Will a faithful, practicing Catholic ever make it back to the White House? Years ago, Catholics were persona non-grata thanks to unfair accusations of direct papal meddling into the affairs of the United States. However, given how difficult Catholic social teaching is to follow, how Catholic can a candidate for the Presidency (or in this case, the next-best-thing) really be? It's a fair question that was asked by Atlantic's Emma Green:
Today, it would seem ridiculous to accuse someone like Tim Kaine, who is Catholic and a nominee for vice president, or his rival Mike Pence, who was also brought up Catholic, of trying to give Pope Francis unseemly power over the White House. On the contrary, they might welcome the association: The pontiff is almost twice as popular in the United States as the Democraticor Republican presidential nominees. But while non-Catholic Americans are much more comfortable with the Church than they used to be, their changing attitudes say less about acceptance than assimilation. The price of Catholics’ admission into public life was a loss of distinctiveness. And the political records of this year’s two vice-presidential candidates—both of whom have openly defied the Church on different issues—illustrate why.
It makes you wonder with this year's Vice-Presidential nominations whether a practicing faithful Catholic can really aspire to high office in the United States. Much can be made of whether or not know-nothingism will make a comeback. But Catholics are doing a pretty good job at limiting themselves from high office.
On the one hand you have Governor Mike Pence. He is a self-described evangelical catholic. By this, he seems to mean that he was baptized and raised Catholic, but now he attends an evangelical church. In day's gone by it was appropriate to politely refer to him as a fallen-away Catholic. That was a nice term that did not have the stigma of being an apostate, one who completely renounces the faith. Nevertheless, Pence has left the Church.
On the other hand you have Senator Tim Kaine. Kaine has boasted of his time as a missionary with the Jesuit missionary corps in Houndouras. He talks of his heart for the poor. Yet, he most definitely advocates for positions against the faith, supporting the right to abortion (including a 100% voting record from NARAL) and for the rights for same-sex couples to marry. On core moral teachings, he is a heretic.
It was just four years ago that Paul Ryan got close to the White House, and yet, even he admitted to a disconnect between his own views and Catholic social teaching. Vice-President Biden's practice of the faith profiles very similarly to Senator Kaine. Ditto for John Kerry, the last Catholic to be at the top of the Presidential ticket.
This evidence points to the enormous (and potentially insurmountable) difficulty a faithful, practicing Roman Catholic will have running for high office. Whether this is a good or bad thing is up for determination. But it does mean our choices will be mediocre at best for some time to come.