And for that, he's been called a lot of hateful things by those who depend on the social safety net that strangles initiative, autonomy and hope in its bureaucratic webbing. One of the things that has really angered me is the way people who never before cared what the Catholic bishops thought have started using their words as a way to attack Ryan. It angers me for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being the fact that I'm a Catholic woman who sees virtue and consistency in Ryan and rank hypocrisy in his critics.
While most so-called progressives are what I'd call "Holy See Sick," ridiculing principles and positions that form the backbone of our spiritual teachings, there are those rare political moments when being Catholic becomes "cool." It happened this week, when a liberal blogger started, um, pontificating about how not even the Catholic bishops could stomach Paul Ryan's cruel and draconian budget. Sally Steenland, of the Huffington Post, wrote a blog entitled "Religious Leaders Condemn Ryan/Romney Budget" in which she stated that "Catholic bishops have called the Ryan budget 'unjustified and wrong and failing a moral test.' " I scoured the Internet after reading that, certain I'd find a comment from Ms. Steenland quoting her prelate buddies when they opposed President Obama's birth-control mandate (you know, the one that violates the First Amendment) or their denunciation of abortion which, if anything, fails a moral test much greater than any tax cut. And what did I find? Nada.
This confirmed what Jonah Goldberg observed in his new book, The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat In the War of Ideas: " John Kerry says his religious faith drives him to fight for the poor and the environment and all of that stuff. But when it comes to abortion, he suddenly cannot impose an article of his faith." Kerry is, of course, one of those pro-choice Catholics who hate to tell other people what to do with their bodies but have no problem telling them what to do with their diets, their wallets and their compost. Like Steenland, he has a very selective view of Catholic morality, and that selectivity looks an awful lot like hypocrisy when it's used to attack a Catholic like Paul Ryan.
So it might be helpful to listen to what Mitt Romney's newly minted running mate has to say about the intersection of his faith, his politics and true social justice. Earlier this year, Ryan spoke at Jesuit Georgetown and made some observations that, given the daggers currently being thrown in his direction, seem prophetic:
"What I have to say about the social doctrine of the Church is from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding to the problems of the day ... the overarching threat to our whole society today is the exploding federal debt. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has charged that governments, communities and individuals running up high debt levels are 'living at the expense of future generations' and 'living in untruth.' "
I'm sure Ryan meant no disrespect to the bishops when he went over their heads to quote their boss in support of his proposition that unchecked debt is also a form of moral failure. Sadly, ransoming our children's future and mischaracterizing it as "serving the poor" passes for social justice among certain Kerry-style Catholics. Not surprisingly, they're the ones liberals tend to call upon for moral legitimacy in this budget debate, but when it comes to other quality-of-life issues like abortion and euthanasia, religious people are ignored.
So, until I see progressives applauding the bishops and those bus-riding nuns for their conscientious stands against the gravest threats to the weakest among us - the unborn and the ailing - I'll be taking their newfound affection for Catholic social justice with a grain of salt.
One as big as the Rock of Peter.
Christine Flowers is a lawyer. Send email to email@example.com and read her blog at philly.com/FlowersShow.