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Friday, September 28, 2012

Catholics, the Ryan Plan and Our Brother's Keeper...

Ever since Paul Ryan was chosen by Mitt Romney to be his vice presidential running mate, there's been an onslaught of scrutiny, and outright criticism, by some Catholics, especially from a group of nuns that have gone on a bus tour campaigning against him, as to whether Ryan, a self described practicing Catholic, is being true to his faith in his controversial budget plan. (although to be fair, Nancy Pelosi refers to herself as a practicing Catholic too, while openly rejecting the teachings of the Church on abortion, artificial contraception, and the definition of marriage, just to name a few)

Ryan takes the heat because, unlike the current vice president, Joe Biden, who is also Catholic but prefers to keep his faith personal and not bring it into the public square, as if a person of faith can separate one from the other, he is open about his beliefs and is willing to walk the uncomfortable line between faith and politics. 

Therefore, for months, as Romney's choice (and even before), Ryan has been hammered by Liberal Catholics, who, in an effort to discredit him among unengaged Catholic voters (and sadly, considering only 25% of Catholics go to Mass on Sundays, there are many of us!), say his plan betrays the Church's teachings on providing for the poor and needy.

I recently came across this very well produced and simple explanation of "Ryanism" and its relation to Catholic social teachings, which Ryan himself says formed the basis for his budget plan.

The point is that we are all morally responsible for one another, as President Obama so often points out (in reference to the story of Cain and Abel in the Bible), we are our "brothers keepers."  But, the false assumption is that it's the government's responsibility.

There is a difference between a "preferential option for the poor," which the Church teaches protects the dignity of a person by helping lift him or herself out of poverty, and the "preferential option for the State," which could create dependency and may deprive a person of their dignity by becoming a ward of the state.

Besides, what virtue is there for a government or someone else to do what I should do myself?

The problem, as Catholic blogger Matthew Warner points out, is that unfortunately we, because of human nature, are often looking for an easy way out.
It doesn't take much to convince us that hard problems are somebody else's responsibility. So when we are faced with really tough problems in our communities, it's easy to convince us that a higher order of the social structure should probably handle this. And that may be true in some cases. But I fear too often this really means a particular problem is "inconvenient for us and we'd rather not do this ourselves." Let's let the government fix this for us so we don't have to be so inconvenienced and get our hands dirty.
And, so we vote, pay taxes and empower an ill-equipped government to do *our* job for us so we can slap ourselves on the back and sleep well at night knowing that we are "standing up for the least among us." Meanwhile, the problems don't get fixed and the poor are not treated with the dignity they deserve. That is not Solidarity or Subsidiarity. It's laziness and irresponsibility.
That's not to say that the federal government (or higher levels of government or social structure in general) shouldn't be involved in helping to solve some of these problems. But the key part that we miss is that such involvement from government does not replace our own personal involvement in helping to solve such problems. Government involvement depends upon our personal involvement. It's there to assist our involvement (when we truly need it), not to replace it.
But in the final analysis, as the video suggests, for me, as a Catholic voter, I will have to decide whether to cast my vote for candidates who openly support policies that I know the Church considers "intrinsic evils," like abortion, or candidates, who I may agree or disagree with on certain "prudential judgement" matters, like budget cuts and entitlements, but agree with on the Church's "non-negotiable" issues.

At least for me, the choice is clear...

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