House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) today faced further backlash from religious groups after attempting to use Catholic social teaching to justify the House Republican budget. Ryan spoke this morning at Georgetown University in Washington, where he was met by faculty members and religious groups who protested his budget’s drastic cuts to programs that help the poor.
About 90 members of Georgetown’s faculty, including two dozen Jesuit priests, signed a letter telling Ryan that he is “profoundly misreading Church teaching” and that his budget would have “devastating consequences” for poor Americans:
However, we would be remiss in our duty to you and our students if we did not challenge your continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has wisely noted in several letters to Congress — “a just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons.” Catholic bishops recently wrote that “the House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.”
Small protests also occurred outside the speech, where Georgetown students held up signs that read, “Stop the war on the poor.” Catholics United, a progressive group, unfurled a 50-foot banner asking Ryan, “Were you there when they crucified the poor?”
As ThinkProgress has noted, Ryan’s budget appears to ignore Catholic social teaching, and religious leaders, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have criticized its cuts to programs that help the poor as “unjustified and wrong.” The backlash is similar to what Ryan faced last year, when religious leaders hammered him for adhering more closely to the policies of anti-government, anti-religion author Ayn Rand — who Ryan said inspired him to enter politics — than to the teachings of the church. Before today’s speech, however, Ryan backtracked on his admiration of Rand, saying, “I reject her philosophy.”
Ryan, in his speech today, still refuses to acknowledge that he and the Catholic Church have a different of opinion on his budget cuts.
I suppose 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. Of course there can be differences among faithful Catholics on this. The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it. What I have to say about the social doctrine of the Church is from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding to the problems of the day.
Watch it (via Faith In Public Life):
As FPL’s Nick Sementelli notes, Ryan isn’t just disagreeing with the Church — he’s basically issuing a public challenge to the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Church’s official leadership.