Paul Ryan and the Catholic vote
The contrast between the Catholicism of Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Ryan perfectly represents the ongoing debate about the Catholic vote going back to the Reagan years. Indeed, the choice between these two types of Catholic politicians could not be any more plain.
Biden is a “social justice” Catholic who claims to know how to connect with blue-collar Democratic Catholics, like those in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. During four of his last five years in the Senate, he received a 100 percent rating from the pro-choice group NARAL. As Vice President he supported federal funding for abortion, despite voicing opposition to it in 2008, and the Health and Human Services mandate requiring Catholic institutions serving the public to provide insurance coverage for contraception, including abortifacients and sterilisation.
During the 2008 campaign, some of Biden’s remarks on NBC’s Meet the Press defending his position on abortion were publicly criticised by Bishop Robert C Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, and Archbishop Charles J Chaput, then of Denver, now of Philadelphia. Morlino’s diocese, by the way, includes Paul Ryan’s hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin.
Paul Ryan, it appears, never had a “progressive” phase in the development of either his politics or his Catholic faith. From a fifth-generation Wisconsin family, Ryan attended public schools, graduating in economics and political science from Miami University, Ohio, and developed a liking for the works of individualist philosopher Ayn Rand during his high school years. His interest in politics led him to work as an aide in 1992 to Senator Bob Kasten and as legislative director between 1995 and 1997 for Senator Sam Brownback, both ardent pro-lifers. Ryan worked as a speechwriter for Jack Kemp during the 1996 campaign after spending a few years at Empower America, the think-tank Kemp ran with Bill Bennett.
Since being elected to the House in 1998, Ryan has developed a solid reputation with the grassroots as a pro-life, pro-marriage Catholic, and among Tea Party and fiscal conservatives, he has attained hero status for his extraordinary grasp of economic and budgetary issues. At age 42, Congressman Ryan is now often referred to as the “intellectual leader” of the Republican Party, a description repeated by Mitt Romney in announcing his VP choice.
Biden’s vulnerabilities as the choice for Catholic voters are neither more nor less than those of President Obama; the sitting Vice President will have to continue to defend the expansion of the abortion mandate and the violation of religious liberty at the heart of the HHS mandate. Unless Biden repeats the mistake he made in 2008 on Meet the Press, it is unlikely he will draw any direct fire from the bishops. [More]