I noticed that Father Jonathan Morris tweeted the text of Paul Ryan’s speech at Georgetown in which he explained the “Catholicity” of his philosophy. Ryan’s premise is stated, and it is not Catholic reasoning. Further, his budget does not reflect Catholic reasoning. Ryan notes the importance of charity, but only in two ways: in the context of how we speak to each other and in rejecting class warfare. He then puts charity (and everything else) on the back burner behind debt. Everything is of lesser importance to Paul Ryan than “debt.” This is where his failure is.
Serious problems like those we face today require charitable conversation. Civil public dialogue goes to the heart of solidarity, the virtue that does not divide society into classes and groups but builds up the common good of all.
The overarching threat to our whole society today is the exploding federal debt.
If “debt” is the “overarching threat to our whole society” then it would make sense to raise taxes, to cut military spending, and also to reform entitlement programs. But Ryan has not listened to the bishops on this point.
From the statement from the bishops:
1. Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.
2. A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.
3. Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times…
Just solutions, however, must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.
By failing to reflect shared sacrifice in his budget, Ryan sets up the situation for resentment from the poor that the Democrats use for class warfare. He then bemoans the fact that Democrats participate in class warfare. Certainly, the Democrats are wrong to capitalize on this resentment (they are truly capitalists in that sense, aren’t they?) and pit the poor against the Republican Party, but it is Paul Ryan who gives them their ammunition by handing them the resentment on a silver platter. He gives them the reasoning for the resentment because he does not look at America’s debt problem as being an American debt problem. Ryan sees it, rather, as a problem that is primarily caused by those Americans who happen to be poor.
Are the poor right to resent people? No. But the poor are also the ones who suffer most. The poor should know compassion from others, not wallow in resentment. They should not look to the Democrats to speak for them, for reasons I mention below, but they ARE suffering, and to not give them preferential care over others in society is wrong…and not Catholic.
I am poor, by the way, and am not receiving any entitlements. Unlike Paul Ryan, I do not believe I have as much credibility on criticizing folks on these government economic policy issues if I am receiving entitlements, but more importantly, I know that my sufferings are redemptive, and my top priority is not to ease my own sufferings. My top priority is to know Jesus. Because I am Catholic, I have no resentment against the wealthy, but the poor are not all Catholic. The poor are not all morally opposed to resentment. Because they are suffering, and often have no moral objection to resentment, it is easy for Democrats to capitalize on their resentment.
I endorsed Rick Santorum for president because I am poor, I sympathize with the poor as a poor person, and very much want people to get out of poverty. Rick Santorum does not blame “the poor” for poverty or for massive government spending. He blames what should be blamed, the breakdown in our culture, a topic that Mitt Romney refuses to address. Meanwhile, the Democrats continue in their warfare against human dignity and the Church, which breaks down the culture, through their promotion of the abortion and “gay rights” agendas, among other things. The Romney/Ryan ticket has decided to be as silent on these issues as they possibly can.
It is true that Rick Santorum supported the Ryan budget. The choice has been to support the Ryan budget or to support no budget. Even I have been more supportive of the Ryan budget than of “no budget.” But is the Ryan budget “Catholic?” No, it’s not Catholic. It’s not Catholic because of the reasoning stated above, and because of that, resentments have built up and the Democrats have used these to drive wedges through class warfare.
Another reason that Ryan’s philosophy is not Catholic is that it places “debt” as “the overarching threat to our whole society.” Rick Santorum, speaking as a Catholic politician, would likely say that the “overarching threat to our whole society” is the attack on the fundamental liberties upon which our country was founded. That is very much in keeping with what Pope Benedict said about America in his 2010 Christmas address in which he mentioned that same “fundamental moral consensus.” That “fundamental moral consensus” is what ends class warfare. Santorum would say that the debt is a very serious symptom of the actual problem which has put us at a critical point in America, the problem of the breakdown of moral consensus on our fundamental rights, and the unwillingness to care for each other on a personal level. As a Passionist, I would say that the “overarching threat to our whole society” is that not enough people truly know Jesus in their hearts. I know Rick Santorum would agree with me on my point, and he reflects this politically as treating others, especially the downtrodden, with love and respect. Perhaps Paul Ryan would say that he agrees with my point, but what he said in Georgetown was that the “debt” is the “overarching problem.” That is where he fails. His philosophy is wrong.
It is one thing to say that the least among us should be cared for first. It is quite another to put it into legislation that happens also to be the most important economic legislation for the country: our American budget. Ryan has not done that. He has put the weight of cuts on the poor. This “preferential option for the wealthy, the military, and everyone who is not poor,” so to speak, is a cause of class warfare, and so, when Republicans complain of class warfare while promoting Ryan’s economic philosophy and his budget, those complaints very well should fall on deaf ears to any Catholic in America who knows his faith.
Some might say that I am nit-picking. They might say, “Of course, Paul Ryan is Catholic and of course he believes in Jesus and in our fundamental rights! Of course, he believes the poor should be cared for! You’re just nit-picking!” But what we are discussing here is whether his budget reflects the core, basic values that are good for America as a whole. It does not. Jewish, atheist and other non-Catholic voters do not care, for example, if Paul Ryan goes to Mass every Sunday. They do care if he cares about human dignity. When people argue that the Ryan budget is “Catholic” in nature, they are expressing to non-Catholics who believe in a preferential option for the poor that “Catholicism” is Ayn Randian. This is another reason why I, as a poor Catholic, really want you to stop saying the Ryan budget is “Catholic.”
“Debt” is not the primary threat to our country, as Ryan claims. The threat to our country is rejection of moral reasoning and rejection of charity. When Ryan, et al, say that “debt” is the most important threat to our country, that is Ayn Rand’s atheistic, anti-Gospel philosophy in action. Republicans are teaching people that we should be more concerned about money than anything else, including the impact economic policy has on human beings. That, my friends, means it is also a rejection of the pro-life ethic. It is pure capitalism to say that “debt” trumps everything else, and pure capitalism is condemned by the Church just as socialism is.
Rick Santorum won eleven states in the Republican presidential primary because so many Republicans agree with him that “debt” is not the problem. Rick Santorum knows that the problem is the breakdown in our culture. He has both a commitment to end this debt and a heart for the poor. He knows that the debt is the symptom of that breakdown in our country, and he knows that the poor are suffering from that breakdown. Because both Romney and Ryan continually say that “debt” is the core problem, and because they have advocated for “gay rights” legislation, and have simply flip-flopped for political reasons while continuing to hammer home an “economic” message, it is quite clear to anyone who is paying attention, who still has a good sense of moral reasoning, that Romney and Ryan are not at all aware of or interested in what is truly ailing America: the breakdown of the “fundamental moral consensus” of which Pope Benedict spoke.
So, here we have this monstrous farce heaped upon us, which is a vicious cycle, of two parties that are going to remain in gridlock for years to come. It’s happening because one party is handing good reason for resentment to the other on a silver platter and that resentment is then used to drive class warfare which drives us further apart as a country and makes government bigger, which in turn makes the other party more desperate to cut spending. The desperation to cut spending leads to resentment against the poor, which leads to placing priority on entitlement spending, which leads to resentment among the poor, which leads to class warfare…and on and on and on.
I’m sick of it.
Rick Santorum said “this is the most important election in your lifetime” when he was running for president. He still says that. I agree with him, but I think we have already lost this election. America has lost this election. We have now a choice between the evil party, and the clueless (also evil, Ayn Rand?) party which constantly enables the evil party. It’s over. We lost.
America, turn back to God.
May the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ Be Ever in Our Hearts
Let’s have some music.