GOP vice presidential pick Paul Ryan will be formally introduced to the nation at next week’s Republican National Convention, and his Catholicism will emerge as an issue. The Wisconsin congressman says his faith informs his policy decisions, such as the House version of the federal budget that he authored and which is his signature accomplishment.
But some of his most prominent fellow Catholics – including the bishop of Stockton, Stephen Blaire, a national leader on social-justice issues – say that while Ryan, 42, is in lockstep with the church in his absolute opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion, his House budget fails “a basic moral test.”
“The moral failing is that (the budget) did not adequately provide for the care of the poor and the vulnerable,” said Blaire, who explained Thursday that he was critiquing the budget Ryan shepherded and not Ryan personally.
Blaire initially made the critique this spring as chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for the politically powerful U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops often scold the federal government for not doing enough for the poor, a cornerstone of Catholic social justice work.
The budget “was making drastic cuts in services which are very necessary at this time for the poor,” Blaire said. According to a Gallup Poll released this week, 18 percent of Americans say there have been times over the past year where they couldn’t afford to buy the food their family needed.
Blaire, who lives in the heart of one of the nation’s most-depressed regions, presides over a diocese where two cities – Stockton and Mammoth Lakes – have declared bankruptcy. He sees the region’s food banks depleted and the lines for help growing at Catholic Charities outposts.
Before Ryan delivered an address at Georgetown University earlier this year, 90 Catholic theologians and staffers at the Jesuit institution wrote to Ryan saying that his budget “appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Ryan pushed back against such critics in his speech, saying, “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,” he said in referring to the Catholic social principle that the interests of the poor should be primary. [More]