Last night’s VP debate was interesting from a religious point of view because it pitted a departed Catholic against a dissident Catholic.

In doing some demographic studies of the church recently I came across the statistics I already knew–that former Catholics are one of the largest religious groupings in the USA. We should be honest. We’re losing members more than we’re gaining them.

Hispanics are easily drawn to the Protestant churches with their informal worship and easy membership message. Liberal Americans are tired of the church’s stance on same sex marriage, women’s ordination and other emotive issues. Lazy Catholics are drifting away to the allure of the American “good life” of prosperity and pleasure.

What interested me about Kaine and Pence, however was that they typified two types of Catholic of their generation. I have no idea why Pence left Catholicism except that he probably found Evangelicalism more accessible, relevant and that like many who go that path “got saved”. In other words he had a personal encounter with Christ that he did not discover in Catholicism.

For him I actually have a lot of time. I don’t condone his leaving the Catholic Church, but I understand it. It is very possible that the Catholic Church he left was riddled with the double poison of liberal theology and what I call “mechanical sacramentalism”. In other words, the Catholic faith was reduced to a justice and peace ideology combined with a routine and empty celebration of the sacraments. That kind of deadly Catholicism empties churches, and if it was combined (as it often is) with lazy, corrupt clergy who are sexually active (with one another and too often with young boys)—well no wonder he left.

If that is the case with Pence (and these are the complaints I hear from many who have left) then I sympathize. It is very possible that he left that kind of Catholicism and found in Evangelicalism a robust, supernatural, traditional and disciplined expression of the Christian faith.

I cannot judge Kaine, but his particular brand of self righteous, self congratulatory “Catholicism” is, from all appearances, just the kind of Catholicism that probably drove Pence away. The public church going of a man who supports abortion and same sex marriage–while having support from his pastor and silence from his bishop–is more destructive than the honest departure of someone like Pence.

Are Kaine and Pence two bad Catholics?

To stand things on their head, from what I can discern, Pence the non-Catholic is a better Catholic than Kaine the Catholic.

He exhibits something I’ve thought  for a long time: “Better a good Protestant than a bad Catholic.”