I just returned from the Romney/Ryan campaign event in Norfolk, Virginia. The crowd was massive, enthusiastic and hopeful. I don't know what I expected - but what I experienced far exceeded those expectations. Mitt Romney's bold choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate ensures that an exchange of correspondence between the Cardinal of New York and the Republican Vice Presidential nominee will now become a part of framing the issues in what promises to be one of the most important Presidential contests in U.S. history. The principles of Catholic Social Teaching and their application have now entered the 2012 campaign.
Mitt Romney in Norfolk, Virginia introducing Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate
NORFOLK, VA. (Catholic Online) - I just returned from the Romney/Ryan campaign event in Norfolk, Virginia. My first experience was complete surprise! The crowd was massive, enthusiastic and hopeful. I don't know what I expected - but what I experienced far exceeded those expectations.
When Presidential candidate Mitt Romney approached the podium and began to speak, he was warm, sincere, comfortable and confident. In fact, he was, "presidential" in his demeanor. He was introduced by the Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, whose gifts continue to mature in office. I could not help but think that I was listening to Governor McDonnell that I was listening to the next Attorney General of the United States - if Mitt Romney is elected to the presidency in November.
However, it was Romney's introduction of his Vice Presidential selection which wowed the crowd. Here is an excerpt from his remarks: "Today we take another step forward in helping restore the promise of America. As we move forward in this campaign and on to help lead the nation to better days, it is an honor to announce my running mate and the next Vice President of the United States: Paul Ryan."
"Paul Ryan is a leader. His leadership begins with character and values. And Paul is a man of tremendous character, shaped in large part by his early life. Paul's father died when he was in high school. That forced him to grow up earlier than any young man should. But Paul did, with the help of his devoted mother, his brothers and sister, and a supportive community. And as he did, he internalized the virtues and hard-working ethic of the Midwest..."
"He does not demonize his opponents. He understands that honorable people can have honest differences. And he appeals to the better angels of our nature. There are a lot of people in the other party who might disagree with Paul Ryan; I don't know of anyone who doesn't respect his character and judgment."
"Paul is in public life for all the right reasons - not to advance his personal ambitions but to advance the ideals of freedom and justice; and to increase opportunity and prosperity to people of every class and faith, every age and ethnic background. A faithful Catholic, Paul believes in the worth and dignity of every human life. With energy and vision, Paul Ryan has become an intellectual leader of the Republican Party. He understands the fiscal challenges facing America: our exploding deficits and crushing debt - and the fiscal catastrophe that awaits us if we don't change course..."
Governor Romney ended with these words, "Today is a good day for America. And there are better days ahead. Join me in welcoming the next Vice President of the United States - Paul Ryan" and the massive crowd exploded in uproarious and sustained applause. That, I also did not expect.
As my readers know, I supported the candidacy of a friend whom I still believe would be a great President, Rick Santorum. However, when he withdrew from the race, I made clear in my writing that I would do everything I can to keep the current president from winning reelection.
That is because I believe that President Obama is the most Anti-Life President we have ever had. In addition, his hostility toward the Church is increasingly evident. Finally, I believe his policies have been a massive failure on almost every front.
I once again write this article as a private citizen. I am expressing my own personal opinion.
I believe Mitt Romney is correct in his assessment of this gifted man. He is a talented public servant, a truly good family man, a faithful, genuinely Pro-Life Catholic and, as I found out today, much, much more. This man is a tremendous communicator. I have never heard him speak in public and I was truly impressed.
When Governor Romney called Congressman Ryan up to the podium, he mistakenly referred to him as "the next President of the United States". He quickly returned to correct the gaffe. However, as Congressman Ryan spoke, I actually wondered if the mistake may someday prove to have been accurate. Ryan's sincerity, down to earth demeanor, warmth and believability reminded me of a young Ronald Reagan. This man is a gifted communicator.
The first decision made by the 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney,choosing Paul Ryan as his running mate, was bold and brilliant. I know there are many who will disagree with me.
The spin has already begun, even in Catholic circles. Part of that spin will be to attempt to argue that Paul Ryan, as a Catholic, does not support the social doctrine of his own Church. I contend that assessment is inaccurate. Clearly, he is unquestionably Pro-Life and Pro-Marriage and family. He is also a strong defender of the first freedom, religious freedom.
The argument with Paul Ryan will come over his economic positions. I simply encourage my readers - be careful of the caricatures of Paul Ryan and his positions. Find out for yourself. Listen to the man. Read his well reasoned efforts to apply the social doctrine of the Catholic Church by exercising his own prudential judgment. Compare it to the Social Teaching. You can find it in the Catholic Catechism and compiled in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Buy the book and study it! Be wary of the self styled 'experts" and make up your own mind.
In June of 2011 then Archbishop (now Cardinal) Timothy Dolan, the President of the US Bishops Conference, and Congressman Paul Ryan exchanged letters which I claimed in an article back then would "most certainly have an impact in the upcoming 2012 Presidential race." I had no idea how accurate my prediction would be.
Now, Paul Ryan is the nominee of the Republican Party for the second highest office in the nation, Vice President. He not only knows Catholic Social Doctrine, he maintains that he actively seeks to integrate the principles it offers into his own public service and the policy proposals he offers.
The Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church 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 to be "single issue" in your political positions; it is about having 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.
The Congressman's budget proposals were objected to by some, including some faithful Catholics. What made this letter important is that 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's response 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 then whether that exchange of letters between Paul Ryan and now Cardinal Dolan 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, too often 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 Paul Ryan's exercise of his prudential judgment - and his proposed legislative solutions to the current fiscal crisis- he did exactly what a Catholic in public service should do with the Social Doctrine of the Church.
Mitt Romney's bold choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate ensures that the exchange of correspondence between the Cardinal of New York and the Republican Vice Presidential nominee will now become a part of framing the issues in what promises to be one of the most important Presidential contests in U.S. history. The principles of Catholic Social Teaching and their application have now entered the 2012 campaign.
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