Paul Ryan accuses President Obama of engaging in “sowing social unrest and class resentment.” The House Budget Committee chairman says the president is “preying on the emotions of fear, envy and resentment.”
Paul Ryan accuses Elizabeth Warren of engaging in class warfare. The House Budget Committee chairman the Massachusetts US Senate candidate is guilty of engaging in the “fatal conceit of liberalism.”
But what about the Catholic Church, which has taken a far more radical position on economic issues than Obama or Warren? What does the House Budget Committee chairman, a self-described “good Catholic,” do then?
If you’re Paul Ryan, you don’t decry the church for engaging in class warfare. Instead, you spin an interpretation of the church’s latest pronouncements that bears scant resemblance to what’s been written—but that just happens to favor your political interests.
Ryan’s certainly not the only Catholic politician in Washington to break with the church.
For years, Catholic Democrats from House minority leader Nancy Pelosi to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to former House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey have taken their hits for adopting positions that are at odds with the church’s teachings with regard to reproductive rights and same-sex marriage.
But many of the same politicians who align with the church on social issues are at odds with the social-justice commitment it brings to economic debates.
Ryan’s rigidly right-wing approach to issues of taxation and spending, as well as his deep loyalty to Wall Street (he led the fight to get conservatives to back the 2008 bank bailout), has frequently put him at odds with the church’s social-justice teaching.
But never has the distinction been more clear than in recent days, as Ryan’s statements have reemphasized his status as the leading congressional spokesman for policy positions that are dramatically at odds with those expressed in a major new statement by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace?
That puts the congressman in a difficult spot.
Ryan has always identified as a Catholic politician, and he has frequently suggested that he is guided by the teachings of the church, going so far as to write in a July 2011 column for a Catholic publication that “Catholic social teaching is indispensable for officeholders.”