Paul Ryan’s bishop defends him amid attacks on his application of Church teaching
Earlier this year, when Georgetown University announced that Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, would defend his budget in a public address, almost 90 faculty members at the Jesuit institution publicly denounced his interpretation of Church doctrine.
While the media generally presented the harsh judgment as a sign that Ryan’s budget proposals violated core beliefs of his Church, most news stories failed to examine why the subsequent appearance of Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at a Georgetown graduation event did not provoke a comparable furor. Sebelius is widely viewed as the architect of a federal contraception mandate denounced by the U.S. bishops as an “unprecedented” threat to the free exercise of Catholic institutions, but the same group of Georgetown faculty apparently saw no need to register their disapproval.
During the final bruising months of a presidential election that could hinge on the shifting views of Catholic “swing” voters, Americans can expect to witness further disputes that showcase legitimate questions about the practical impact of Ryan’s policies and partisan hit jobs that fail to provide a holistic treatment of Catholic teaching.
Now, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Ryan’s bishop, has waded into this election-year minefield, clearly concerned that a valued member of his flock is being unfairly attacked by partisan forces.
In a column posted on his diocesan website Aug. 16, Bishop Morlino vouches for Ryan’s Catholic bona fides, but stresses that his remarks should not be viewed as an endorsement of Ryan or any candidate.
“I know him very well. He is in regular communication with his bishop.
“I am defending his reputation because I am the one who, as his diocesan bishop, should have something to say about this, if anyone does,” Bishop Morlino told the Register during an Aug. 15 telephone interview.
“Since others have, I believe, unfairly attacked his reputation, I have to look out for his good name. That is Church law. If someone disagrees with Paul, he is free to do that. But not on the basis of reputation destruction, really calumny,” he added.
“They say things about him that aren’t true. I am not a defender of Paul Ryan; I am a defender of reputations of Catholics in the public sphere whose reputations are unjustly attacked.”
The bishop did not cite specific examples to document his charges regarding Ryan’s more outspoken critics, though an Internet search quickly locates headlines like “Paul Ryan’s Violence.” In recent weeks, however, one political ad on television sought to connect Romney with the death of a cancer victim, who allegedly could not receive treatment because Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Romney, had closed the company that once provided her husband with health insurance.
Critics began to challenge Ryan’s moral and intellectual credibility in April, after the congressman asserted in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that his economic policies, designed, in part, to get the poor off government assistance, were consistent with Catholic teaching.
“The preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenets 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,” he stated in the interview.
That month, when Ryan was slated to deliver a prestigious lecture at Georgetown, irate faculty members issued an open letter to the House budget chief.
“Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” says the letter, which the faculty members sent to Ryan. [More]