KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Tim Kaine has been in Virginia politics for some time, so people know who he is when he shows up for mass at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Richmond, Va. Kaine has gone there for almost three decades. The priest there is Father Jim Arsenault, and I asked him what people should expect from Hillary Clinton’s new running mate.
JIM ARSENAULT: I think Tim would be a nice – just almost too honest for politics because he’s so straightforward and has this twinkle in his eye. Maybe that’s his Irish wit. And he really extends a hand to help people and is very compassionate, approachable, available and friendly.
MCEVERS: When did you first meet Senator Kaine?
ARSENAULT: About five years ago. But I knew him, certainly, before that because he was governor during the tragedy at Virginia Tech. We had 32 students killed, and Tim was the governor. He came and spoke on campus.
MCEVERS: I understand he is – he’s in the choir.
ARSENAULT: He’s in the choir, and he’s a tenor. He hasn’t been able to sing as much since he’s been a United States senator. But every once in a while, our choir director Kim Ford will nab him and say, Tim, we need your voice. And he is very grateful to help out.
MCEVERS: Tell us about St. Elizabeth and your congregation. What’s it like?
ARSENAULT: We’re a small church. We’re a Catholic community in an area of Richmond called Highland Park. It’s a working-class, a poor community. Our particular parish is mostly black folks, and it’s a really close-knit community.
MCEVERS: Senator Kaine has talked about his Catholic faith as being one of the major, you know, drivers behind his work as a politician. Is that clear to you as a pastor, and what are some specific examples?
ARSENAULT: Well, I can give you one. This past Good Friday, we were about ready to start the procession for the veneration of the cross. And Tim was in back of church. And I said to him, hey Tim, we need your help. Help us carry this cross. It was sort of life-size. And he said sure. And gospel choir was singing some gospel spiritual songs. And Tim was there as people with tears in their eyes would venerate the cross. And they’d come up, and he’d help them up after they were kneeling or something. And he’d shake their hand, and he’d practically pull them up. And then they’d give Tim a nice hug. Everybody knows Tim Kaine.
MCEVERS: I wonder, as you think about him as part of the congregation, what are some of the issues you think are most important to him as a politician?
ARSENAULT: I think equal pay for equal work for women. I think some of the social justice issues. I think he’d be concerned about that all lives matter, regardless of color of one’s skin. And he is a bridge-builder among races and communities and regardless of zip codes, where people are from or what education they have. He really helps build community.
MCEVERS: He’s also been pretty vocal about his opposition to the death penalty on moral and religious grounds. Yet as governor of Virginia, he oversaw several deaths by capital punishment. How do you feel like he reconciles those two things?
ARSENAULT: Well, I know that he’s definitely against capital punishment and works to help defend those who are on death row. The church has a teaching with regard to we’re pro-life, and we believe in that seamless garment of life. We respect sometimes lawmakers make difficult decisions.
MCEVERS: Well, maybe you won’t see him as much at church now.
ARSENAULT: Well, you know, he’s – whenever he’s in town, he seems to be there. And he slips in usually towards the third pew in the right-hand side. And we know where he sits, and people keep an eye on him. And I know he knows everybody around him because we’re friends.
MCEVERS: That’s Father Jim Arsenault of the St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Richmond, Va. Thank you so much.
ARSENAULT: God bless you now.
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