- Catholic Democrats
is calling on Governor Mitt Romney and U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Catholic Republican who Romney has selected as his running mate, to defend the proposed Romney/Ryan budget on the basis of the Catholic Social Justice Tradition, which advocates for a preferential option for the poor. Rep. Ryan, who is chair of the House Budget committee, has proposed a budget that has elicited objections from prominent Catholic theologians, women religious leaders, and the chairs of the U.S. bishops' Justice, Peace, and Human Development committee as harmful to poor individuals and families who rely on the social safety net.
"The selection of U.S. Representative Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's running mate puts the Ryan budget, the role of the Catholic Social Justice Tradition, and the ways we as a society can help the poor at the center of this campaign," said Nick Cafardi, a member of the board of Catholic Democrats. "Rep. Ryan's budget would reduce funding for the food stamp program significantly, would turn Medicaid into block grants, and would cut assistance to veterans."
Ryan's budget has faced vocal opposition from Catholic leaders - from Catholic nuns to members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to theologians and members of the laity. In 2011, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire and Bishop Howard Hubbard
wrote to Congress, "A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly."
A letter from Catholic theologians and academics
to Speaker of the House John Boehner, objecting to Rep. Ryan's proposed budget when the Speaker was scheduled to deliver an address at Catholic University last year, stated, "The 2012 budget you shepherded to passage in the House of Representatives guts long-established protections for the most vulnerable members of society. It is particularly cruel to pregnant women and children, gutting Maternal and Child Health grants and slashing $500 million from the highly successful Women Infants and Children nutrition program. When they graduate from WIC at age 5, these children will face a 20% cut in food stamps. The House budget radically cuts Medicaid and effectively ends Medicare. It invokes the deficit to justify visiting such hardship upon the vulnerable, while it carves out $3 trillion in new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy."
Earlier this year, faculty from Georgetown University wrote to Representative Ryan about his budget when he spoke at the school. The letter said, "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."
In total, at least 170 Catholic thought leaders
have criticized the Romney/Ryan budget plan.
Although the USCCB has definitively condemned the Romney/Ryan budget, some prominent bishops have sent confusing, mixed signals, especially Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the USCCB. Last year, Rep. Ryan, who has utilized Catholic social teaching to defend his budget, exchanged public letters with Cardinal Dolan, in which Cardinal Dolan appeared to tacitly support Rep. Ryan's misguided theological arguments. Catholic Democrats
has called on Cardinal Dolan to repudiate
the Ryan/Romney budget. Additionally, the organization sent a letter to Cardinal Dolan last November
detailing the theological flaws in Rep. Ryan's arguments and asking the U.S. bishops to vigorously address the challenges of increased poverty, unemployment and income inequality, and to reaffirm the principles that the U.S. bishops unambiguously and overwhelmingly laid out in the 1980s and again in the 1990s in their pastoral letter, Economic Justice for All.
"Between Mitt Romney's inauthenticity as a political candidate - who can't make up his mind about his own concerns for the middle class and the poor - and Rep. Ryan's unusual Catholic sensibility toward helping the poor by proposing deep cuts to programs that they depend on, this ticket will assault the core of Catholics' identity, which calls us to help those in need and maintain a capacity of government to provide for the common good," said Steve Krueger, president of Catholic Democrats
. "Rep. Ryan has publicly expressed that we 'need more' of the moral reasoning of Ayn Rand
, an atheist whose focus was in diametric opposition to the common good. His misguided budget is characterized by a cynic's view of humankind that contradicts our Christian belief that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and unfortunately, embraces Ayn Rand's anti-Catholic, social Darwinist views."
"Cardinal Dolan has said that budgets are moral documents. Choosing Representative Ryan underscores that this election will be a moral decision," said Krueger.