At Talk to Action, Frank Cocozzelli has just reposted a piece he wrote last May on Paul Ryan's p-r driven Aquinian epiphany in the weeks leading up to his appearance at a debate on economic issues at Georgetown this past April. As Frank's detailed chronology of Ryan's faux epiphany reminds me, Ryan has had ample help in his repackaging project from "centrist" beltway commentators, who will say and do anything to promote powerful folks who tack right and give the appearance of being rising stars--no matter how extreme their tacking. We can look for much more of this mainstream media repackaging of Ryan in days to come--Ryan the nice guy, Ryan just one of the folks, Ryan the intellectual (!), Ryan the exemplar of the work ethic who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, Ryan the exemplar of Catholic values.
Don't believe it. It's all so much smoke and mirrors. Read the Ryan budget and see who really pays for the dismantling of government and who gets off scot-free from paying anything at all.
I recommend Frank's article, too, because it provides much more theological depth for the argument that Ryan has no fundamental understanding of Aquinas's views about the good society than I provided in my piece on Ryan, Rand, and Aquinas yesterday. Frank's conclusion:
"Though a miserly man may not be generous," Aquinas wrote, "he could undertake to perform works of generosity and begin to acquire the proper virtue." Ryan's actions reveal a man who still chooses not to undertake such required works.
And for more good commentary on the Catholic dilemma Ryan and his Randianism propose, see Paul Brandeis Raushenbush at Huffington Post. See also Joan Walsh at Salon on what the philosophy of radical individual a la Rand as packaged in Ryan's budget really means for the poor, elderly, and middle classes--as the rich are exempt from taxes.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: that such an influential Catholic political leader could imagine he stands squarely within the Catholic tradition as he betrays the most basic principles of Catholic social teaching--as he displays absolutely no understanding of those principles--speaks volumes about the betrayal of pastoral leadership by the U.S. Catholic bishops for years now. Their monomaniacal focus on abortion and gay bashing, totally divorced from the consistent ethic of life and the social teaching that sustains it, has resulted in abysmal catechesis for many Catholics who imagine that one can be an uncritical American individualist blaming the poor for their failure to rise to the top of the economic ladder, and remain a faithful Catholic.
As long as one protects the zygote and bashes the gays . . . .