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By Keith A. Fournier

8/20/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

Where intrinsic evils are not involved, specific policy choices and political strategies are the province of Catholic lay mission

"Vice Presidential Candidate Ryan is aware of Catholic Social Teaching and is very careful to fashion and form his conclusions in accord with the principles mentioned above. Of that I have no doubt.A Catholic conscience can never take exception to the prohibition of actions which are intrinsically evil. Nor may a conscience well-formed by reason or the Catholic faith ever choose to vote for someone who clearly, consistently, persistently promotes that which is intrinsically evil. However, a conscience well-formed according to reason or the Catholic faith, must also make choices where intrinsic evil is not involved. How best to care for the poor is probably the finest current example of this."

Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan

Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan


By Keith A. Fournier

Catholic Online (

8/20/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, Bishop Robert Morlino, Catholic Social teaching, campaign 2012, Barack Obama, solidarity, subsidiarity, keith A. Fournier

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - Last weekend I attended the Norfolk, Virginia Rally where Mitt Romney introduced Paul Ryan as his running mate. I wrote an article entitled "Romney Goes Bold: Pro-Life Catholic Paul Ryan Chosen as Republican Vice Presidential Candidate." I suggested that some would quickly attempt to spin the positions of this good man as inconsistent with Catholic Social teaching.

By Monday the effort had begun. Hecklers at the Iowa State Fair demanded that Paul Ryan "stop the war on the poor". The same phrase hecklers used on April 26, 2012 when the Congressman gave an address at Georgetown University. At Georgetown he said "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.Simply put, I do not believe that the preferential option for the poor means a preferential option for big government." For many on the left, those were fighting words.

In June of 2011 Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Congressman Paul Ryan exchanged letters. The Congressman explained the rationale behind his economic 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.

I suggested that the 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. Now, Paul Ryan is the nominee of the Republican Party for the second highest office in the Nation, Vice President. The liberation has begun. This man not only knows Catholic Social Doctrine, he actively seeks to integrate the principles it offers into his own public service and the policy proposals he offers.

Groups such as "Catholics United" are leading an effort to disparage the Vice Presidential candidate by claiming that, as a Catholic, he does not support the social doctrine of his own Church. This assessment is not only inaccurate; it constitutes calumny, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns. (CCC#2477).

The arguments "Catholics United" and other politically left leaning opponents have with Paul Ryan comes down to their disagreement with his economic policy positions. They have a right to disagree. Simply do so with charity and honesty.

Catholic Social teaching is not "left" or "right", "liberal", "conservative" or "neo-conservative", Democrat or Republican. It 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.

On Thursday, August 16, 2012, Paul Ryan's Bishop, Robert C. Morlino, published an outstanding article in the Madison Catholic Herald entitled "Subsidiarity, solidarity, and the lay mission" It should be read by anyone who wants to understand Catholic Social Thought. It should also be read by anyone who wants to know the truth about whether Paul Ryan is honestly seeking to apply Catholic Social Teaching to his political participation and the formation of his policy positions. That is why I offer excerpts below:

Subsidiarity, solidarity, and the lay mission
Bishop, Robert C. Morlino

It was no shock at all for me to learn that our diocesan native son, Paul Ryan, had been chosen to be a candidate for the Vice Presidency of the United States. I am proud of his accomplishments as a native son, and a brother in the faith, and my prayers go with him and especially with his family as they endure the unbelievable demands of a presidential campaign here in the United States.

It is not for the bishop or priests to endorse particular candidates or political parties. Any efforts on the part of any bishop or priest to do so should be set aside. And you can be assured that no priest who promotes a partisan agenda is acting in union with me or with the Universal Church.

It is the role of bishops and priests to teach principles of our faith, such that those who seek elected offices, if they are Catholics, are to form their consciences according to these principles about particular policy issues.

However, the formation of conscience regarding particular policy issues is different depending on how fundamental to the ecology of human nature or the Catholic faith a particular issue is. Some of the most fundamental issues for the formation of a Catholic conscience are as follows: sacredness of human life from conception to natural death, marriage, religious freedom and freedom of conscience, and a right to private property.

Violations of the above involve intrinsic evil - that is, an evil which cannot be justified by any circumstances whatsoever. These evils are examples of direct pollution of the ecology of human nature and can be discerned as such by human reason alone. Thus, all people of good will who wish to follow human reason should deplore any and all violations in the above areas, without exception. The violations would be: abortion, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, same-sex marriage, government-coerced secularism, and socialism.

Where intrinsic evil is not involved

In these most fundamental matters, a well-formed Catholic conscience, or the well-formed conscience of a person of good will, simply follows the conclusions demanded by the ecology of human nature and the reasoning process. A Catholic conscience can never take exception to the prohibition of actions which are intrinsically evil. Nor may a conscience well-formed by reason or the Catholic faith ever choose to vote for someone who clearly, consistently, persistently promotes that which is intrinsically evil.

However, a conscience well-formed according to reason or the Catholic faith, must also make choices where intrinsic evil is not involved. How best to care for the poor is probably the finest current example of this, though another would be how best to create jobs at a time when so many are suffering from the ravages of unemployment. In matters such as these, where intrinsic evil is not involved, the rational principles of solidarity and subsidiarity come into play.

The principle of solidarity, simply stated, means that every human being on the face of the earth is my brother and my sister, my "neighbor" in the biblical sense. At the same time, the time-tested best way for assisting our neighbors throughout the world should follow the principle of subsidiarity. That means the problem at hand should be addressed at the lowest level possible - that is, the level closest to the people in need. That again, is simply the law of human reason.

We can disagree on application

As one looks at issues such as the two mentioned above and seeks to apply the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, Catholics and others of good will can arrive at different conclusions. These are conclusions about the best means to promote the preferential option for the poor, or the best means to reach a lower percentage of unemployment throughout our country. No one is contesting here anyone's right to the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, etc. Nor is anyone contesting someone's right to work and so provide for self and family. However there can be difference according to how best to follow the principles which the Church offers.

Making decisions as to the best political strategies, the best policy means, to achieve a goal, is the mission of lay people, not bishops or priests. As Pope Benedict himself has said, a just society and a just state is the achievement of politics, not the Church. And therefore Catholic laymen and women who are familiar with the principles dictated by human reason and the ecology of human nature, or non-Catholics who are also bound by these same principles, are in a position to arrive at differing conclusions as to what the best means are for the implementation of these principles - that is, "lay mission" for Catholics.

Thus, it is not up to me or any bishop or priest to approve of Congressman Ryan's specific budget prescription to address the best means we spoke of. Where intrinsic evils are not involved, specific policy choices and political strategies are the province of Catholic lay mission. But, as I've said, Vice Presidential Candidate Ryan is aware of Catholic Social Teaching and is very careful to fashion and form his conclusions in accord with the principles mentioned above. Of that I have no doubt. (I mention this matter in obedience to Church Law regarding one's right to a good reputation.)...


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Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


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