The National Catholic Review

Mitt Romney named Paul Ryan as his running mate this month, drawing even more attention to the man whose name, even before the GOP nod, was on the lips of Catholics around the country. While Ryan’s pro-life views and his stance against same-sex marriage have been praised by some Catholics (bishops included), his plan for the budget has long drawn strong criticism from many (bishops included), who view the drastic cuts to services for the poor as immoral and short-sighted.

According to the Rasmussen Reports, having Ryan on the ticket already has helped Romney gain favor, and a slight lead in the polls, in Wisconsin, Ryan’s home state. However, a Marquette Law School poll found that while Ryan's presence resulted in a two-point gain for Romney, the GOP presidential candidate still trails Obama by three percent in the state. What Ryan’s new role will mean to Catholic voters across the United States remains to be seen.

Though both are Catholic, neither Ryan nor Biden can count on the “Catholic Vote.” (Although both candidates are receiving prayers.) Once seen as a united front, today's Catholic voters can be divided into three distinct groups, says Steve Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America and a national co-chair of Catholics for Obama.

According to Schneck, the three groups include Latino Catholics (about 70 percent of whom favor Obama); Intentional Catholics, who tend to be more traditional (50-60 percent of whom favor Romney), and the Cultural Catholics, who are evenly split between Romney and Obama. This last group, Schneck says, are the Catholics for whom the two candidates will be competing.

Both candidates have backgrounds to which many in this third group may relate, Schneck said. Ryan’s Irish heritage and well-known Wisconsin Catholic clan will resonate with some, Schneck said, but perhaps no more than Biden’s stories of his Catholic boyhood in Scranton, Penn.

But the reason that Catholics’ opinions of Ryan differ so drastically goes deeper than stories of the candidate’s hometowns. Many Catholic issues are at the core of the current divide in American politics. “The fundamental difficulty between Catholics who think Ryan is taking a Catholic point of view and others who do not has to do with a complicated connection between principles of Catholic morality and everyday practice,” said Dan Finn, a professor of economics and theology at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. “One needs a theoretical framework for applying those principles in particular situations.”

Finn said that Ryan’s “individualistic economic analysis” leads the candidate to believe that reducing payments for welfare is actually good for people in poverty, because welfare makes them dependent. However, this view fails to see the larger framework necessary for an accurate analysis. “While there is some truth there, that is a terribly incomplete story,” Finn said. “There are many causes of poverty. Dependency is certainly a problem for some, but for many it is not, and they’re working trying to make ends meet. What’s missing is the debate about the social and scientific analysis that undergird anyone’s position on this matter.” The Republican Party, in general, tends toward an "overly simplified" view of poverty, which leads to budget cuts, Finn said, adding that Catholics are obliged to help people who can’t meet their own needs, whether those needs are related to food, medicine or education. “Reducing welfare is inconsistent with the Catholic view of life,” he said.

Romney’s choice of Ryan is a “fascinating selection” which brings many Catholic issues to the fore, said Schneck. He said the so-called Ryan budget proposes drastic cuts that raise concerns about the well-being of the elderly, the poor, and those in need of housing and education in the United States. “As Catholics we have to be concerned about those devastating results,” he said. “And what gets to me are the cuts that are proposed to the programs that deal with the poor. As a pro-life Catholic I have to wonder what that means for the abortion rate in the U.S. The long-term debt problem is scary, but the way we address it isn’t by shredding the minimal safety net. It’s finding other sources of revenue. It’s asking the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.”

Schneck expressed regret that “the partisan ideologies that have characterized American politics over the last 20 years have invaded Catholic participation in politics too.” If the church hopes to heal, political candidates aren’t the only ones who need to reach out to the Cultural Catholics, he said. “One of the things that I’m excited about is the New Evangelization,” Schneck said. “It needs to go after those cultural Catholics while incorporating the Latino Catholics. I’m hopeful that the New Evangelization can help to bridge divides.”

The question of Catholic identity is one that has become increasingly prominent during this election. Despite a shared faith, Ryan and Biden hold opposing views on abortion, same-sex marriage, and the level of government assistance given to the poor. The debate surrounding these issues has caused some voters to make judgments not just on who is a better candidate but on who is a better Catholic.

The current political climate is an important in American politics, but it is also a “moment of truth” for the church, one which could present Catholics with tough questions, said the Rev. Bryan Massingale, a professor of systematic theology and ethics at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisc. “Is there more to Catholic public identity than opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage?” said Massingale. “Everyone on the right and left would say, ‘Of course.’” But he argues that the question must be furthered to ask: Is there more to it in reality than merely in rhetoric? “Paul Ryan represents group of Catholics who believe that as long as they’re with the church on abortion then they get a pass on the rest of Catholic identity,” he said. “And I think there are some statements of our bishops that have fed into that. But we need to ask: How does our commitment to the poor and vulnerable factor into Catholic public identity and witness? The question goes deeper than Paul Ryan. He becomes a symbol of something that has been an ongoing conversation in the church and that we need to engage more forthrightly.”

These days Catholics are solidly in the mainstream of American life, Massingale said, but that comes with its own unique challenge: “It is that much more difficult to be countercultural when you’re at the heart of culture,” he said. Given the church’s changing demographics, Catholic identity cannot be and will not be what it once was, he said. But he believes that drawing Catholic questions into the wider dialogue could help the church to continue to have an impact. “We have an opportunity to shape the wider society in a good way,” Massingale said. “Catholicism at its best makes a reasoned case for our positions and appeals to others’ sense of common good. That calls for shared sacrifice as well as the sharing in the blessings of this country. But the Catholic public presence is speaking less to the concern for the common good and seen more publically as one more partisan voice, one that speaks to the fragmentation of the county rather than the unity.”

In a world of endless blogs and 24-hour news, it is not difficult to find a partisan voice to support one’s own pre-formed opinion. But voters, Catholics included, must be careful not to get caught up in the crowd and simply buy into the general framework of a political party they like, said Finn. “We may chose a perspective or party because of one issue that we may know a lot and care a lot about, but there’s a tendency to adopt a range of perspectives from a group and to simply take their word on how to read things,” he said. “We think, ‘My friends or a Web site or a political party see things this way, and I believe them.’ It’s difficult to stay self-critical on a whole range of issues. And most people don’t put much thought into it in the first place.”

Comments

Tim O'Leary | 8/25/2012 - 10:45am
Marie #19
The Krugman piece you linked to is a grossly dishonest piece, even suggesting Ryan somehow agreed with everything Ayn Rand wrote, including atheism and abortion-on-demand, until this position became politically inconvenient. Krugman has left the world of honesty and is just a political hack, throwing everything at his political opponents to see what sticks. He calls slower increases ''slashes'' in the budget. He completely ignores our nation's pending insolvency, and even wants to increase our indebtedness. Completely irresponsible!

Mike #22
The poor will be starving if the country goes bankrupt. Why not have a means test for all government welfare programs, including social security and even public education, calibrated to balance the budget every year? That would take care of the really poor a lot longer than voting for insolvency.
Roy Van Brunt | 8/24/2012 - 4:25pm
Who believes any more that there is a really a ''Catholic vote?  How quaint.
Stanley Kopacz | 8/24/2012 - 12:09pm
If that other side wants their opinion represented, they can open up their big, fat, slimey wallets and buy advertising space in America.  I would hope that America would charge them the special big, fat slimey  oligarch rate.  Why would they do this since they already have fair and balanced GOP-TV and the rest of the media covering important news like naked pictures of royalty?  If you want rock-and-roll and pro-corporate propaganda, it's oozing out of the woodwork.  If you want bebop jazz or progressive politics, there are very small venues.  Leave them alone.
Joshua DeCuir | 8/23/2012 - 5:12pm
"Rick Garnett has a platform for his views. Those who would like to read his work can visit Mirror of Justice."

And I strongly encourage folks to...for accurate opinion pieces from a wide variety of perspectives.
david power | 8/23/2012 - 4:51pm
Kerry made a little mistake with the spelling of roll.Could happen to a bishop.
Terrance Klein | 8/23/2012 - 4:22pm
Rick Garnett has a platform for his views. Those who would like to read his work can visit Mirror of Justice.
Terrance Klein | 8/23/2012 - 3:42pm
Mr. Cosgrove, I think your take on these issues is pretty well known to regular readers of this blog. For that reason, I ask you to consider posting one reply, laying out your criticism, rather than several posts per thread.

This blog is not the final word on Ryan; others are welcome to weigh in, as they already have. I don't find Kerry's piece one-sided, but rather a fair representation of what the majority of Catholic theologians and academics are saying about Ryan and his budget. We are a journal of opinion, not the New York Times, and while we have a responsibility to inform our readers, we do not have to represent every Catholic point of view in our pages, especially in cases where that point of view is in the distinct minority.
J Cosgrove | 8/23/2012 - 2:57pm
Can we end the false rhetoric that the Ryan budget introduces drastic cuts.  When one comments on Paul Ryan it might be good to have what he says in his own words. Here are three videos on his plan:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xwv5EbxXSmE&feature=player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJIC7kEq6kw&feature=player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Aewj_IndN4&feature=player_embedded


To better understand the Ryan Budget here is a site that has about anything one could want to know about government spending and taxes as far back as one one could want.  Here is the specific link to the Ryan Budget but every other piece of budget information past and present is available on this site.


http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/ryan_budget_plan


The Ryan Budget estimates spending about $3,530 Billion in 2013.  Bill Clinton's last budget was $1,800 Billion (2,400 billion today) of which he said he couldn't image the need for any additional spending.  Now we have more unemployed but to describe The Ryan budget with the rhetoric that has been used in not close to accurate.  Maybe a little more accuracy in reporting is needed here.  And to further understand the budget crisis and the urgency and why Ryan is right to seek a more modest budget look at the following video.  A little dramatic but one get's the point real quick.



http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/EW5IdwltaAc?rel=0

Joshua DeCuir | 8/23/2012 - 3:30pm
"In a world of endless blogs and 24-hour news, it is not difficult to find a partisan voice to support one’s own pre-formed opinion. But voters, Catholics included, must be careful not to get caught up in the crowd and simply buy into the general framework of a political party they like, said Finn. “We may chose a perspective or party because of one issue that we may know a lot and care a lot about, but there’s a tendency to adopt a range of perspectives from a group and to simply take their word on how to read things,” he said. “We think, ‘My friends or a Web site or a political party see things this way, and I believe them.’ It’s difficult to stay self-critical on a whole range of issues. And most people don’t put much thought into it in the first place.”"

Doesn't this put a onus on publications like America to include diverse political voices in its coverage?  For example, is it too hard for the author to find ONE Catholic "expert" who might support Ryan?  I can think of several well-qualified Catholics who would fit the bill: Rick Garnett at Notre Dame, Fr. Robert John Araujo, SJ at Loyola Chicago come to mind.  I'll leave the (mis)characterizations of "THE Republican" view of poverty, and the (mis)characterization that Mr. Cosgrove rightly points to above aside.  Needless to say, as a Republican and a Catholic, I don't accept those characterizations as accurate in any way.
Cody Serra | 8/24/2012 - 7:56pm
WOW!  Reading the victriol in so many comments is depressing.

Don't we have enough of that in the public media?  When those against everything Obama will accept that there are a large number of citizens who support him over Rommey.  That does not mean to say that Obama's polcies are perfect. But he had a world view many of us share with him.  We live in a free multicultural and multireligion country.

Civil discourse is needed in our nation, and also in this blog. I don't think the blog is a catechism of any political party. So  no one has to adhere to one specific idea. But when the attacks to the articles's author, and the editor become a boxing game, I believe that "enough is enough".

Our Catholic identity is confussing for many at this time within an insititution sadly divided. I hope we still can make comments without trying to impose our position on others. RESPECT is needed on both sides,

PLEASE, don't lecture  others with your comments.  Let's accept there are two political parties in a divided country, and most of us are Catholics in a divided Church.
Mike Evans | 8/24/2012 - 1:28pm
Wow. I guess the commenters with their apologetics for the austerity approach which starves people in need would similarly want to debate Bishop Steven Blair from Stockton who speaks eloquently on behalf of the poor and represents the US Catholic Conference of Bishops on this issue. Nevertheless, the unofficial "pope of the United States", Cardinal Dolan will be endorsing the Republican nominees and platform at their convention next week with his 'benediction.' That will be even more embarrassing to Catholics and cause serious distress to those faithful who are particularly mindful of the gospel, not politics. Worse, it will embolden many very conservative clergy to further marginalize Catholic faithful and Catholic politicians who do not immediately toe the Cardinal's party line. We need more nuns on the bus, and maybe finally some priests and deacons, too.
THOMAS FARRELLY | 8/24/2012 - 1:03pm
Tim Reidy, the reason that Mr. Cosgrove's point of view on many issues is shared by a "distinct minority" is that many former readers have simply abandoned America Magazine, since they consider it  in large part an arm of the Democratic Party.
This is only partly true.  There are good articles on religious matters and quite a few good book reviews.  This is why I continue to be a subscriber despite the distinctly one-sided nature of the editorials and articles.  But there is substantial truth in the charge.
I for one would like to thank Mr.Cosgrove for his reasoned and well-infomed contributions.  A Liberal Democrat will no doubt find them irritating, but asking him to restrict his comments is pretty churlish.
I have not seen such such a request made to others who post comments more in tune with America's biases, and far less intelligent and fact-based.
John Hayes | 8/24/2012 - 9:58am
Fr. Barron has produced two videos on Paul Ryan. Somewhat like +Morlino's letter they seem intended to offset the criticism of Ryan's budget proposal by the USCCB by reassuring us that Ryan is a good Catholic and that Catholic Social Teaching requires a balance between Subsidiarity and Solidarity - and diferent people may take different views on where to find that balance. It concludes by speculating that if Paul Ryan and Dorothy Day had ever met they would have found they had some views in common on the need for individuals performing corporal works of mercy rather than leaving that responsibility to the government. 
 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq8KRIkGtLQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWdPddDlJP8&feature=youtube_gdata_player
David Smith | 8/24/2012 - 12:57am
Ryan is a fresh face; Biden was probably once a fresh face, long, long ago.

Ryan's Catholicism is probably a non-issue with most voters, Catholic and other. Catholicism has too many faces in the popular mind to mean much of anything. It's probably much more important that Ryan is a social conservative than that he's a Catholic.

Wisconsin a Democratic state.  If it went for Romney, that might be a miracle. Ryan was chosen because he's smart, extremely knowledgeable about fiscal matters, and looks good on camera.

If Obama wins on Medicare, it will be fear of change, not confidence that Obama is doing things right.  ''Health reform'' a la Obama is extremely unpopular.  And it's not even gotten going yet. True health reform is still a dream.

 
J Cosgrove | 8/24/2012 - 12:39am
Ms. Weber,

Spending on federal welfare from 2006 (act to 2011) to 2012 (estimated) has been

2006 - $254 billion
2007 - $262 billion
2008 - $322 billion - start of Democrat controlled congress
2009 - $415 billion
2010 - $502 billion
2011 - $472 billion
2012 - $431 billion est start of Republican controlled house

Source: http://www.usfederalbudget.us/

About 25% of these welfare expenditures is food support for families and is now over $100 billion a year and was about $50 billion in 2006.  The article you pointed to said that SNAP would be cut $133 billion over 10 years or $13 billion a year.  This program has risen over $50 billion a year since 2006 so the Ryan budget levels would be much higher than in 2006 and 2007.  Hardly draconian cuts.  I believe the current budget estimates similar cuts in the future as it forecasts lower unemployment and need for these programs.


What you and others see as budget cuts are Ryan being optimistic about the economy and seeing less need for these programs and actually he has them still at almost double over traditional levels before the financial crisis.  I may be off a little since some of the numbers are vague because they are in the future but the characterization of Ryan's budget as drastic cuts for the poor is a very inaccurate representation and one that should not be repeated here. 


People are parsing  the numbers for political purposes and when it comes to the poor we should spend more time analyzing just what has caused them to get there and how best to get them out of their situation.  The best way to deal with all these problems is to grow the economy employing more people and that is the primary intent of what Paul Ryan is trying to do with his tax program which is tax revenue neutral.  For being optimistic and proposing plans that would accomplish growth he has been called all sorts of things that are not appropriate.  Not something Catholics should do.
Tim O'Leary | 8/23/2012 - 8:59pm
What a funny label Schreck uses - “intentional” Catholics?  Wouldn’t the opposite of “intentional” be “accidental”? Though, maybe his point is that a “cultural Catholic” is an accident waiting to happen. And, surely Latinos have just as much free will as Anglos?

In any case, what’s the value of making such subgroups only to show that the rate of voting moves into the 60-70% range or even less. A much better grouping would divide people a) what they believe, and b) what they know. Those who believe what the Catholic Church teaches, and know what the Democrats are trying to do should not have a problem making a clear distinction.

Anyway, everyone should know that the difference between being pro-life and pro-abortion is a matter of life-and-death, in the millions, and that the Catholic Church has excommunication on its books for anyone who performs or abets an abortion and remains unrepentant. Whereas the moral difference between a slower growing budget and a faster one is far more obscure and hard to decipher. Per JR’s comment, it is very doubtful that going from Clinton’s $1.3 trillion (1999), all the way up to Ryan’s $3.5 trillion (2013) is evidence of a scrooge on economic matters, even with modest inflation. Pure propaganda!
JIM MCCREA | 8/23/2012 - 6:54pm
Amy: you never cease to puzzle me. Your statement above makes absolute sense!
Amy Ho-Ohn | 8/23/2012 - 6:46pm
"Ryan’s 'individualistic economic analysis' leads the candidate to believe that reducing payments for welfare is actually good for people in poverty, because welfare makes them dependent."

Can anybody take this seriously? Even giving one's fellow Catholics every benefit of the doubt that heroic charity demands? This is so obviously either a lie or mental incompetence it is impossible to pretend otherwise. The truth has rights too.

"What a scandal," say the intentional Catholics, "There are so many poor people in this country. Let's take away their housing subsidies, food stamps, Medicaid, and their childrens' Headstart, SCHIP and Pell Grant funding. Then they'll be poor, homeless, hungry, illiterate and sick, but at least they won't be dependent!"

How can anybody say that with a straight face? Even if he's groveling for votes from the middle-class entitlement hogs? (In fact, they don't, usually. With one side of their mouths, they shout that the poor must be relieved of these burdensome welfare programs that make them dependent while with the other they scream that their budget does no such thing, it merely slows the increase in the burdensome welfare programs and makes them more efficient.)

At least they're not pretending the budget can be balanced by eliminating the infinitesimal fraction of federal spending that actually goes to (non-medical) benefits for the poor. Even our dear intentional brethren noticed how idiotic that one sounded.
J Cosgrove | 8/23/2012 - 5:06pm
Mr. Reidy,

'Mr. Cosgrove, I think your take on these issues is pretty well known to regular readers of this blog. For that reason, I ask you to consider posting one reply, laying out your criticism, rather than several posts per thread.'

Are you saying that every time one of the authors distorts what is true, one should remain silent?  Ms. Weber posted multiple distortions which are never answered on this site by the authors or most of the commenters.  I am trying to do this politely and usually limit my comments except when one of the comments is completely separate from the other as above or when someone else addresses a comment I have made as you just did.  Am I not to respond to you or other or because some may not like what I say or the author posts something obviously not true?  The best way to answer comments like mine is to invite a dialog not shut someone down.  If my opinions are in the minority they should be easy to refute and handle.  I welcome that.

Are you going to limit every other commenter here to one comment?
ed gleason | 8/23/2012 - 5:00pm
Tim Reidy I think it is kind.... yet amazing that you need to explain what a opinion journal is especially to Fox News watchers. .fair and balanced?  (-:
Mike Brooks | 8/23/2012 - 4:50pm
Tim Reidy, Moderator said, "We are a journal of opinion, not the New York Times...."

Best.  Comment.  Eva. 

Thanks, Mr. Cosgrove,  for all of your comments, especially those with the links that give us the missing side of a given posting.  One can't really make a fair assessment of an issue without hearing all sides.  Of course, instead of awaiting your comments I guess I could just go to the Huffington Post to get an unbiased perspective on an issue, LOL. 

Joshua DeCuir | 8/23/2012 - 4:07pm
"I don't find Kerry's piece one-sided, but rather a fair representation of what the majority of Catholic theologians and academics are saying about Ryan and his budget."

Do you REALLY think someone like Rick Garnett actually believes that "as long as they’re with the church on abortion then they get a pass on the rest of Catholic identity”?

If the majority of theologians and academics believe one thing (not precisely a unbiased bunch), wouldn't it be interesting to see what the minority has to say in an article purporting to explore what Ryan means for "Catholics"? 

I understand this isn't the New York Times (leaving aside whether that's the best example), but don't you think you might have SOME obligation to accurately represent both sides of an argument, especially in an article de-crying confirmation bias among us? 
Timothy Hogan | 8/26/2012 - 2:35pm
A vote to re-elect President Obama may be seen as informed by one’s conscience to support a candidate not totally acceptable to Catholics but, who nonetheless poses a far lesser evil to the dignity and sanctity of life than a vote for Mitt Romney.

Let's look at the facts:

Mitt Romney is "to the left of Ted Kennedy" on gay marriage and rights. 

Romney "fully supports a woman's right to chose, just like [his] mother did in her US Senate run in 1970." 

"Romney Care" pays for abortions while Obama's plan does not. 

Romney supports expanded unjust wars, expansion of the death penalty and approves of torture in violation of Catholic teaching. Obama got us out of Iraq, is getting us out of Afghanistan and ended torture as our national policy (supported by Romney).

Romney supported stem cell research and has a similar contraceptive policy to Obama's in his healthcare plan. Obama's plan allows employers and employees to opt out, to not buy insurance and pay a fine.

Romney is on the wrong side of the Church on the federal minimum wage, the right to organize in the workplace, comprehensive immigration reform, climate change, the environment, equal pay for women, health care for the unborn, infants and children. Romney says he’s “unemployed.”  
 
Romney's tax policies of additional breaks for corporations, millionaires and billionaires would be paid for by the working poor and Middle Class. The elderly, poor, pregnant women, the unborn, children and the disabled will be left on the streets to fend for themselves for food, shelter and access to healthcare.

Romney’s many failures regarding “non-negotiable” issues and his many failures to support Catholic values are known to Catholic leaders. But, there will be a loud voice of support from those which ignore Romney's grievous faults and continue to lead the Church away from the Gospels of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Catholics might seriously be urged to vote for President Obama.
David Smith | 8/24/2012 - 1:06am
We are a journal of opinion, not the New York Times, and while we have a responsibility to inform our readers, we do not have to represent every Catholic point of view in our pages, especially in cases where that point of view is in the distinct minority.
Wouldn't it be a much better journal if it were not predictably partisan, Tim? Many of us - maybe most of us - are fed up to the gills with partisan journalism - of any stripe. What intelligent readers need most is dependable guidance through the fens and bogs of unremitting raw news noise. At the very least, a politically progressive Catholic journal ought, out of simply honesty, to stop calling itself ''The National Catholic Weekly''. It's nothing of the sort.
J Cosgrove | 8/23/2012 - 3:20pm
Also I object strenuously to the characterization in this OP that


''Ryan represents group of Catholics who believe that as long as they’re with the church on abortion then they get a pass on the rest of Catholic identity”


This is so untrue.  A lot of the opposition to the Democratic Party by Catholics is that its policies have been so harmful to the poor and they have essentially created the large underclass in our society and it is spreading to all ethnic and racial groups.  So it is beyond the pale that the author printed this assertion.  Ryan apparently cares more for the poor than all these Catholic theologians who don't seem to know the history of the very harmful unintended consequences of government social policy since the mid 1960's.