Sunday, August 12, 2012

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: Paul Ryan and "Give Me Thomas Aquinas"

After Paul Ryan discovered that there was a downside to his infatuation with Ayn Rand (a radical individualist who also happens to have been a pro-choice atheist), he then informed the world that he's Thomas Aquinas all the way, all the time.  In a speech to a group of Rand devotees in 2005, Ryan said, 

I grew up on Ayn Rand.  That's what I tell people ... you know, everybody does their soul-searching, and trying to find out who they are and what they believe, and you learn about yourself ... I grew up reading Ayn Rand, and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are.

He then went on to say,

The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.

And in a 2009 video, Ryan touted Rand as the cure for Obama, saying that "we are living in an Ayn Rand novel" after the Obama election and Rand's kind of thinking is "sorely needed right now"--radical individualism to combat the collectivism tea partiers like to imagine the president represents.

But when Mr. Ryan discovered that Rand's radical individualism, which exalts selfishness above all other "virtues," might prove a tad problematic as he pitched himself to voters who had any real understanding of Catholic values and Catholic teaching, he began to sing a different tune.  This April, he told National Review that if anyone is going to paste a particular thinker's view on him as an epistemology, they must not give him Ayn Rand: Ryan said, 

[G]ive me Thomas Aquinas.

Is Paul Ryan aware that Aquinas wrote, 

When one man has excess wealth (that is, property and wealth which are beyond his legitimate needs) while another is in poverty (lacking material necessities), the rich man is a thief. The excess he possesses belongs to the poor man and, if he refuses to distribute his wealth accordingly, he plays the part of the "rich fool" in the Gospel parable (Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 66)?

Somehow I don't think Ryan is aware of that quote, which represents longstanding Catholic teaching about socioeconomic life and the preferential option for the poor.  And which, as the citation itself notes, echoes the consistent teaching of Jesus himself.

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