Paul Ryan and Archbishop Dolan on Catholic Social Teaching and Budget

Recently, Rep. Paul Ryan wrote to New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan to “to provide facts about [Ryan’s proposed] Budget to help advance an informed debate in light of social teachings about the well-being of the family, subsidiarity, the preferential option for the poor, and the dignity of the human person.” The letter outlined some of the main features of the Ryan plan, and suggested ways in which this plan was designed to meet the goals and principles of Catholic Social Thought. Here’s a snippit:

Nothing but hardship and pain can result from putting off the issue of the coming debt crisis, as many who unreasonably oppose this Budget seem willing to do. Those who represent the people, including myself, have a moral obligation, implicit in the Church’s social teaching, to address difficult basic problems before they explode into social crisis. This is what we have done, to the best of our ability, in our Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Resolution.

Yesterday Archbishop Dolan responded:

It is clear that all of this correspondence reflects recognition of the foundational principles at work. Within the given parameters of such principles, people of good will might offer and emphasize various policy proposals that reflect their experience and expertise. The principles of Catholic social teaching contain truths that need to be applied. Thus, one must always exercise prudential judgment in applying these principles while never contradicting the intrinsic values that they protect….

Your letter is correct in observing that the Church makes an essential contribution to society when she raises up moral principles to help guide and inform decisions about public policy in a compelling way. We bishops are very conscious that we are pastors, never politicians. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, it is the lay faithful who have the specific charism of political leadership and decision (Lumen Gentium, 31; Apostolicam Actuositatem 13).

Personally I have some reservations about the Ryan plan, and if I were in charge of fixing America’s long term budget problem that is the the solution I would pick. I fear, however, that unless the problem is resolved soon, we are liable to end up with a “solution” which is worse than Ryan’s proposal from just about any perspective.

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  1. Black Adder – Thank you for alerting me to this news. This is very encouraging to me that this dialog is even occurring. This is very positive news. Thank you.

  2. Now THAT is the way it should be done! The government (any government) does no favors to either the poor or the middle class by continually making promises to them that cannot be kept.

  3. Now THAT is respectful and constructive dialogue. We need to stop with the partisan talking points and instead have meaningful conversations and/or debates like this one. God Bless them both. I hope the dialogue continues.

  4. This is really fantastic. Good for Rep Ryan for reaching out to Archbishop Dolan, good for the Archbishop for responding in this way. I always guessed Ryan was more a “Mere Christian” with a Catholic background, but maybe he’s really engaged in the faith, or at least someone on his staff is.

  5. This reasonableness on the part of both Rep. Ryan and Archbishop Dolan must have smarted a bit, because the mindless hacks over at The Catholic Democrats have sent me (and others — I’m not special, I’m just on their mailing list for some reason) a press release beginning:

    Boston, Mass. – Catholic Democrats is calling Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), to clarify comments he made in a letter (dated May 18, 2011) sent to U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) that threatens to undermine the principles of Catholic Social Justice in his supportive words of the assertions made by Congressman Ryan regarding the priorities in Ryan’s budget. Catholic Democrats further calls on all U.S. bishops to publicly advocate for the poor, the elderly and working families in the midst of a divisive national debate that threatens to dismantle federal social safety programs for the most vulnerable members of our society.

    Nice to know that the Catholic Democrats are there to do the president of the USCCB’s job for him.

  6. As a Catholic Democrat, I am at a loss as to WHY Ryan started the Dialogue and even a greaterloss as to WHY the Archbishop responded in such an elegant and timely manner.

    For longer than I remember I have been writing Church Clergy regarding my concerns with what I refer to as “Catholics of Conveneince” using our church to make their political statements. Told to contact Archbishop Dolan and other notable Church Leaders, I have yet to receive so much as a peep in return.

    Somehow politicians praising Ayn Rand Philosophies,,,,, and politically driven Catholic Republican guests and hosts on Conservative Media attacking the church on Immigration, the Priest abuse Scandals, and Social Justice to the Poor enjoy the silent cover of the same Bishops from whom Paul Ryan receives a glowing immediate response.

    I have often held that there isn’t a scandal in the church that will cause more harm than how our Church is used to carry Political Water every election issue.

    I’m guessing on the way to the Evangelical Political Victory Dinner held at the National Masonic Hall, Guest of Honor, Bill Donohue from the Politically driven Catholic League will give us an update on how he guards our Church against the actions of a wayward secular Liberal Media, and then call on Archbishop Dolan to do the Invocation.

  7. The GOP spin on the letter has and should receive a negative response.

    However, the actual letter Dolan sent is perfectly fine. It in no way endorses the Ryan budget plan. It is a letter I could have co-signed myself if the Archbishop would want me to.

    I do find it interesting that Ryan is so concerned about the negative reaction to his budget by principled Christians that we now know he desparately sought a letter from the Bishops. His plan is not going over well. Too bad for him he didn’t get much from Dolan in response.

  8. I agree the letter is fine,,,,, I guess my real displeasure is that even if Ryan did write a letter to Dolan,,,, the contents of both should not have been made public in any way. The Ryan plan is simply HORRIBLE, and I don’t think he should use it to tout his own political agenda…. but that i exactly what he and his Evangelical base is doing. .

    Rest assured Bill Donohue from the Catholic League would enter the frey and politically spin the Dolan letter if anyone representing the Catholic Church dare question the responses of both Boehner and Ryan. (Look what happened when Catholic U Professors dared question Boehner as Commencement Speaker — first Donohue trashed them,,,,,the Boehner read and praised a personal letter to Congress —- in “Mom likes me best” fashion.

    Those of us who respect our church and its teachings aren’t willing to drag it into every political battle,,,, I can’t say the same for politicians during a heated election cycle. It’s troubling and damages our message and its image. === In no time, we end up water carriers for the Fringers,,,,,,

  9. It’s perfect that the “catholics for Obama” think Archbishop Dolan is a Cardinal. Apparently they’re not terribly engaged in the faith in a number of different ways.

  10. Kurt, thank you – Francis,,, respectfully,,,, in a perfect world,,,,titles are very important…. In the less than perfect world in which we live,,,,, I prefer the importance of the title not be connected to the importance of the message. — For me,,, there is only one way to be engaged in the Faith,,,,, live it.

  11. I think Archbishop Dolan did a particularly deft thing in pointing to the work of his colleagues who have made presentations to Congress (Blaire and Hubbard), and insisting that any meeting include them.

    It was an encouraging exchange all around, and I’m glad to see it published. The issues are too important not to get a full airing.

  12. Dale, I think you have it right. He is not distancing himself from the position taken by the Bishops Conference (which he heads) but affirming it while reaching out to a powerful Republican. And he does it without the accusation that Mr. Ryan is unhonorable, unlike the sad attacks on President Obama by certain quarters.

  13. I made a visit to Archbishop Dolan’s Cathedral this AM.

    K: You spelt “racist” wrong. It doesn’t start with a “u.”

    It is plain and simple. Something must be done. Or else, Medicare and Social Security will self-destruct. That is the situation. President Obama doesn’t have a plan. He generates demogoguery. You don’t like Ryan’s evil plan. What do you have?

    Those of us who respect our Church and its teachings don’t aid and abet abortion, class hatred or lies.

    As always, I left in the Poor Box one each Andrew Jackson that I had earned, not one penny Obam confiscated from someone else.

  14. T. Shaw,,,,I don’t see where Kurt Spelled anything wrong,, I am not sure that would be a Kurt word. Why put words in people’s mouths????

    I don’t like Ryan’s Plan – that you called evil. It is Privatization of a plan to an Industry that has increased their premiums at a rate 5x higer than inflation for the last 20 years. NOTHING about his plan changes abortion coverage, you know that – but it’s a card people seem to pull when they are opposed to ANYTHING.

    You wanted an idea — here it is. I would do the same thing President Reagan did to save Social Security many years ago, like Reagan, continue to allow a raise in Maximum earnings taxed. ,,,I would call on the Medical Indstry to stop the fraud and waste, and would allow people forced to go to the Private market for INDIVIDUAL Health Insurance Plans, the option of a Medicare handled plan at the same rate as HMO’s in the Private Market. I would not have extended the tax breaks,,,,,and would have voted yes on elimination of Oil Subsidies. NONE OF THIS AIDS AND ABETS ABORTION, and as someone who respects our Church — I understand the harm accusatory statements like that do to Life Issues.

    I wouldn’t consider that demogoguary, but tire of the self-righteous assumption that those who aren’t marching to your tune are “aiding and abeting” abortion, class hatred and lies. I don’t parrot either side’s Talking Points, and tire of being accused of worn out accusations, while you claim “OBAM” confiscates from you because you EARN your money. Listen to yourself!!!

    Why in the world do you find it necessry to tell us of your Church habits,,,and the Jacksons you earn and donate, accuse the President of personally confiscating something from you and still not understand that rhetoric like that is actually what aids and abets??? It’s almost like you prefer to attack. It’s been 45 years,,,,,,,do you prefer LIFE – or STRIFE????

    Neither Medicare nor Social Security will self-destruct,,,,,it’s the PLANNED Destruction of Medicare and Social Security 80% of people polled simply don’t want that.

    Best to you.

  15. Fr. Jonathon Morris was spot on in making essentially the same points as Rep. Ryan and Abp. Dolan while a guest during the “Great American Panel” debate on Sean Hannity’s show.

  16. Next thing you know someone would accuse the Catholic Church (read Bill Donohue’s latest reason for all scandals, as it fulfills his fascination with homosexuality) of being Political Shills.

    And we wonder the reason for diminshing Donations to the catholic Church ????— the Big Money is going to political causes,,,,, and the rest of us don’t want our money used to carry their water. If I wanted to be part of an Evangelical Political Denomination – I would tithe them,,,,,,I want to be Cathoic,,,, so I guess will have to donate directly to Catholic Relief Services. I think that’s what both Jesus and Mary would do.

    Pax Christi thank you,,,,,Hannity not what Represents the Catholic Church I know. You confirmed my concerns and make me much more comfortable with my decision.

    Pax to you, too.

  17. Jane,

    My point was K libelled Ryan as “unhonorable”, when the usual libel/ad hominem for any and all Ob (Party like it’s 2008!) critics is “RACIST.”

    Do you have a DSL line to Jesus and Mary, or do you dial up?

    Was it during the 6PM 5/21 transmission that Jesus assured you that anybody that disagrees with you is worse than Satan?

    PS: The word would be “dishonorable.” Ask your ESL teacher.

  18. T, Shaw,,,,,, were you upset that I didn’t thank you also for confirmation on my decision. Well let me thank you for proving my point better than even Pax or I could ever to.

    Kurt Libeled No one – and called no one unhonorable,,,, the only libel I seem to read in your post is your attacks – In a short diatribe you confirmed exactly your thought process,,,,,Was it the word Racist,,,,, a concern with my menton of Mary,,,,, maybe favorite word “Satan”??? What could it be???? Oh, I forgot the old Aid and abet,,,coupled with the other favorite “Evil” — and how could any diatribe end without the standard “Class Hatred” — Spread that Love.

    Oh, wait, Sorry,,,,, You are good Christian because you drop your own “Jacksons” into the “Poor Box”.

    I am sorry your hopes for 5/21 weren’t met,,, You are a silly one,,,,,,but all that anger does nothing for the image of a church you think only you respects.

    I’ve made my point,,, you’ve made yours and as far as I am concerned “AMEN” on this.

    Have a lovely rest of the day….. and maybe a little bran is in order??

  19. Yane,

    Do you, as does Obama, think it is 2008?

    How do you feel about harvey milk day in publik skools?

    How about Obama chug-a-lugging his hootch while the British National Anthem is playing?

    I do not believe in collective guilt or collective virtue. I do Corporal Works of Mercy with my Time and My Money not voting to take someone else’s money.

    You are good Christian because you vote for dems and liberals that are 100% for abortion, gay privileges, artificial contraception, embryonic stem cell murder; higher taxes for people you hate so as to buy more votes in the dem voter base, big government taking over people’s health care and rationing it, etc.

    The country is going to hell in a hand basket with you and K pushing double-time.

    What was your native language before you came here to straighten out America?

  20. T. Shaw,,,,,, I underestimated you –You are an angy man – not only at your Church,,,but your Country too,,, – Send Rush Limbaugh a couple Jacksons,,,, and chug-a-lug “HIS” milk. Lovely Native Tongue you have –

    Sadly, humored by your diatribes,,,I found responding to you entertaining; however, an examination of conscience tells me it’s time to mature and no longer encourage the obvious.

    Read Donahoe’s diatribe to the John Jay Report,,,,it will both fascinate and embolden you. Send him a Jackson, and maybe he’ll send you an autographed copy.

    This is the last time I will thank you for confirming my observations.

  21. Rep. Paul Ryan is opening a defense against the shameless lies about his Medicare reform plan. He’s promulgating a video explaining why Medicare is going bankrupt . . .

    He believes that voters will listen to reasoned arguments.

    Good luck with that . . .

  22. Rep. Paul Ryan is opening a defense against the shameless lies about his Medicare reform plan. . . .

    He believes that voters will listen to reasoned arguments.

    Good luck with that . . .

    The voters in NY 26 certainly listened!!! 🙂

  23. To those of you who promote and agree with the scare tactics perpetuated by the Left which is a major distortion of facts, shows clearly a lack of regard for financial sanity and responsibility I hope that both Medicare and Social Security goes bankrupt, becomes obsolete, because you’ll deserve the consequences of your inaction and blatant irresponsibility. Pax

  24. Social Security and Medicare are the pension programs of the elderly. They are not ‘entitlements’, they are a debt we owe to some of the most vulnerable among us.
    I have no interest in the ‘social teachings’ of a church which would endorse such a thing.

  25. Unfortunately the pension programs of the elderly are bankrupt. The question now is how to fiscally salvage them. This, done in a fiscally prudent way, is consistent with CST.

  26. Unfortunately the pension programs of the elderly are bankrupt.

    Well, that is just a factually wrong statement. If you said “going bankrupt” it might be debatable, but “is bankrupt” is simply wrong.

    The OASI Trust Fund has assests of $2.4 trillion. It made a profit last year of $92 billion. Without any program changes, conservative projections show it flush for 25 years. After 25 years, it is capable of paying 75% of projected costs, with that figure gradually rising back to 100% as the baby boom generation dies off.

    NO PRIVATE SECTOR SPONSORED ANNUITY OR PENSION PLAN can project solevency 25 years in the future.

    The issue is, assuming conservative projections, that there is a gully that goes as low as 75% of benefits from 2036-2086.

    That gully should not be ignored, nor should it be used to destory a social insurance program in which the Catholic Church was instrumental in its design and adoption.

    I have my own plan for Social Security that requires nothing I consider radical.

  27. Phillip, I expect better from conservatives that to engage in a form a relativism that adopts an “Alice in Wonderland” style asserting that words don’t have objective meaning, but mean what you want them to mean.

    Last December, I spendt more than I earned. I didn’t go bankrupt.

    Contrary to “Human Events”, CBO has not said that the Social Security Trust Funds are bankrupt and the fact they are currently paying benefits proves it is not.

    I will repeat: The OASI Trust Fund has assests of $2.4 trillion. It made a profit last year of $92 billion. Without any program changes, conservative projections show it flush for 25 years. After 25 years, it is capable of paying 75% of projected benefits, with that figure gradually rising back to 100% as the baby boom generation dies off.

    NO PRIVATE SECTOR SPONSORED ANNUITY OR PENSION PLAN can project solevency 25 years in the future.

  28. Social Security is not insolvent, but it is in trouble. Its projected liabilities exceed its projected income, and that means it is under water from a present value actuarial perspective. But as Kurt suggests the deficiency is probably manageable with fairly modest adjustments on either the revenue or expenditure side. Medicare, however, is not so rosy. Most people do not distinguish between the two programs, but their financial circumstances are very different. There are no easy fixes for Medicare.

    In the end, by it nature a “pay as you go” defined benefit system is difficult to sustain since it cannot accommodate a simultaneous reduction of payers and increase in payees, if those changes are substantial. Actuarily sound defined benefit programs are far more achievable if future payouts are based on previous contributions than if based on future contributions. In other words, it is one thing project how much one must save now in order to satisfy a commitment for future payouts; it is quite another to project how much one might be able to raise 30 years from now in order to satisfy present commitments of payouts 30 years from now.

  29. NO PRIVATE SECTOR SPONSORED ANNUITY OR PENSION PLAN can project solevency 25 years in the future.

    You would think that might suggest a basic problem with the idea of defined benefit pension plans.

    As someone in this 30s, I figure the safe thing to do is simply to assume that I’ll never get a dime back of the money I put into Social Security and prepare to finance my own retirement, however modest it must be as a result. If Social Security somehow manages to survive as anything other than a welfare program for the indigent elderly, that’ll be strictly gravy.

  30. I agree Darwin. There is a reason corporations have generally converted to defined contribution plans, and it is not because it reduces current wage/comp expenses — total comp packages are a function of markets and reducing one element typically causes increases in others.

    You are wise to not count on SS. If it survives at all, it will survive as a true welfare program (it is currently a hybrid), which of course will reward those who do not save at the expense of those who do — which is increasingly the American way in all things.

  31. Suppose Social Security was turned into individual defined-contribution accounts. Suppose the first $5K/year in contributions must be invested in treasuries. There’s a poor retiree’s fund that some of the contributions over $5K go into. This is still Social Security! It’s still pay-go since you’re investing in treasuries. The difference is that now, it’s accounted for individually. My point? When it’s the government, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s defined-benefit or defined-contribution. Defined-contribution may be preferable simply because it’s politically more difficult to take away contributions than it is to cut benefits.

  32. That is a big “suppose.” I see no reason why the government must be required to borrow money without regard to its actual borrowing needs or why individuals must be required to lend money to the government.

    The other difference is that a defined benefit plan can hide transfer payments, which is precisely what SS does. $5000 paid into a defined contribution plan creates an account that cannot be invaded in order to pay more to someone who contributes less but earns less income.

  33. “Social Security is not insolvent, but it is in trouble. Its projected liabilities exceed its projected income, and that means it is under water from a present value actuarial perspective.”

    So from one perspective it is bankrupt?

    “NO PRIVATE SECTOR SPONSORED ANNUITY OR PENSION PLAN can project solevency 25 years in the future.”

    Though it does seem rather contrary to the concept of Social Security that a public program cannot.

    “As someone in this 30s, I figure the safe thing to do is simply to assume that I’ll never get a dime back of the money I put into Social Security and prepare to finance my own retirement, however modest it must be as a result. If Social Security somehow manages to survive as anything other than a welfare program for the indigent elderly, that’ll be strictly gravy.”

    Yet another sense in which one can consider Social Security to be bankrupt.

  34. I struggle to reconcile my conservative political beliefs with Catholic social teaching. The struggle for me is becoming increasingly and sadly irreconcilable. I sincerely hope my understanding of Catholic social teaching is flawed. What exactly is the morality in confiscating property from one segment of society, to redistribute to those who will not support themselves and who continue to vote for people who endorse confiscation of private property? What moral duty do I owe those corrupting this system? Who believes it is moral or just to take from me that for which you are unwilling to earn? Amongst all of the Catholic rhetoric on the budget I see no reminders that individuals have obligations to support themselves to the extent they are able and that we have a personal obligation to be charitable, not a collective one? I read exhortations to class warfare, villainizing the evil or greedy rich, and exalting government’s “obligations” to society, but where is the condemnation of the lazy poor? Oh, yes, I took it there and set up camp. What about the fraudulent poor? Or, forget about the poor, how about the entitled slackers? Wealth is in the eye of the beholder and not all the wealthy are evil just as not all the poor are good.

    As someone who has worked since the age of 15, and until the past two years worked multiple jobs rather than collect unemployment, because to me unemployment is an inducement to sloth – a deadly sin, I am offended by and angry at Catholic income redistributionists. This has no place in Catholic teaching because it isn’t charity – it’s tyranny.

  35. Alecto, Thank heavens you aren’t playing that ungly “Class Warfare” Game???? Heaven forbid you villanize the greedy lazy fraudulant poor, or those entitled sloth-ridden slackers? It looks like someone is suffering from WEWS (Weekend Rush Withdrawal Syndrome).

    As politely as I can print it,,,,What part of what you have attained makes you so uncomfortable that spend all your free time worried anybody wants to take it from you???? If you want to know where condemnation of the Lazy poor is,,,,its the very people you are Quoting Fox News, Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh to name a few,,, it’s the fastest grossing Industry in America.

    Speaking of Deadly Sins, Pride is the original and most serious Deadly Sin. Do you want to play God and determine who is and is not in need, why they are in need and if they deserve a single thing from you??? I prefer to thank Him for what I have instead. I am more worried about “REvision of Catholic Doctrine than I am Redsitribution of Wealth,,,,, it hurts everyone. When did we choose to throw “O Master Grand that I may never seek,,,,so much to be consoled as to Console” under the bus??

    Thank you Tito,,,,Nothing has changed,,,, charity is not Tyranny, and Pride remains the Deadlilest of all sins.

  36. Alecto,

    Catholic Social Teaching is indeed very broad. It does allow for redistribution within limits. It also talks about the limits of the welfare state, the need not to create dependency, the need to not discourage productivity and the rights of private property. It also argues against utopianism.

    Likely what you have heard is from your diocesan paper or very selective teaching by clergy or laity who have not read much of CST themselves. Many of those likely take CST as the only infallible thing they hold. This is problematic as components of CST are self-professedly prudential judgments based upon fallible human science. Particularly when they dissent from so much else.

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