Jesus bluntly disagrees with Kaine’s flawed characterization of the issue. In its prophetic document Standing for the Unborn, the Jesuits in the United States made plain that “abortion is a human rights issue.” As such, it stands on at least the same moral footing as the work that Tim Kaine did in Honduras.
Moreover, abortion is not, said the Jesuits, merely a “personal preference or private choice” precisely because the decision involves the killing of an innocent human being.
Further, opposition to abortion does not, says the Jesuits, involve “the imposition of a narrowly-confined religious position upon an unwilling majority” but “reasonable arguments accessible to people of all faith traditions and people of none.”
Moreover, because Jesuits are dedicated to “faith and the promotion of justice,” all Jesuits and Jesuit institutions “must seek an end to the injustice of abortion.”
Finally, Jesuits are committed to the process of respectful dialogue, confident that the truth will persuade and succeed in “narrowing the gap between the current civil law of our nation and the demands of the moral law.” This “way of proceeding” of course precludes the kind of “go along, get along” approach of ignoring and renouncing the pro-life cause so common among Catholics in public life.
But Tim Kaine has not proceeded on the path of social justice set forth by the Society of Jesus. He has instead earned a 100 percent approval rating from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-choice America (here). And, as Rick has pointed out, Kaine has now repudiated his long held support for the Hyde Amendment (here). Since becoming Hilary Clinton’s running mate he has embraced the view set forth in the Democratic Party’s platform calling for repeal of the Hyde Amendment and full federal funding for elective abortions under Medicaid, and for payment for abortion under all health insurance plans (p. 37).
There is no social justice in this perverse proposal for the subsidized killing of our youngest and most vulnerable relations. To truly be a “man for others” one cannot exclude certain members of the human family either because it is politically expedient, or because it helps to advance one’s career. To do so is the repudiate the very premise that purportedly animates one’s pursuit of social justice in the first place – the dignity of the human person.
Roe v. Wade is no “north star.” It is a black hole that has set our nation, our Constitution, and the moral lives of countless individuals on a calamitous course – a road to the heart of darkness.
Given all this – given the substance of his position on the most vital civil rights issue of our day, and not simply his rhetoric – Tim Kaine’s overt identification with the Jesuits should be a source not of pride but of embarrassment. It is a sign of failure – in catechesis, in training in philosophy and reason, in the formation of character -- especially courage.
Of course as with any person, Kaine is not simply a product of his high school education and his service in JVC. He has also been formed by his legal education, and practice, and government service, and party affiliation. He has been formed by larger currents of moral an political thought operating in the culture.
One would like to think that he has also been formed by his life in the Church – his participation in the sacraments and parish life. But where is this in evidence when it comes to the issue of life? Perhaps in ways unseen that (we hope and pray) will emerge.
Still, rather than the back-slapping that one is likely to see among the Jesuit fraternity of priests, alumni and alumnae, one would instead hope to see some genuine introspection. If Tim Kaine is an exemplar – if he truly represents the best of what Jesuit education is all about – then I would suggest that the current leaders, teachers and alums of Jesuit institutions should ask themselves a few simple questions: “Where did we go wrong? How can we correct this?”