Thursday, October 11, 2012

U.S. Catholic Theologians Defend Catholic Social Teaching v. Paul Ryan

Meanwhile, as the bishops fulminate and brandish their big sticks (and as their leader His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan seeks yet again to pull a veil over Paul Ryan's Randian philosophy and its blunt contradiction of Catholic social teaching), some members of the people of God continue to struggle to keep the fullness of Catholic social teaching in the forefront of public and Catholic awareness during the current election cycle.  A group of some 120 American Catholic theologians has just issued a statement entitled "On All of Our Shoulders: A Catholic Call to Protect the Endangered Common Good."

The statement argues that America is "at a tipping point" in the current election cycle, in which libertarian views of government irreconcilable with Catholic social teaching are now being brought into the mainstream: 

America is at a tipping point where the traditional commitment of our government to protecting and advancing the common good is in very real danger of being dismantled for generations.  Members of the "Tea Party," libertarians, Ayn Rand followers and other proponents of small government have brought libertarian views of government into the mainstream; legitimating forms of social indifference.  After decades of anti-government rhetoric and "starve the beast" tax cuts, some even appear to exploit predictable fiscal problems to establish a privatized, libertarian order that reduces society to a collection of individuals and shrinks the common good to fit the outcomes achievable by private, for profit firms.

And the statement concludes,
The momentous challenges facing our nation cry out for the full wisdom of the Church's social doctrine.  We live at time when the social indifference of libertarian thought is achieving broad cultural legitimacy and political power.  This vision of the human person and society are fundamentally at odds with the Gospel and the principles of Catholic Social Doctrine.  Legitimate disagreements with the Obama administration must not lead the Church to edit the fullness of its teachings for political expediency.  Our political obligations as Catholics go beyond choosing a candidate for which to vote.  In the words of Faithful Citizenship, "our participation should help transform the party to which we belong." [26]  Ours is a moment that demands the fullness of the Church's teachings as few others have.  To be truly prophetic, the Church—bishops, clergy and lay faithful—must proclaim the fullness of its message to all parties, movements, and powers.

Tom Fox offers a valuable précis of the statement at National Catholic Reporter, with a list of five principles of Catholic social teaching that the theologians apply critically to the "brutal and much touted" Ryan budget.   And thank God that what the bishops will not say, even as they claim to have the corner on the truth market and as they use their carefully selected list of "non-negotiables" to try to force Catholic voters to vote GOP, some members of the people of God will say.

The graphic, which illustrates how the Ryan budget will drastically remove social services from the poor while transferring more wealth to the already super-rich, is from Ezra Klein's "Wonkblog" at Washington Post.

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