Apparently trumped up threats to religious freedom do not trump all Catholic concerns about GOP hostility to social justice. It’s a good week.
I am becoming optimistic that Catholic leaders may be beginning to recognize that they are being used to promote an overall conservative agenda that does not meet their doctrinal definition of social justice. At least it seems as if their lock step support of the GOP based on a single issue may be showing some cracks.
In 2011, after Ryan’s last budget proposal, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Timothy Dolan, wrote a letter that did not endorse Ryan’s plan, but did not condemn it either. The letter commended the Wisconsin Republicans’ “continued attention” to Catholic social justice “in the current delicate budget considerations in Congress,” and praising his attention to fiscal responsibility, the role of the family, the dignity of human life and attention to the poor.
This week, the tone has changed in the wake of the release of Ryan’s new and improved War on the Lazy Poor. The same U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that softly pedaled its support of Ryan’s blueprint last year served up a stinging critique of the Republican budget this year, which it said “fails to meet … moral criteria,” of protecting human dignity, prioritizing the needs of the hungry and homeless and promoting the common good.
Lord, have mercy! That’s one welcome flip flop.
This year’s statement objects both to the GOP budget blueprint in general, and to its specific requirement that the House pass legislation cutting food stamps and other domestic programs to offset the cost of rescinding “sequestration” — the across-the-board cuts to national security and domestic spending programs set to take effect on Jan. 1. (By the way, the sequestration is the budget law of the land right now, and for the GOP to reject it at this point demonstrates enormously bad faith in negotiating, and serves as fodder for those who claim the Democrats should NEVER bargain with the GOP in the first place.)
“Just solutions,” the Bishops said in their statement, “require shared sacrifice by all (emphasis added), including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.”
Since the GOP refuses to increase taxes because that would represent an “attack” on rich people, it proposes to hold down deficits with massive cuts to Medicaid, SCHIP and most of the domestic budget. Don’t worry. A child with health coverage thanks to the SCHIP program will not lobby the Congress because they are under “attack”. The sick poor children’s SuperPAC is low on funding and we can safely anticipate a non-existent ad buy in major media markets highlighting their plight.
Rest assured, the benevolent GOP would never attack a fellow American, as Mitt Romney today accused Obama of doing as a matter of habit. It would prefer to allow its favored policies to do that dirty work for them. In this way, they can maintain the cloak of plausible deniability. “Republicans aren’t gutting Medicaid to pay for tax breaks for those who need them least. The policy is doing that.”
On Friday, 59 Catholic leaders wrote a letter to Congressman Ryan, a practicing Catholic, saying in part that “Simply put, this budget is morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good. A budget that turns its back on the hungry, the elderly and the sick while giving more tax breaks to the wealthiest few can’t be justified in Christian terms.”
Lord, have mercy!
The signatories include the leadership team of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, a women’s Catholic organization, and the former Associate General Secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. What really set them off was Ryan’s assertion that his Catholic faith helped him to shape the latest budget proposal.
John Gehring, the Catholic Outreach Coordinator for Faith in Public Life, the organization that put together the statement, put it best:
“If Rep. Ryan thinks a budget that takes food and health care away from millions of vulnerable people upholds Catholic values, then he also probably believes Jesus was a tea partier who lectured the poor to stop being so lazy and work harder. This budget turns centuries of Catholic social teaching on its head. These Catholic leaders and many Catholics in the pews are tired of faith being misused to bless an immoral agenda.”
Maybe the tide is turning. Maybe the myth of the monolithic Catholic vote, which never existed anyway, can be put to rest. If things keep rolling in this direction, maybe Paul Ryan could be denied Holy Communion for his socially destructive policy beliefs.
Lord, have mercy!
Borrowed and clipped ‘liberally’ from the following Politico sources: