In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells a parable of a father who asks his sons to go into the field and work. The first son refuses to do so, but later thinks better of it and goes into the field. The second son agrees to do so, but then changes his mind and stays home. After telling this story, Jesus asks his interlocutors, “Which of the two did the will of his father?” They answer: “The first.”

As sons of the Church, GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence is like the first son, and Tim Kaine, the Democratic VP nominee, is like the second.

The media has played up Kaine’s Catholicism, including his missionary work in Honduras. They’ve also highlighted the fact that Mike Pence grew up Catholic but became an evangelical Protestant in college. Though Pence has referred to himself as “a born again, evangelical Catholic,” the Clinton/Kaine campaign, and its media surrogates, would like to swing as many Catholic voters to the Democrats as possible. Hence their efforts to present Kaine as the “devout” Catholic, and Pence as the “former” Catholic.

But the candidates’ views belie this media trope.

Popes and bishops offer their opinions on all manner of issues—from immigration to tax and energy policy. But there is no official Catholic teaching on, say, the number of immigrants that the U.S. should allow in every year, on the top marginal income tax rate, or even whether there should be an income tax. So pointing out that a religious candidate for political office agrees or disagrees with a bishops’ conference or a pope on some political issue is not, by itself, dispositive.

In fact, it’s possible for a Catholic in good standing to disagree with the pope himself on matters as weighty as the justice of a particular war or resort to the death penalty. Pope Benedict XVI even said so.

In contrast, it’s impossible to defend legal abortion on demand, funded by taxpayers, and also claim to be a devout Catholic. And yet that is precisely the position of Tim Kaine. He has pledged to keep Roe v. Wade intact, and for his efforts, in 2016, he received a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

To say, as Kaine does, that he personally opposes abortion, but legally supports it, makes nonsense of Catholic teaching, which insists that one can know by reason that abortion is wrong. For him to treat his opposition to abortion as a private, sectarian belief is itself a contradiction of Catholic teaching.

Worse, we know that he understands this, because he was pro-life until it became politically untenable.

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Ditto with marriage.

Kaine recently suggested to a group of LGBT activists that the Church will change its opposition to same-sex “marriage” because, he claimed, God approves of His creation—including, presumably, homosexual acts. Here Kaine admits that he disagrees with his church’s teaching, a teaching he is willing to jettison in favor of the ascendant sexuality ideology of our age.

As with abortion, this is a view he opposed earlier in his career.

Mike Pence, in contrast, has been pro-life and pro-marriage in word and deed—both during his tenure in Congress and as governor of Indiana. He led the effort to defund Planned Parenthood. He signed into law a bill that would stop abortion doctors from killing babies based solely on a genetic disability, race, or gender. He has signed laws to provide adoption tax credits for parents and protect consumers from being forced to pay for abortions through their insurance policies. And just this month, he reiterated his commitment, telling the Value Voters Summit, “I’m Pro-Life and I don’t apologize for it.”

On marriage, the Indianapolis Star wrote this about Pence in early 2016: “Gov. Mike Pence has remained firm in his support of traditional marriage — even in the face of rapidly-shifting public opinion on gay rights.” He has also expressed deep concerns about how bills that claim to protect gays could be used to trample on religious freedom.

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Tim Kaine may have promised his Father that he would go work in the field, but it is his opponent Mike Pence who has actually done so.

Jay Richards is Executive Editor of The Stream, and Assistant Research Professor in the Busch School of Business and Economic at The Catholic University of America. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.

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