August 1, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Is a California religious studies professor who argues that Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine’s “Jesuit spirituality” could appeal to irreligious voters on the right track? According to two Catholic experts, Elizabeth Drescher, a professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University, is most likely distressingly correct.
Drescher recently penned an article for Religious News Service, after Kaine’s selection as Hillary Clinton’s running mate, in which she described the Jesuit-schooled, self-professed Catholic’s “cosmopolitan spirituality” – a term that refers to the beliefs of those without religious affiliation but who still see themselves as “spiritual.” Santa Clara is a Jesuit institution.
Drescher writes, “Nones (those who list “none” when asked in surveys to state their religion) tend to take relationships with family, friends, and, for many, pets or other animals as the starting point for experiencing the spiritual. Their spirituality unfolds in appreciation of the sacred within the ordinary. Care for others, rather than any strict moral code, grounds their ethics.”
That mind-set should match Kaine’s “Jesuit Spirituality,” Drescher opines, which cares “for the whole person.” She equates religious commitment with “valuing the distinctiveness of each, individual person and of diversity among people. This has marked Jesuit spirituality itself as a cosmopolitan spirituality that sees difference as a gift from God, not as a blemish on some imagined cultural or religious uniformity.”
Kaine has demonstrated this attitude not only in his youthful volunteer work with the poor, she writes, and his “(legal) representation of victims of housing discrimination” but in his open disregard for Catholic teaching – or as she puts it, “despite his personal religious convictions” – in supporting abortion and same-sex marriage. She concludes, “This relational, service-oriented Jesuit spirituality is likely to be appealing to ‘nones.’”
Michael Hichborn, director of the Lepanto Institute, an advocacy organization on behalf of Catholic orthodoxy, agrees that Drescher is correct when she essentially equates Kaine’s moral laxity with that of many Jesuits. “Drescher simply didn't know how right she was in stating that Tim Kaine's Jesuit background helped shape his political life and this election,” Hichborn said.
“It was a Jesuit priest, Father Robert Drinan, who shaped the current model for Democrat Catholics in public life,” he said, noting that Drinan came up with “the mantra that Catholics can be personally opposed to abortion but support it in their political lives.” As a senator, Drinan “voted in support of decriminalized abortion” and set the pattern for “public Catholics like Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, and now Tim Kaine” to support abortion and other “grave moral evils” while insisting they were “good” Catholics privately, said Hichborn.
Adam Cassandra of the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS), which focuses on preserving Church teaching at Catholic-founded universities and colleges, also agrees that Drescher and Kaine exemplify what has happened at many schools founded by the Jesuit order.
But what Drescher clearly applauds as “cosmopolitan,” the CNS deplores. “We see schools like Santa Clara holding 'coming out' days, embracing LGBT advocacy and gender ideologies,” Cassandra lamented.
Cassandra said Drescher seemed to be advancing “a false narrative” that “there is a Jesuit way to be a Catholic in which it is not necessary to adhere to the Church’s moral teachings.”
Cassandra said the Church unreservedly called on its members to “care for others, care for the poor.” However, “You are not really caring for others if you are not leading them to the truth of God’s teaching and if you are not correcting them when they are living in ways leading to eternal salvation.”
The Cardinal Newman Society this week released research tracking the Jesuit decline from 36,000 members at its peak in 1965 to 16,740 last year, which the CNS attributes to the order’s “moral confusion.” Moreover, the “reputation of Jesuits as the ‘foot soldiers’ for Christ is repeatedly undermined by many of their Jesuit universities, which are rapidly losing their Catholic identity and fidelity.”
However, the “nones” might well approve of the direction the Jesuits have taken. They now account for 20 percent of the registered voters, Drescher pointed out.
But Catholics, who make up 20 percent of the adult population, have been moving toward Republicans in recent elections. Hichborn thinks Clinton picked a Catholic running mate just as President Barack Obama did with Joe Biden to “try to absorb the Catholic vote” more than to attract “Nones.”