Home > news > Articles


Social Justice 101 with Congressman Ryan: ‘You Can’t Help Poor People If America Is Poor’

f t # e
April 20, 2012 | comments

By Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review Online

Paul Ryan has been taking fire on the topic of the morality of his budget, including from some Catholic bishops. He ably discusses how his budget tries to apply the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, as he did in an exchange of letters with now-Cardinal Dolan last year.

“One in six Americans are in poverty today,” Congressman Ryan told Raymond Arroyo on EWTN’s The World Over in an interview Thursday, “yet we’ve thrown so much money at these programs. Why don’t we fix these programs so that they actually work to break the cycle of poverty?”

“If we keep growing government in debt,” Ryan continued, “we will crowd out the civil society — those charities, those churches, those institutions in our local communities that do the most to actually have a human touch to help people in need. That’s what we want to empower. That’s what we want to improve on.”

Of course, the current administration seeks to even more directly crowd out some of those charities and churches, by telling them they have to violate their consciences in order to serve people.

Which is a Ryan point too: These budgetary debates “are matters for prudential judgment. . . . People of good will can have differences of opinion on these kinds of issues — there’s plenty of room to disagree about how to advance the common good, advance these principles.” That’s what the laity in public life are called to do. Ryan is not presenting himself as the poster boy for Catholic social thought, but as a Catholic in public life taking Catholic moral principles seriously. “I cannot claim exclusive justification for my political philosophy and point of view on economics using the social magisterium any more than a liberal can for theirs,” Ryan said. “We have difference of opinions about how to use these principles to the problems and policies of the day. It’s not as if we are talking about violating a core principle like life or religious liberty here.”

That last point is an important one. While these criticisms are not new, it’s hard not to see some of the attacks on the Ryan budget as a distraction from the religious-liberty battle, to make sure the bishops’ conference doesn’t look like “the Tea Party at prayer,” as one columnist coined a convenient phrase earlier this year. And it’s hard not to miss that the most prominent Catholic politician taking aim at Ryan, Connecticut congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, is a regular at abortion-rights rallies who voted against prohibiting partial-birth abortion; given that, her accusation that people will be “eviscerated” by his budget suggests a certain moral blindness.

The Arroyo interview is worth watching:

Ryan was also on Catholic radio this week talking budget and morality. And expect more next week from Representative Ryan on these moral matters when he speaks at Georgetown.


f t # e