U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, under criticism from some fellow Catholics, said his financial plan’s call for cuts in federal aid to the poor is consistent with the church’s teachings.
In a speech today at Georgetown University, a Catholic institution in the nation’s capital, Ryan said his proposal complies with the church’s admonishments to care for the needy. “The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best as I can make of it,” said Ryan of Wisconsin, the House’s chief budget-writer and a possible Republican vice presidential candidate.
“There can be differences among faithful Catholics on this,” Ryan said. “If there was ever a time for serious but respectful discussion among Catholics as well as those who don’t share our faith, that time is now.”
Ryan was criticized by some Catholics after he told the Christian Broadcasting Network this month that his Catholic upbringing was reflected in his budget, which calls for substantial cuts in food stamps, the Medicaid health-care program and other types of assistance to the needy.
A group of protesters silently raised a banner as Ryan spoke that read, “Stop the war on the poor” and “no social justice in Ryan’s budget.” Almost 90 members of Georgetown’s faculty and administrators signed a letter to Ryan accusing him of misusing the Catholic faith.
“Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ,” the letter said.
‘Misuse’ of Teaching
“We would be remiss in our duty to you and our students if we did not challenge your continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few,” the faculty members’ letter said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote to lawmakers last week urging them to reject the food stamp cuts proposed by Ryan’s budget.
“We join other Christian leaders in insisting ‘a circle of protection’ be drawn around essential programs that serve poor and vulnerable people,” the bishops’ letter said.
Ryan said his cuts, by reducing the government’s budget deficit, would avoid a debt crisis that would force lawmakers to make much more drastic cuts in aid to the poor.
Those unwilling to reduce the debt “are complicit in our acceleration toward a debt crisis in which the poor would be hurt the first and the worst,” said Ryan. He said his plan would boost growth and “you can’t lift people out of poverty if you don’t have a growing economy.”
“You can’t help America’s poor by making America poor,” he said.
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