Can Catholics Support the Ryan Plan?

That is the question raised by this blog post over at Commonweal.  Here’s the crux of the argument:

Similarly, while there may be a great deal of legitimate diversity of opinion concerning how best to promote the well being of the poorest, surely (on the magisterium’s view of its own authority) there is no legitimate diversity of opinion concerning the mandate to structure social policy toward …

  1. Fat Dave

    As a convert to Catholicism, I’ve noticed some interesting trends amongst my co-religionists.  When the economy is doing well, they shout, “Catholics invented Capitalism!”  Now that things are in the toilet, my buddies are urging me to embrace the economics of the future, Distributism!  What is this futuristic panacea, you might ask?  Why, it is a new economic order extrapolated by Chesterton out of an encyclical by Pope Leo XIII.  It asks us to revert to subsistence farming and small craft guilds a la the High Middle Ages!  It would cause famine and warfare unlike any we’ve seen outside of the regimes of Stalin and Mao!  The genius bishops who’ve espoused this economic model live like princes, while their dioceses teeter on the verge of bankruptcy, both fiscal and moral.  (Is it a coincidence that they want society to revert to a state like that when the Church last exerted total control in the West?)   

  2. Fat Dave

    From my last post, you may interpret that I’m very anti-Catholic, but I love my Church.  I just don’t appreciate the abuses that tend to emanate from it right now.  There are many good men in the clergy doing good work, but it is the bad apples that spoil the bunch, and it seems that the bad apples tend to be the most vocal.  Luckily, we seem to have turned the corner in vocations, and there are well-trained priests coming out of seminary to replace the retiring “social-activists-with-collars” generation.

  3. KC Mulville

    Plenty wrong here.

    1. Ryan believes (properly, I agree) that trying to generate revenues from the existing tax base won’t resolve the problem. We must widen the tax base. That means growth, and that’s why he wants to keep taxes low.

    2. Ryan doesn’t cut taxes. He simply refuses to raise them. He doesn’t raise them because the solution requires growth.

    There are multiple problems with the details of his analysis. But let’s get to the question of Catholic social teaching, which is defined by the “preferential option for the poor.” This analysis fails to address the most important detail: the existing system is unsustainable. If we don’t do something, it’s all going to crash anyway, the poor going down first. Ryan is trying to save the safety net.

  4. nordman

    I’d ask the question differently.

    Do  Catholics support economic collapse?

    Making perfection the enemy of the good strikes me  as an excellent good formula for balkanization and defeat.

    Help the poor through Catholic Charities – not though corrupt politicians.

    Thessalonians  3:10 

       

  5. JACK

    I agree with the above commentator.  It seems utterly reductionistic thinking to argue that something is against or in line with  a “preferential option for the poor”  based on simply whether it increases or decreases spending on the safety net.  

  6. StickerShock

     He’s wrong for a much simpler reason.  Jesus taught us “give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s”

    We are called to be our brothers keepers.  Blessed are the poor.  Etc., etc.  Certainly it is a vital part of the foundation of Catholic doctrine.

    But we means us.  Not the government.  Charity is our responsibility and Catholic doctrine does not allow is to dump that role on government.

  7. Ted Blurn
    Danielle Schlei: Excellent comments. I’m also a Catholic. The federal government programs for the poor doesn’t fit with the principle of subsidiarity (matters should be handled by the smallest and most local group able to meet the need–very loose paraphrase). We have a duty to provide opportunity for people to improve their lives. Keeping federal spending at levels that will collapse our economy is not stewardship and will only increase the poor among us. That isn’t social justice.  · Apr 18 at 5:55pm

    Amen.

  8. Underground Conservative
    StickerShock:  He’s wrong for a much simpler reason.  Jesus taught us “give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s”

    We are called to be our brothers keepers.  Blessed are the poor.  Etc., etc.  Certainly it is a vital part of the foundation of Catholic doctrine.

    But we means us.  Not the government.  Charity is our responsibility and Catholic doctrine does not allow is to dump that role on government. · Apr 18 at 3:25pm

    Amen!  Couldn’t have said it any better myself.  Commonweal is making a grossly irresponsible statement.

    And if all else fails, what K.C. said is about as sensible as what can be stated.  If we can’t pay for it, then it all collapses. Maybe this whole mess is actually an opening for providing for the poor the way it should be, by their own brothers and sisters, rather than by Big Brother.

    Signed,

    Agitated Catholic

  9. Instugator
    StickerShock:  He’s wrong for a much simpler reason.  Jesus taught us “give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s”

    We are called to be our brothers keepers.  Blessed are the poor.  Etc., etc.  Certainly it is a vital part of the foundation of Catholic doctrine.

    But we means us.  Not the government.  Charity is our responsibility and Catholic doctrine does not allow is to dump that role on government. · Apr 18 at 3:25pm

    Exactly.

    What do you think will happen when, not if, US borrowing costs skyrocket?

    The current budget priorities are, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, everything else.

    When we can no longer borrow money the first to be jettisoned will be Defense (already happening), Medicaid, then other support to the ‘poor’, then Veterans, followed by Medicare then Social Security.

    The social safety net that altruistic Christians have allowed to be foisted on the rest of America will crumble like a moth eaten garment.

    Like Thatcher said, “The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.”

  10. Kenneth

    I guess it depends upon what you consider yourself to be first: an American or a Catholic?

    I thought we got past that with John F. Kennedy.

    Look, I am a Christian.  But I also understand that it’s the the Constitution of the United States of America which insures my freedom of belief.   Let’s not have the tail wagging the dog.

  11. Peter Robinson
    C

    Oh, balderdash.  No one can even entertain such an argument unless he’s engaging in willful ignorance of recent American history.

    Reagan cut taxes, reduced the growth of government, and peeled back regulations–ignoring, I might add, a letter on the economy by the American bishops that displayed a really wonderful ignorance of actual economics. The result of Reaganomics?  An economic expansion that enriched the entire country, enabling women and African-Americans to make disproportionately large material advances while redefining our very notion of “poverty.” (We represent the only country in the history of humankind in which people below the poverty line are much more likely to suffer from obesity than from hunger.)

    As it happens, Paul Ryan is an observant Catholic.  And when he says he believes his plan would spur economic growth that would benefit all, but most especially the poor, he may discomfit ignorant liberals and uninformed bishops, but he is doing nothing–nothing–to endanger his soul or compromise his conscience.

    If Commonweal wishes to remain stuck in 1973, so be it.  But the rest of us may in very good conscience move on.

  12. Joe Escalante
    C

    popebass.jpgSince the Blessed (as of May 1) John Paul II rejected communism, having lived through the atrocities of its implementation, people like Mr. Peñalver have to sneak in their socialist agenda carefully. Calling conservative economics “debunked” is an attempt to ignore what J.P. II proclaimed. It’s like “well, we tried it, but it didn’t work, so we don’t have to honor J.P. II’s legacy, he would agree, considering the times.” 

    Forget it. J.P. II was a genius, among other things. He knew that there would always be a certain percentage of poor in a capitalist society but he believed it was the best system available. 

    In addition, every good Catholic knows that if the left gets their way, expanding a centralized government, abortion rates will explode. Catholics who attend mass and follow the magisterium don’t fall for this stuff. 

  13. Joseph Stanko
    Kenneth: I guess it depends upon what you consider yourself to be first: an American or a Catholic? · Apr 18 at 4:35pm

    I consider myself a Catholic first.  I will render unto the IRS (and I rendered quite a bit last week) but my foremost loyalty belongs to a kingdom not of this world.

  14. Paul A. Rahe
    C
    Peter Robinson: Oh, balderdash.  No one can even entertain such an argument unless he’s engaging in willful ignorance of recent American history.

    Reagan cut taxes, reduced the growth of government, and peeled back regulations–ignoring, I might add, a letter on the economy by the American bishops that displayed a really wonderful ignorance of actual economics. The result?  An economic expansion that enriched the entire country, enabling women and African-Americans to make disproportionately large material advances while redefining our very notion of “poverty.” (We represent the only country in the history of humankind in which people below the poverty line are much more likely to suffer from obesity than from hunger.)

    Edited on Apr 18 at 04:41 pm

    It is always worth remembering that it was the bishops in the 1980s who confronted the problem of the pederast priests by shifting them surreptitiously from parish to parish and diocese to diocese. The moral authority they claimed was no less flimsy than their prudence in the economic sphere.

  15. Beasley

    I think you have to start with first principles, and “Thou shall not covet” seems to be the primary point on which this hinges.  If what’s being suggested cannot be accomplished without the redistribution of others wealth and property, then advocacy of that policy is itself sinful in nature. If it was merely money that the world needed, then I think a half century of welfare states and foreign aid would have yeilded a dramatically different outcome. If money is the primary need, then you have to lump idolitry on top of covetiousness. A man cannot serve two masters. He can not serve both God and money.

  16. Kenneth
    Joseph Stanko

    Kenneth: I guess it depends upon what you consider yourself to be first: an American or a Catholic? · Apr 18 at 4:35pm

    I consider myself a Catholic first.  I will render unto the IRS (and I rendered quite a bit last week) but my foremost loyalty belongs to a kingdom not of this world. · Apr 18 at 4:55pm

    I respect that, Joseph.  But when it comes to essentially secular questions of politics and economics, I tend to reject the the preachings of the religious hierarchy when they conflict with my views of economics and personal freedom. 

  17. Joseph Stanko
    Instugator

    The social safety net that altruistic Christians have allowed to be foisted on the rest of America will crumble like a moth eaten garment. · Apr 18 at 4:29pm

    I agree the current safety net is unsustainable.  Whenever Republicans like Ryan put forth a plan to save it they are immediately accused of secretly wanting to eliminate it altogether.  Mr. Peñalver makes much of Ryan’s admiration for Ayn Rand, and no doubt a true Objectivist would eliminate the safety net altogether.

    I think a key, perhaps the key, to winning in 2012 is to convince moderate voters that the GOP really does want to save rather than kill the safety net.  But I also suspect that many of my fellow members here actually do want to kill the safety net.  Or am I wrong?

  18. Pseudodionysius

    Yes, Commonweal puts the burden of proof on supporters of the Ryan plan, but the Planned Parenthood funding mania of Obamacare gets a pass.

    Nice.

  19. Kenneth
    Joseph Stanko

     But I also suspect that many of my fellow members here actually do want to kill the safety net.  Or am I wrong? · Apr 18 at 5:17pm

    No, I don’t think your fellow members want to see elderly people begging in the streets or dying for lack of medical care.

    But what we do want to see are policies which acknowledge that the New Deal and the Great Society were based upon compulsory Ponzi schemes.  Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson made illusory promises, for which they extracted over 13% of most Americans’ earnings.  Give those earnings back to people and educate them that it’s their own responsibility to prepare for retirement. 

    Some people will still behave irresponsibly.  For them, we need a fall-back safety net in order to avoid the spectacle of starvation in the streets, but it must be designed in such a way that those who do behave responsibly aren’t shouldering the entire burden for the profligate. 

  20. Ross C
    In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we should simply interpret the plan as intending to do what it does:  improve the situation of the best off and then making up for that (and, in addition, reducing the debt over the long term) at the almost exclusive expense of some of the most vulnerable.

    I have read the outline of the plan which is available and I can find no specific information on why this statement is true.  It seems to be the main theme of all criticism.  Is it true and I am just missing it?

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