Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

4/13/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The truths are true for all people and for all time. The Church calls us to offer them as leaven to be worked into the loaf of human culture

Principles in Catholic Social Doctrine require the exercise of prudential judgment in their application. Agree or disagree with Congressman Ryan's exercise of his prudential judgment - and his proposed legislative solutions to the fiscal crisis- he has done what a Catholic in public service should do with the Social Doctrine of the Church.Let the debate begin.

Congressman Paul Ryan

Congressman Paul Ryan

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/13/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Paul Ryan, Catholic Social Teaching, Cardinal Dolan, Budget, Barack Obama, solidarity, subsidiarity, campaign 2012, Deacon Keith Fournier


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - In June of 2011 then Archbishop (now Cardinal) Timothy Dolan, the President of the US Bishops Conference, and a Conservative Catholic Congressman named Paul Ryan exchanged letters which will most certainly have an impact in the upcoming 2012 Presidential race.

Paul Ryan is articulate, intelligent and controversial. He is also considered one of the most probable among the possible Vice Presidential nominees on the Republican ticket. He recently submitted the "Path to Prosperity Budget" which was approved by the House and became fodder for the Obama reelection campaign.

The political wordsmiths are again trying to lay claim to that field of moral theology referred to as "Catholic Social Doctrine" as the 2012 campaign for the US Presidency begins in earnest. Prior to 2004 the phrase "Social Teaching" of the Catholic Church referred to the teachings rooted in the Sacred Scriptures, expounded upon in the Christian tradition, developed in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, explained within a contemporary series of encyclical letters, apostolic letters and exhortations, and summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Sadly, many people had not read these sources. So, what claimed to be the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church was too often the "spin" of self styled "experts" with political agendas. Very often those agendas would be characterized as "left" or "liberal" within common political parlance.
Then on April 2, 2004, the Memorial of Saint Francis of Paola, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, President of the "Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace" released the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of Church."

The social doctrine confronts what Pope Benedict properly called the "Dictatorship of Relativism" even before he assumed the Papal office. It insists there are unchangeable truths which are revealed by the Natural Law, can be known through the exercise of reason and should inform the social order in every just society.

At the foundation of those truths is the dignity of every human person at every age and stage. To be Pro-Life is NOT simply to be "single issue" in your political positions, it is about a world view. It is the dignity of the human person which requires a respect for every human life whether that life be in the first home of the womb, a wheelchair, a jail cell, a hospital room, a hospice, a senior center or a soup kitchen.

Another one of these truths is that marriage is between one man and one woman, intended for life, and ordered toward the bearing and raising of children in the family. Marriage is not some social construct which can be redefined by courts or legislatures. It is the foundation for family and family is the first society, first church, first school, first economy, first government and first mediating institution. The first community which humanizes and civilizes all of us is the family.

Another, is that all human persons created in the Image of God are created for relationship and called to human community. We can never fully experience human flourishing outside of social relationships. These relationships are perfective of our human person because we are by nature - and grace - made for these relationships. Catholic Social Thought does not begin with the individual but with the family. The social doctrine affirms our obligation in solidarity to one another. We are our brother/sister's keeper.

The social doctrine rejects a notion of "freedom" which begins and ends with the isolated, atomistic, person as the measure of its application. Authentic human freedom must be exercised within a moral constitution. We will only grow in freedom when we choose what is good and what is true. Otherwise "freedom" becomes a counterfeit and enslaves us, as individuals and as nations.

The social doctrine offers principles to help us order our economies. It does not propose any particular economic theory. It insists that every economic order be at the service of the human person, human freedom, human flourishing and the family. We are to give a love of preference to the poor, recognizing our solidarity with them. However, this call to solidarity is to be applied through the application of the principle of subsidiarity, rejecting all forms of dehumanizing collectivism, either of the left or the right.

The market economy has been affirmed in recent social teaching - when properly understood and morally structured. However, the Catholic Church stood against the materialism of the atheistic Marxist system and now properly cautions Nations which have adopted a form of liberal capitalism of the dangers of "economism" or materialism which promotes the use of persons as products and fails to recognize the value of being over acquiring.

The truths and principles contained within Catholic social doctrine are not merely "religious" positions, in the sense that only religious people need assent to them. They are revealed by the Natural Law and can be known through the exercise of reason. The truths are true for all people and for all time. The Church calls us to offer them as leaven to be worked into the loaf of human culture. We are called to build a truly just and human society.

On April 29, 2011, Congressman Paul Ryan, a devout Catholic - and someone who could be called a political and economic conservative - wrote a respectful letter to Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York in which he discussed his now controversial proposals for dealing with the United State's looming budgetary crisis.

The Congressman's budget proposals were objected to by some, including some faithful Catholics. What made this letter important is the Congressman explained the rationale behind his proposals within the framework of a sincere effort to apply the principles found within Catholic Social Thought. He cited the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church throughout the letter referring to both the obligation of solidarity and its application in light of the principle of subsidiarity.

Archbishop Dolan wrote a response to the Congressman on May 18, 2011. He began with these words: "Thank you for your kind and enlightening letter of April 29, 2011. I deeply appreciate your letter's assurances of your continued attention to the guidance of Catholic social justice in the current delicate budget considerations in Congress. As you allude to in your letter, the budget is not just about numbers. It reflects the very values of our nation. As many religious leaders have commented, budgets are moral statements.

"As is so clear from your correspondence, the light of our faith - anchored in the Bible, the tradition of the Church, and the Natural Law - can help illumine and guide solid American constitutional wisdom. Thus I commend your letter's attention to the important values of fiscal responsibility; sensitivity to the foundational role of the family; the primacy of the dignity of the human person and the protection of all human life; a concrete solicitude for the poor and the vulnerable, especially those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty; and putting into practice the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, here at home and internationally within the context of a commitment to the common good shared by government and other mediating institutions alike."

I asked in an article I wrote back in June whether that exchange of letters signaled the liberation of Catholic Social Thought from some who seek to use it as a proof text for their own political agendas.  Often, that has meant opposition from those who would be considered "on the left" in contemporary political parlance. Sadly, some among those who might be considered "on the right", have simply ignored it. 

The principles contained with Catholic Social thought require the exercise of prudential judgment in their application. Agree or disagree with Congressman Ryan's exercise of his prudential judgment - and his proposed legislative solutions to the current fiscal crisis- he has done exactly what a Catholic in public service should do with the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Archbishop Dolan wrote to the Congressman, "The principles of subsidiarity and solidarity are interrelated to one another. The late Pope reminded us that, "... the principle of subsidiarity must be respected: a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good. (Centesimus Annus, 48)."

"Thus you rightly pointed out Pope John Paul's comments on the limits of what he termed the "Social Assistance State." Your letter is correct in observing that the Church makes an essential contribution to society when she raises up moral principles to help guide and inform decisions about public policy in a compelling way.

"We bishops are very conscious that we are pastors, never politicians. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, it is the lay faithful who have the specific charism of political leadership and decision (Lumen Gentium, 31; Apostolicam Actuositatem 13). The high call to public service which you have nobly answered entitles you and all our elected officials to our respect and constant prayer. Thanks to you and your colleagues for accepting that call.

"This exchange of correspondence will be, I trust, but the beginning of an ongoing dialogue, in service, I pray, of the country we love and the religious convictions that have always inspired sound citizenship and generous public service."

This exchange between the Congressman and the Archbishop shows the proper respect due from elected officials to the leaders of the Church. It also shows that the leadership of the US Bishops conference recognizes the importance of such a robust dialogue.

Now, Congressman Paul Ryan has taken this all a step further. He gave an interview to David Brody of CBN News in which he defended his budget proposal. He did so with very cogent and explicit references to the principles of Catholic Social Doctrine. He credited his own Catholic faith as having informed his efforts. Excerpts from this intelligent interview can be viewed here.

The full interview will be aired on CBN on Thursday. I believe it will open up a much needed dialogue on Catholic Social Doctrine. Here is an example of the responses Congressman Ryan gave to David Brody:

David Brody: Tell me a little bit about the morality and the debt. Where does your Catholic faith play into the way this budget is crafted?

Paul Ryan: "A person's faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private. So to me, using my Catholic faith, we call it the social magisterium, which is how do you apply the doctrine of your teaching into your everyday life as a lay person? "

"To me, the principle of subsidiarity, which is really federalism, meaning government closest to the people governs best, having a civil society of the principal of solidarity where we, through our civic organizations, through our churches, through our charities, through all of our different groups where we interact with people as a community, that's how we advance the common good. By not having big government crowd out civic society, but by having enough space in our communities so that we can interact with each other, and take care of people who are down and out in our communities. "

"Those principles are very, very, important, and the preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants of Catholic Social teaching, means don't keep people poor, don't make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life. Help people get out of poverty out onto life of independence."

The response by those who disagree with how Congressman Ryan is applying the principles of Catholic Social Doctrine has already begun - and it is fierce. However, the Congressman is doing exactly what catholics in public office should do. I say, let the debate begin. It is about time. It will only serve the true common good.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC IS DEAD - The new way politicians take bribes and cut you out of politics Watch

Image of The American Republic has been destroyed after decades of apathy and corruption.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Political corruption in the United States has never been worse. Although members of Congress are not allowed to accept bribes or gifts, they have found a loophole in their own laws they exploit to cash in. Instead of being bought directly, members of Congress, as ... continue reading


Children in world's most affluent countries plunged into poverty after crisis Watch

Image of Budget cuts have had a negative impact on children, particularly in Mediterranean countries, such as Italy, Greece and Portugal.

By Karrie Kehoe, Thomson Reuters Foundation

The global economic crisis has plunged 2.6 million children into poverty in the world's most affluent countries, with children in Ireland, Latvia and Greece among the hardest hit, a new UNICEF report showed. LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Increases in child ... continue reading


Black Democrats turn against Obama in powerful video. It's not the Republicans or the Tea Party -- it's predatory blacks Watch

Image of Blacks are tired of promises and corruption. The problem is black leadership.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Black Chicago activists have criticized Obama and other black leaders, saying that every black community across the country is being used by Democrats. "Folks are in an abusive black leadership relationship," one angry man said in the clip. "My life has been hurt by ... continue reading


Another six states now recognize same-sex marriage after Supreme Court ruling Watch

Image of The U.S. government has recognized same-sex

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The federal government has continued to increase its recognition of same-sex marriage, granting protected status and extending federal benefits to couples in six more states. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Attorney General Eric Holder announced the news on ... continue reading


Pew Research reveals Latinos growing as a group, but political power is low Watch

Image of A Pew Report shows that Latinos are weakly represented in the current midterm.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

When viewed by the numbers, Latinos are becoming an important demographic in American politics. While Latinos have always been an important group in the American cultural tapestry, only recently have their collective numbers risen to make them a substantial political ... continue reading


Will the Bush legacy live on with Jeb? Or will painful memories haunt the family and the GOP? Watch

Image of While many may be wary of another Bush candidacy, it appears the whole Bush clan is behind a Jeb Bush 2016 bid.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The 2014 midterm is right around the corner, but already rumors are rumbling about the roster of potential 2016 presidential candidates. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - While many Republicans want, or have thought highly of, Mitt Romney running for a third time, ... continue reading


Comrade Hillary Clinton astounds - says businesses don't create jobs Watch

Image of Clinton's claim was delivered during a speech for Martha Coakley.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Hillary Clinton has stunned listeners with the amazing proclamation that corporations and businesses don't create jobs. This leaves many Americans to wonder where their jobs came from instead. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - At a rally in Boston, Hillary Clinton ... continue reading


More people than ever before renouncing their United States citizenship Watch

Image of The growing number of renunciations by U.S. citizens and permanent residents is linked to a five-year enforcement campaign against U.S. taxpayers who have undeclared offshore accounts.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With 776 names on the Treasury Department list published last week for the third quarter of 2014, more people than ever before have renounced their citizenship in the United States. There are substantial numbers of people to renounce their U.S. citizenship or end ... continue reading


Let the Battle begin. China wants to control the Internet. Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Elected secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union, or ITU at a high-level meeting in South Korea this week, Zhao Houlin told reporters that while everyone supports the idea of freedom of speech, what constitutes censorship is open to ... continue reading


Obama's trusted senior advisor Valerie Jarrett revealed to be a key player in cover-up Watch

Image of Trusted senior advisor to the president, Valerie Jarrett, has been revealed to be a key player in the effort to cover up that Attorney General Eric Holder lied to Congress about the Fast and Furious scandal.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Trusted senior advisor to the president, Valerie Jarrett, has been revealed to be a key player in the effort to cover up that Attorney General Eric Holder lied to Congress about the Fast and Furious scandal. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Recently obtained ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 6:10-20
10 Finally, grow strong in the Lord, with the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 144:1, 2, 9-10
1 [Of David] Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, who trains ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:31-35
31 Just at this time some Pharisees came up. 'Go ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 30th, 2014 Image

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez
October 30: Confessor and Jay brother, also called Alonso. He was born in ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter