This year we mourned the death of Elie Wiesel, eyewitness, survivor, and chronicler of the Holocaust. His first book, Night, was published thanks to the lobbying of Catholic novelist Francois Mauriac, the greatest French writer of the last century. (Do read this wrenching account of the meeting between the battered young Jewish refugee and the grand old man of letters.) Mauriac lived through the hateful politics of the 1920s and 30s, and the Nazi occupation—throughout which he aided the Resistance. And Mauriac bore witness to the various shades of evil that had allowed so many of his countrymen, patriotic Frenchmen and devout Catholics, to cooperate with the Nazi round-up of Jews. He titled his postwar book reflecting on their casual embrace of savagery Cain, Where Is Thy Brother?— posing to his fellow believers the same question God posed to Cain in the garden of Eden, minutes after history's first murder. And we remember Cain's answer: “Am I my brother's keeper?”
Is Tim Kaine is his brother's keeper? Here's a man who claims that he knows that unborn children are human. Why else be “personally opposed” to abortion? (Is he personally opposed to other medical procedures, such as nose jobs or liposuction?) The humanity of the unborn is not a Catholic doctrine. You won't find it in the Bible, or any infallible papal decrees. There are plenty of pro-life atheists, like the late Christopher Hitchens. The great medical researcher Dr. Jerome Lejeune once said that if the Catholic Church embraced abortion, he would leave the Catholic Church. And he was right. We know, in the cold light of reason, that unborn children are human and that they're alive. Any church that told us otherwise would earn our absolute contempt.
But Tim Kaine wants abortion to be legal, in 50 states, for any reason, right up until the moment of birth—with taxpayer funding sluiced through the baby-parts merchants of Planned Parenthood. He wants this for one simple reason: because he wants to be vice president of the United States. (When he wanted to be governor of Virginia, he took all the opposite positions.) I'm reminded of the famous line from Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, where Thomas More confronts Richard Roper, who knows that More is right and Henry VIII is wrong, but who has sworn a sacred oath supporting Henry—in return for control of Wales. More is awaiting his own death, but his wit does not desert him, so he quips: “It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world ... but for Wales, Richard?” For the vice presidency, Tim?
Mauriac in his book of essays reeled off the petty reasons that Vichy supporters gave for taking part in enormous evil. They wanted to save Algeria, they wanted the monks back in Chartreuse, they wanted the Church to take back the schools which the state had stolen…. In the face of the fires that Wiesel saw in the extermination camp, these excuses turn to ashes and waft away on the wind. All is vanity. If human life is not sacred, then none of his works are either, and his soul is an illusion. Who knows what “good works” Tim Kaine imagines he can do from his higher office? How many extra school lunches, expanded health care programs, or higher minimum wage checks will buy him the right indulgence? What does he think will happen to his immortal soul?
Tim Kaine was trained by Jesuits, who might have been socialists but they weren't stupid. They knew and they taught him the difference between truths of reason and articles of faith. Yet Tim Kaine stood before America and pretended that concern for unborn human life is a peculiar Catholic fetish—like a distaste for meat on Good Friday. He knows better. You could see it on his face, a truculent mask for a soul in its slow agony, as it chokes on the half-truths, evasions, and shabby compromises that Kaine has made a career of.
When Tim Kaine was chosen as nominee, I called him “the whitewash on the sepulcher.” And that he sadly is. The tomb he brightens is the project of liberal Catholicism. As I document in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism, that project willfully picks and chooses which elements of faith are most appealing, most compatible with upward mobility and respect from our country's elites. This tactic goes way back, to the heady days when Vatican II was still in session. As Philip Lawler documents in The Faithful Departed, in 1964 the Kennedy family convened a posh retreat for leading liberal theologians, mostly Jesuits, in Hyannisport, Massachusetts—to help come up with rationales for pro-choice Catholic politicians. They were waiting for Roe v. Wade.