Archbishop Dolan and Rep. Paul Ryan Exchange Positive Letters on the Budget
Since offering his recommendations to cut the federal budget, Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, has been accused by the Catholic Left of destroying Medicare and ending funding of programs to help those in poverty. That none of this is true was explained clearly by Quin Hillyer in “The Catholicity of Paul Ryan’s Budget” published at Catholic Advocate.
Speaker John Boehner, also a Catholic, was on the receiving end of a letter signed by over 70 Catholic academics claiming he, too, was abandoning the poor and destroying the “safety net” of programs mandated by Catholic social teaching. The total lack of regard by these same academics for the settled issues of abortion and marriage has been noted.
But, Congressman Ryan did something that most Catholic members of Congress before him have not done. He took seriously the public debate among Catholics and wrote a letter, dated April 26, to the president of the USCCB, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. His letter conveys his respect for the social Magisterium of the Catholic Church and how it can “contribute to the ongoing healthy dialogue about the nation’s budget and the economic foundations that make possible the exceptional generosity of Americans of every faith.”
Ryan’s letter puts his budget recommendations in the context of the world’s economy, underscoring the consequences of ignoring the economic downturn and the growing deficit. The nations of Europe, Ryan explains, by ignoring the problem too long, were forced to make “drastic cuts in benefits to the retired, the sick, the poor, and millions of public employees. Unsurprisingly, this austerity has generated widespread protests, riots, and violence. The social concerns of the Church cannot be addressed under these conditions.”
Ryan warns that the “U.S. has been traveling on a similar path for years,” and that if our nation continues to ignore the need for fiscal responsibility “the weakest will be hit three times over: by rising costs, by drastic cuts to programs they rely on, and by the collapse of individual support for charities that help the hungry, the homeless, the sick, refugees, and others in need.”
On May 18, Archbishop Dolan responded with a letter to Congressman Ryan that begins by stating his appreciation for Ryan’s “continued attention to the guidance of Catholic social justice in the current delicate budget considerations in Congress.” The Archbishop notes his agreement with religious leaders who claim “budgets are moral statements.”
But, where some religious leaders focus entirely on concern for the poor, Archbishop Dolan makes a broader statement:
“Thus I commend your letter’s attention to the important values of fiscal responsibility; sensitivity to the foundational role of the family; the primacy of the dignity of the human person and the protection of all human life; a concrete solicitude for the poor and the vulnerable, especially those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty; and putting into practice the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, here at home and internationally within the context of a commitment to the common good shared by government and other mediating institutions alike.”
Dolan’s inclusion of fiscal responsibility is clear recognition of Congressman Ryan’s basic point that without a sound economy the safety net of programs for the poor, both governmental and private, are put at risk. The Archbishop also points out the importance of human life, a point completely ignored by the Catholic academics who wrote Boehner, and which led all the bishops to urge Catholics in Congress not to pass the health care legislation, now the law of the land.
It’s also significant that Archbishop Dolan writes that Ryan, “rightly pointed out Pope John Paul’s comments on the limits of what he termed the ‘Social Assistance State.'” Dolan explains this by stressing the interrelation of subsidiarity to solidarity, quoting the Blessed John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus (48):
“… the principle of subsidiarity must be respected: a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good. (Centesimus Annus, 48).”
Archbishop Dolan concludes by telling Congressman Ryan that he, along with Bishops Blaire and Hubbard, who wrote a public letter on budget issues, “would be pleased to make ourselves available.” We at Catholic Advocate hope that Congressman Ryan accepts this invitation, because both the Church and our nation will be the beneficiary of a continued discussion of these foundational issues.
A copy of Chairman Ryan’s letter is available here.
A copy of Archbishop Dolan’s letter is available here.
Upon receipt of Archbishop Dolan’s letter, Chairman Ryan issued the following statement:
“I thank Archbishop Dolan for his leadership and guidance on how policymakers can best serve the common good of our nation. The perilous fiscal and economic challenges facing our country require solutions that reflect our shared values and are rooted in timeless principles. The House-passed budget – The Path to Prosperity – seeks to strengthen the economic security of seniors, workers, and families, and averts the debt-fueled economic crisis before us. Our budget upholds the dignity of the human person and is especially attentive to the long-term concerns of the poor. I hope Americans of every faith and political background will continue in constructive dialogue to address these great challenges in their economic and moral dimensions. I am deeply grateful to Archbishop Dolan for his inspired engagement in this dialogue.”
Speaker John Boehner (R, OH-08) followed with this statement:
“I welcome Archbishop Dolan’s letter and am encouraged by the dialogue taking place between House Republicans and the Catholic Bishops regarding our budget, the Path to Prosperity. Our nation’s current fiscal path is a threat to human dignity in America, offering empty promises to the most vulnerable among us and condemning our children to a future limited by debt. We have a moral obligation as a nation to change course and adopt policies that reflect the truth about our nation’s fiscal condition and our obligation to future generations, and to offer hope for a better future. Our duty to serve others compels us to strive for nothing less. As Chairman Ryan notes in his letter to the Archbishop, Americans are blessed to have the teachings of the Church available to us as guidance as we confront our challenges together as a nation.”