Why Paul Ryan is good for America and bad for Catholicism

I have a love/hate relationship with politics. I find it as enthralling as high school prom drama. "MacKenzie told Kayla who told Bobby that Jesse said he likes you, but he doesn't think you like him, so you need to walk over to the gym with you backpack on your left shoulder by two o'clock or he's going to ask Susie to the prom, but I heard Susie talking with Mike saying that..." you get the picture. Every political story is a run-on sentence of juicy gossip about he-said-she-said scenarios. You never get to hear Boehner speaking directly to Pres. Obama, all you hear is Boehner saying Obama said this and did this, or vice versa. It's incredibly mind-numbing but incredibly captivating. The best part is, there's no attachment to politicians, because they're not your friends, and you know half of them (a generous number) are lying through their teeth.

 It was recently announced that Paul Ryan would be Mitt Romney's running mate. You can imagine, that I was glued to the TV to hear Romney say the words himself. Not to mention, I wasn't surprised. I made my prediction after Santorum and Gingrich pulled out of the race. It seems to me to be the only reasonable move to make. Granted, I believe it does indicate that Romney didn't believe he could win the election with his own record. He needed somebody to fire up his base. I think Ryan did that.

The problem is, Paul Ryan, does fire up the base, but the base is so far removed and at odds with the political left that this VP selection creates more of the drama that I absolutely love. It's particularly what's so divisive about Ryan that is good for America and bad for Catholicism, particularly Catholicism in America.

Bishop Richard Pates, Dio. of Des Moines
In the last few days, we've all heard it mentioned that Paul Ryan's budget, which he claims he wrote with Catholic Social Doctrine (CSD) in mind, was given a scathing review by the US bishops' conference (USCCB). First of all, I'd like to point out a bit of the he-said-she-said scene taking place. It wasn't the USCCB that issued the letter to Ryan. Two bishops in particular issued these letters, viz. Bishop Blaire, chairman on the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop Pates, chairman on International Justice and Peace. That being said, no the US bishops did not team up against Ryan. Rather, two experts on justice and peace, who represent committees and in some sense represent the US bishops, sent four letters reminding everyone of certain principles and urging particular changes to the proposed budget.

Bishop Stephen Blaire, Dio. of Stockton
What's amusing to me is that here we see a particular problem with Catholicism in America. It's a sort of cafeteria mentality that we can pick and choose what we want to believe and obey. There is, however, another problem and that is the tendency, when we pick something to hold, to treat it with the same authority as the magisterium. I'm sorry, but Bishop Blaire, even in his official role as chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, does not speak with supreme authority. Secondly, problems within Ryan's budget is not a critique of American Conservatism, but of particular proposals that will ill-affect some of those most in need.

That being said, Paul Ryan's dismissal of these bishops, who are speaking with some authority on these matters, is uncalled for. As a Catholic we have an obligation to submit ourselves in such a way that we are docile to authoritative teaching. We ought to listen attentively to our bishops and ruminate on how we can best obey them and our consciences. Paul Ryan has, however, sought direction from his own bishop, who has more authority over him than the US bishops' committees. Ryan discusses his budget and his relationship with the bishops at some length in this interview here:

I find it amusing how many Liberals or Progressives, who are Catholic, immediately invoke the conscience mantra on issues of contraception and abortion, but attack viciously the Conservative on issues of justice. Conservatives do something similar, and attack the Left for not having consciences or at least having malformed them. The sad thing is, when it comes to politics and faith, we have a tendency to identify with our party first and adjust our beliefs according to party lines. Or we say, "I'm a Democrat but I don't support abortion personally, so that's ok." No, it's not ok. Not only do we need to not support things, but we need to change our parties' platforms. We need to be politically active, not just on voting day but every day.

Paul Ryan is wrong. Joe Biden is wrong. Nancy Pelosi is wrong. John Boehner is wrong. No one is changing. No one is saying, "enough is enough." No one is trying to change their party's platform.

What Paul Ryan has done, and what is not only good but GREAT for America, is he has brought CSD into the conversation. His failure to bend and adjust to fit Catholic teaching, his failure to be docile to the authority of certain bishops, only encourages a greater rupture between Liberal Catholics and Conservative Catholics. No, Liberals and Conservatives will never agree about who and how to tax or about what social programs are necessary or whether they should be federal, state, or municipal. If only, however, they would stop for a moment and reflect on CSD some more, we might actually get along.

I haven't heard much of a discussion between Liberals and Conservatives on CSD. No one, other than the bishops, is recommending how we can improve the budget. So, I encourage all Catholics to stop attacking Ryan and dismissing his budget, encourage him to make some changes to it. For that matter, stop attacking Pelosi and Biden, and encourage them. Help them change.

Ephesians 4:29, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear."

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