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Catholic Leaders to Rep. Paul Ryan: Stop Distorting Church Teaching to Justify Immoral Budget
In a very strong statement 90 Catholic leaders & scholars say the Ryan budget is 'morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good'

By Casey Schoeneberger

Nearly 60 prominent theologians, priests, nuns and national Catholic social justice leaders released a statement today refuting Rep. Paul Ryan’s claim that his GOP budget proposal reflects Catholic teaching on care for the poor, which he made in an interview earlier this week with the Christian Broadcasting Network. The group of Catholic leaders — including a former high-ranking U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops official, a priest in Rep. Ryan’s district and the leadership team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas — called on Ryan to “reconsider his radical budget proposal and refrain from distorting Church teaching.”

“If Rep. Ryan thinks a budget that takes food and healthcare away from millions of vulnerable people upholds Catholic values, then he also probably believes Jesus was a Tea Partier who lectured the poor to stop being so lazy and work harder,” said John Gehring, Catholic Outreach Coordinator at Faith in Public Life. “This budget turns centuries of Catholic social teaching on its head. These Catholic leaders and many Catholics in the pews are tired of faith being misused to bless an immoral agenda.”

The leaders wrote: “Simply put, this budget is morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good. A budget that turns its back on the hungry, the elderly and the sick while giving more tax breaks to the wealthiest few can’t be justified in Christian terms.”

Robert Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, released an analysis last month that found the Ryan budget would “likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).” Mr. Greenstein described the budget proposal as making “extraordinary cuts in programs that serve as a lifeline for our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently sent a letter to Congressional leaders calling on Congress to protect food stamps, affordable housing and other programs that help the poor from harmful budget cuts. Ryan’s plan did not heed the bishops’ request.

The full statement with signatories is below:

As Catholic social justice leaders, women religious, priests, theologians and other concerned Catholics, we are deeply troubled that Rep. Paul Ryan – chairman of the House Budget Committee – is defending a budget proposal that makes dangerous cuts to food stamps and other vital protections for the most vulnerable as compatible with the teachings of his Catholic faith. Simply put, this budget is morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good. A budget that turns its back on the hungry, the elderly and the sick while giving more tax breaks to the wealthiest few can’t be justified in Christian terms.

In a letter to the House of Representatives last month, Catholic bishops wrote that “a just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons; it requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.” Bishops also called for repealing “cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” and asked Congress to consider the “human and moral dimensions” of budget choices. Rep. Ryan has ignored this vision. Instead, he proposes to dismantle Medicare as we know it, slash food assistance for struggling families and turn Medicaid into inadequate state block grants at a time when most states are struggling to pay their bills. The dramatic growth in military spending is untouched. Addressing our national debt is essential, but balancing budgets on the backs of the poor and working families is flawed public policy and morally bankrupt.

Rep. Ryan claims his budget reflects the Catholic principle of “subsidiarity.” But he profoundly distorts this teaching to fit a narrow political ideology guided by anti-government fervor and libertarian faith in radical individualism. This is anathema to the Catholic social tradition. In fact, ever since Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical, Rerum Novarum, Catholic social teaching has recognized a positive role for government and our collective responsibility to care for our neighbors. It was another Ryan — Msgr. John Ryan — who in 1919 worked with Catholic bishops on a visionary plan that called for minimum wages, insurance for the elderly and unemployed, labor rights and housing for workers. The “Bishops’ Program for Social Reconstruction” recognized that free markets and self-reliance alone were not enough. These proposals eventually helped inform historic New Deal programs that for the first time sought to buffer families from the cruel vagaries of profit-driven markets that had little concern for human dignity. Subsidiarity recognizes that those social institutions closest to the human person — families, communities, churches — can effectively respond to human needs. But subsidiarity, according to Church teaching, also insists that government has a responsibility to serve the common good when these institutions are unable to address the more systemic issues of poverty, inadequate health care, environmental degradation and other societal challenges.

We urge Rep. Ryan to reconsider his radical budget proposal and refrain from distorting Church teaching to give moral cover to a budget that fails to live up to our nation’s best values and highest ideals.

Sister Simone Campbell

Executive Director

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Francis X. Doyle

Associate General Secretary (retired)

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Stephen Schneck

Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies

Catholic University of America

Rev. Thomas Kelly

Retired Catholic Priest

Elkhorn, WI (Constituent of Rep. Ryan)

Rev. Bryan N. Massingale

Professor of Theological Ethics

Marquette University

Institute Leadership Team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Rev. John A. Coleman S.J

Saint Ignatius Parish, San Francisco

Casassa Professor Emeritus

Loyola Marymount University

Tom Allio

Diocesan Social Action Director (Retired) Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

Rev. James F. Keenan, S.J.

Founders Professor in Theology

Boston College

Rev. John F. Kavanaugh S.J.

Professor of Philosophy

Saint Louis University

Rev. David Hollenbach, S.J.

University Chair in Human Rights and International Justice

Boston College

Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J.

Senior Fellow

Woodstock Theological Center

Georgetown University

Rev. Paul Crowley, S.J.

Santa Clara Jesuit Community Professor

Religious Studies Department

Santa Clara University

Douglas W. Kmiec

U.S. Ambassador (ret.)

Caruso Family Chair in Constitutional Law & Human Rights

Pepperdine University

Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love

Associate Professor, Politics Department Fellow, Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies

The Catholic University of America

Dr. Francis Schüssler Fiorenza

Stillman Professor of Roman Catholic Theological Studies

Harvard Divinity School

Dr. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza

Krister Stendahl Professor

Harvard Divinity School

Patrick Carolan

Executive Director

Franciscan Action Center

Fred Rotondaro

Board Chair

Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good

David J. O’Brien

University Professor of Faith and Culture

University of Dayton

Vincent J. Miller

Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture Department of Religious Studies

University of Dayton

Tobias Winright

Associate Professor of Theological Ethics

Saint Louis University

William Quigley

Janet Mary Riley Professor of Law

Loyola University, New Orleans

Marie Dennis

Co-President

Pax Christi International

James Salt

Executive Director

Catholics United

Mark J. Allman, PhD

Associate Professor of Religious & Theological Studies

Merrimack College

Terrence W. Tilley, Ph.D.

Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology Chair, Theology Department

Fordham University

Paul Lakeland

Aloysius P. Kelley S.J. Professor of Catholic Studies

Fairfield University

Gerald J. Beyer, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics Department of Theology and Religious Studies

Saint Joseph’s University

Lisa Sowle Cahill

Monan Professor of Theology

Boston College

Nancy Dallavalle

Chair, Department of Religious Studies

Fairfield University

Nicholas P. Cafardi

Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law

Duquesne University

John Sniegocki

Associate Professor of Christian Ethics

Xavier University

William L. Portier

Mary Ann Spearin Chair of Catholic Theology

University of Dayton

John Inglis

Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy Cross-appointed to Department of Religious Studies

University of Dayton

Meghan J. Clark, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Theology

St John’s University (NY)

Alex Mikulich, PhD

Research Fellow

Jesuit Social Research Institute

Loyola University, New Orleans

Peter Beisheim, Ph.D.

Director, Catholic Studies

Stonehill College

Sr. Mary Ann Hinsdale, IHM, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Theology, Boston College

Past-President,Catholic Theological Society of America

Una M. Cadegan

Department of History

University of Dayton

Todd Whitmore

Associate Professor, Department of Theology

University of Notre Dame

Kathleen Maas Weigert

Professor of Women and Leadership

Assistant to the Provost for Social Justice Initiatives

Loyola University, Chicago

Maria Teresa Davila, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics

Andover Newton Theological School

Dolores Christie

Emerita

Ursuline College, Cleveland, Ohio

Jean Lim

Adjunct Faculty, Theology

Xavier University

Christopher Pramuk

Associate Professor of Theology

Xavier University

Gerald W. Schlabach, Ph.D.

Professor of Theology; Director of Justice & Peace Studies

University of St. Thomas

Joseph Selling

International Visiting Scholar

Woodstock Theological Center

Georgetown University

Emily Reimer-Barry

Assistant Professor, Department of Theology and Religious Studies

University of San Diego

Bradford E. Hinze

Professor of Theology

Fordham University

Maureen H. O’Connell

Associate Professor of Theology

Fordham University

Rev. Edward Vacek, S.J.

Woodstock Jesuit Residence

Nancy Pineda-Madrid, PhD

Associate Professor of Theology and U.S. Latino/a Ministry

Boston College, School of Theology and Ministry

Dr. Anthony J. Godzieba

Professor of Theology & Religious Studies

Villanova University

Arthur J. Dewey, Th.D.

Professor of Theology

Xavier University, Cincinnati

Daniel C. Maguire

Professor of Moral Theology

Marquette University

Jeannine Hill Fletcher

Associate Professor of Theology

Faculty Director, Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice

Fordham University

Kelly Johnson

Associate Professor, Religious Studies

University of Dayton

Jana Bennett

Assistant Professor, Religious Studies

University of Dayton

Sr. Patricia Chappell

Executive Director – Pax Christi USA

*Organizations are listed for identification purposes only

This article appeared at Faith in Public Life on April 13, 2012


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Date Added: 4/26/2012 Date Revised: 4/26/2012 4:40:43 PM

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