Religious leaders across America from the group Faith In Public Life have a powerful message for new Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan: stop distorting the Catholic faith to justify an agenda that helps the rich and hurts everyone else.
When Paul Ryan was elected as Speaker of the House, Faith In Public Life made sure America knew what Ryan really stood for, reminding them of how the Republican had warped teachings of the Catholic Church to further income inequality. The group said:
“As you know, all eyes are now on the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, but Catholic bishops, theologians, nuns and faith-based social justice advocates have been watching him closely for years. Ryan frequently references the importance of his faith and has argued that his budget proposals find support in Catholic teaching.”
The faith-based group highlights the fact that religious leaders have long been challenging Ryan’s economic philosophy, stating that, “There seems to be a disconnect between the faith Paul Ryan espouses and the public policy he supports.” In the past, Ryan has suggested that Pope Francis, a leader who strongly supports tackling an “economy of exclusion and inequality,” is naive.
According to a 2012 analysis done by Robert Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Ryan’s budget proposal would “likely produce the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).” Greenstein said the budget proposal made “extraordinary cuts in programs that serve as a lifeline for our nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens.”
That hardly seems like the teachings from the Bible. Just three years ago, almost 60 prominent theologians, priests, nuns and national Catholic social justice leaders released a joint statement calling on Ryan to “reconsider his radical budget proposal and refrain from distorting Church teaching.” The religious leaders wrote:
“If Rep. Ryan thinks a budget that takes food and healthcare away from millions of vulnerable people upholds Catholic values, then he also probably believes Jesus was a Tea Partier who lectured the poor to stop being so lazy and work harder. This budget turns centuries of Catholic social teaching on its head. These Catholic leaders and many Catholics in the pews are tired of faith being misused to bless an immoral agenda.
Simply put, this budget is morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good. A budget that turns its back on the hungry, the elderly and the sick while giving more tax breaks to the wealthiest few can’t be justified in Christian terms.”
So while the media might be celebrating Ryan as the new House Speaker, it’s important to remember what he’s really about, and what this could mean for America. Under Ryan’s vision, Medicare and Social Security are a thing of the past. Poverty programs will also disappear, and those who are struggling will receive no assistance. Under Ryan’s economic ideology, only the wealthy will benefit and survive. Ryan’s new position and immoral American dream can only mean one thing: ordinary Americans are in trouble.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.