For Kaine, a Faith in Service

Day Laborers in Herndon
Legal and illegal immigrants gather to look for work at a 7-11 convenience store in Herndon, Va. (Christina Pino-Marina, Ben de la Cruz -
By Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 3, 2005

When Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and his wife began talking about how to celebrate their 20th anniversary last year, they both said they should do something special.

He was thinking about Paris or someplace romantic. His wife had another idea. She wanted him to take her to Honduras, a place she had heard so much about for most of their married lives.

So last November, Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, celebrated with a trip to El Progreso, Honduras, where Kaine had spent nine months as a missionary in 1980 and 1981.

Kaine, the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, said that teaching at a fledgling Jesuit school in El Progreso gave his life direction, inspiring him to public service and rekindling his devotion to Catholicism. The commitments to public service and to faith have occasionally resulted in a duality of beliefs that have puzzled some Virginians and led critics, including his Republican opponent, Jerry W. Kilgore, to question his consistency.

This fall, Kaine's stand on the death penalty has attracted much attention. He says his Catholic faith leads him to personally oppose capital punishment but that as a public servant, he would place his hand on the Bible on inauguration day and pledge to carry out the laws of the state, including death sentences.

The Kilgore campaign has presented several emotional ads in which relatives of murder victims challenge Kaine's record on death penalty issues and express concern about what he might do if elected governor Tuesday.

During a recent campaign stop in Manassas, Kaine said that Kilgore had distorted his position. "I think people can tell the difference between negative campaigning and the truth," Kaine said. "And they also can respect someone who has a religious belief. And I have a religious belief that I am not going to apologize for. My religion doesn't make me cross my fingers when I take an oath, and I am going to follow that oath and enforce the death penalty."

Throughout the campaign, Kaine has asked Virginians to examine these personal commitments, the roots of which are in Honduras.

A Mountain Visit

Kaine was 22 years old. During the Christmas holiday break in Honduras, he was up in the mountains with a priest named Jarrell D. Patrick, who is known as Father Patricio. Patricio would walk from village to village and celebrate Mass on makeshift altars. One day, before saying Mass, Patricio told Kaine he wanted to visit with a man and his wife and four children.

"The family was very destitute," Kaine recalled. "The kids had obvious signs of malnutrition. We visited for a few minutes and were getting ready to leave when the man said, 'Hey, Father, wait a minute, I've got something for you.' " Kaine said the man went to a corner of the hut and picked up a hemp bag filled with food and gave it to Patricio as a Christmas gift. Kaine said he was shocked and angry that the priest had accepted food from a man whose own children clearly were not getting enough to eat.

For five minutes or more they walked in silence, until the priest turned to Kaine and said: "Tim, you know you really have to be humble to accept a gift of food from a family that poor."

Kaine said his instincts had been to tell Patricio not to take the food. Now he is glad that he did not.

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company