GOP budget chief ducks questions on budget’s Catholic roots

WASHINGTON — Paul Ryan did not want to engage in a theological debate. Speaking at Georgetown University Thursday (April 26), … Continued

WASHINGTON — Paul Ryan did not want to engage in a theological debate.

Speaking at Georgetown University Thursday (April 26), the GOP’s chief budget writer tread lightly into the controversy he touched off last week when he asserted that his economic blueprint for the nation was consistent with Catholic teaching.

The Catholic theologians and faculty who were prepared to confront him were left wanting more.

“I was disappointed. I wanted to have a much more extensive conversation about the role of Catholic social teaching in public policy,” said the Rev. Tom Reese, one of the organizers of a critical letter to Ryan from nearly 90 Georgetown faculty and administrators.

The letter argues that Catholic social teaching does not support the Republican budget, which, according to the letter, “decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, too, also sent a letter rebutting Ryan’s assertion. Ryan fought back, stating that the bishops letter did not represent all American bishops. The USCCB then retorted that it did.

But at Georgetown, Ryan — the chairman of the House Budget Committee and a possible vice-presidential candidate — seemed to seek to quell the debate. He called his budget a roadmap to avoid a debt crisis that will hurt the poor hardest of all.

And he seemed to soft-pedal his defense of the document as consistent with Catholic teaching.

“The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it,” the Wisconsin Republican told an audience composed mostly of students, faculty and staff. “What I have to say about the social doctrine of the church is from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding to the problems of the day.”

In his 25-minute speech, Ryan invoked Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, former Rep. Jack Kemp, R-N.Y., and Pope Benedict XVI.

“The overarching threat to our whole society today is the exploding federal debt,” Ryan said. “The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has charged that governments, communities, and individuals running up high debt levels are’living at the expense of future generations’ and’living in untruth.’”

The pope dislikes the debt as much as anyone, Reese responded after the speech. “But Pope Benedict would not want to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. In fact, Pope Benedict, along with the bishops, would have no problem with raising taxes as part of a comprehensive budget solution.”

Talking about his budget’s Catholic underpinnings, Ryan spoke of “the twin virtues of solidarity and subsidiarity.” Only together can government, the private sector, charities, churches and individuals place the nation on the path to prosperity again, he said, addressing the first virtue.

As for subsidiarity, a principle of Catholic social teaching that calls for the most local authority to make policy, Ryan invoked parts of his plan that would shrink federal authority.

“When we lower tax rates by closing special-interest loopholes, we’re saying we in Washington don’t need to micromanage people’s decisions through the tax code,” he said.

About 20 protesters stood outside the hall where Ryan spoke, some holding a banner that read: “Were you there when they crucified the poor?” One of those holding up the banner, and her 13-month-old daughter, was Vanessa Richart of Washington.

“I’m not normally someone who attends protests but I really feel strongly that using Catholic social teaching as a justification for a budget that so severely cuts programs for the poor, particularly poor families, is unjust,” she said.

Ryan began his speech with a joke. The punch line has St. Peter telling a new Methodist in heaven not to make too much noise, lest the Catholics discover they’re not the only ones there.

“I suppose there are some Catholics who for a long time have thought they had a monopoly of sorts … not exactly on heaven, but on the social teaching of our church,” Ryan continued. “Of course there can be differences among faithful Catholics on this.”

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Universal Uclick.

  • rokidtoo

    I love Paul Ryan. I sure hope Mitt picks him for VP.

    Since Ryan seems to admire Ayn Rand, perhaps he can show how Objectivism is supported by Catholic teachings.

    From the Ayn Rand Institute site: “It will be shown that Christianity cannot be practiced consistently, destroys the integriity of man’s mind, and is incompatible with living successfully and happily in the real world.”

  • DavidJ9

    Paul Ryan knows that his Ayn Rand inspired war on the poor is contrary to all Christian teaching, not just Catholic. He would be a fool to engage those who want him to have to acknowledge that he lied about this.

Read More Articles

colbert
Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

noplaceonearth
An Untold Story of Bondage to Freedom: Passover 1943

How a foxhole that led to a 77-mile cave system saved the lives of 38 Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

shutterstock_148333673
Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

shutterstock_53190298
Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

shutterstock_178468880
Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

shutterstock_185995553
How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

HIFR
Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

shutterstock_186364295
This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

SONY DSC
Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.