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Catholic Bishops Slam Ryan Plan

By Kelly Thomas - Posted on 18 April 2012

As a Catholic woman who has been rather disappointed and confused by outdated and illogical church leadership and positions over time, I think the Bishops got this one right. They pretty much blasted the Ryan budget as going against the teachings of the Bible.

WASHINGTON—As Congress began working on the FY 2013 budget and spending bills this week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote several letters that repeated and reinforced the bishops’ ongoing call to create a “circle of protection” around poor and vulnerable people and programs that meet their basic needs and protect their lives and dignity. The bishops’ message calls on Congress and the Administration to protect essential help for poor families and vulnerable children and to put the poor first in budget priorities. The bishops’ letters oppose measures that reduce resources for essential safety net programs.

In the letters, Bishops Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, and Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairmen of the Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, respectively, urged Congress to resist proposed cuts in hunger and nutrition programs at home and abroad saying that “a just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons.”

On April 4, Bishop Blaire cautioned that “at a time when the need for assistance from [affordable housing] programs is growing, cutting funds for them could cause thousands of individuals and families to lose their housing and worsen the hardship of thousands more in need of affordable housing.” He also reminded Congress that the Catholic community is one of the largest private, nonprofit providers of affordable housing in the country and is deeply involved in meeting the health housing and nutrition needs of families across the nation.

Bishops Blaire and Pates reaffirmed the “moral criteria to guide these difficult budget decisions” outlined in their March 6 budget letter:

1.Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.

2.A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.

3.Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times…

Just solutions, however, must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.

In April 16 and April 17 letters to the House Agriculture Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee addressing cuts required by the budget resolution, Bishop Blaire said “The House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.” Bishop Blaire also wrote that cuts to nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP- food stamps) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) will hurt hungry children, poor families, low-income workers and other vulnerable people. Additionally, he wrote that if cuts to the federal budget need to be made, savings should first be found in programs that target more affluent and powerful interests.

Boehner embraced the opinions of the Bishops when it came to birth control and "religious freedom" but now he refuses to listen to them or validate their concerns.

House Speaker John Boehner wants the Conference of Catholic Bishops to rethink its stinging critique of the Republican budget, which it said “fails to meet … moral criteria,” of protecting human dignity, prioritizing the needs of the hungry and homeless and promoting the common good.

At his weekly Capitol press availability, Boehner cast the GOP’s budget as a plan to preserve key federal support programs, which he said are growing unsustainable and will cease to exist without far-reaching reforms.

“What’s more of a concern to me is the fact that if we don’t begin to make some decisions about getting our fiscal house in order, there won’t be a safety net, there won’t be these programs,” Boehner said. “When you look at the fact that we have to make hard decisions, it’s about trying to make sure that we’re able to preserve these programs that are critically important to the poorest in our society.”

But the budget itself illustrates that the GOP has different priorities, reflecting the Bishops’ concerns.

It objects both to the GOP budget blueprint, and to its requirement that the House pass legislation cutting food stamps and other domestic programs to offset the cost of rescinding “sequestration” — the across-the-board cuts to national security and domestic spending programs set to take effect on Jan. 1.

Indeed, as illustrated here, the Republican budget calls for preserving high levels of spending on Medicare, Social Security and defense — but since the GOP refuses to increase taxes, it holds down deficits with massive cuts to Medicaid, SCHIP and most of the domestic budget.

The Bishops, an influential interest group on Capitol Hill, aren’t reading Republican priorities incorrectly, or failing to see the bigger picture, as Boehner suggested. And their warnings provide fodder for Democrats, who hope to break the GOP of its anti-tax absolutism.

“Just solutions,” the Bishops say in an official statement, “must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.”

After years of having my head explode over arguments about separation of church and state, I am coming to the conclusion that religious leaders -- for good, ill, and both -- have, will and probably should remain huge influences in political debates and action over individual rights.  This move by these Bishops  sounds like one of the "goods" -- the VERY goods.

 I am an unreconstructed hypocrite on separation of church and state. The Civil Rights Movement, Civil Rights Act, and the momentum they generated tohelp  launch the 70s feminist movement and Gay Lesbian movements do not happen without the political activism of the African-American church, especially in the South from mid 1950s - 1960s.  Period. How would I oppose this? And, more to the point, WHY?

I have tried for years to adopt, create, and ingest arguments that state that progressive forms of church-generated political activism are fundamentally "different" from arch conservative political church activism but, apart from skirting (or not)  certain 501 3C tax exemption clauses, they really are the same very often.

Church and state, to paraphrase the philosopher Frank Sinatra, go together like a horse and carriage.   Wishing these Bishops and Public Policy a long and happy life together.



I prefer a distinct separation of Church and State in theory, but I agree with you sometimes more good than bad can come out of religious influence in politics. And if religious values or activism can shape sound policy, how can I complain?

When it comes to the Catholic Bishops and beliefs, I have been upset over many political actions/positions such as:

-involvement in protests of Pres. Obama's speech (because he is Pro-Choice) at Notre Dame but no protests for Bush or others who support the death penalty or unjust wars

-being against abortion AND birth control when clearly the later can reduce the former!

-speaking out against the Affordable Health Care Act because of the perception it would cover birth control or abortion yet ignoring the many lives it would save (I should give credit to the nuns, however, who stood in unity supporting health care reform! You go girls!)

-being against gay adoption or closing down Catholic Charities (hurting MANY people!) because they have to allow "the gays" to adopt. Do we want to protect and enhance life or not?

I could go on and on with the many "issues" I struggle with regarding my religion. Honestly, I think if they allowed more women in positions of power in the Catholic Church, including priesthood, we would see a much different approach and open-mindedness (sorry if that sounds sexist!)

However, I appreciate their letter regarding the devastating Ryan Plan and the blunt honesty expressed of how harsh these policies would be on the poor. I think Jesus would sign on to that letter but I'm not sure he'd be with them on some of their other positions. My personal faith centers around WWJD even if that sometimes makes me a bad, disobedient Catholic. Not to encourage too much of a marriage between the church and politics, but I have always wondered why Republicans are associated with Christianity when the Democratic policies align much more directly. A good Democratic strategist (are there any out there?) would capitalize on this letter of protest and try to change that narrative so that Democrats are-slowly-seen as the party representing Christian values. It would be quite a miracle to see that "perception facelift" but I think it can be done over time and with the right messaging (again, are Democrats capable of that tall order?)


House panel okays $33 billion in food stamp cuts

(Reuters) - A congressional panel approved about $33 billion in cuts over 10 years from food assistance programs in a partisan vote that signaled Republican members' preference to trim social programs instead of farm programs or defense spending this year.

The cuts advanced by the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee on Wednesday are expected to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

But the vote done by voice, in which several Democrats uttered irritable 'nays', showed that Republicans will push domestic spending cuts over defense cuts or tax hikes as they try to replace automatic cuts that take effect in January.

- snip -

"I would contend this entire process is a waste of time," Representative Collin Peterson, the committee's top Democrat, said in opening remarks. "Taking a meat ax to nutrition programs that feed millions of hard-working families in an effort to avoid defense cuts is not a serious way to achieve deficit reduction," he said.


Majority are "children" that food stamps help feed. How "Christian" of them.

Link from TPM. Ryan attacks Bishops, dismisses their concerns.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) dismissed the concerns of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in an interview with Fox News on Thursday, after the powerful advocacy group criticized his budget for “failing to meet [the] moral criteria,” of protecting human dignity, prioritizing the needs of the hungry and homeless and promoting the common good. He also suggested that the criticism itself might not represent the Bishops’ consensus view — an insinuation the group directly rejects.

“These are not all the Catholic bishops, and we respectfully disagree,” Ryan said.

USCCB spokesman Don Clemmer cleared the air in an email to TPM. “Bishops who chair USCCB committees are elected by their fellow bishops to represent all of the U.S. bishops on key issues at the national level,” he said. “The letters on the federal budget were written by bishops serving in this capacity.”

Ryan took a similar tack recently when he defended his plan to provide the Pentagon more money than the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified was necessary to promote U.S. strategic interests. He suggested that the generals might have been toeing the Obama administration line and requesting fewer funds from Congress than the military really needs.

“We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice,” he said. “We don’t think the generals believe that their budget is really the right budget.”

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, fired back, “There’s a difference between having someone say they don’t believe what you said versus … calling us, collectively, liars,” he told reporters. “My response is: I stand by my testimony. This was very much a strategy-driven process to which we mapped the budget.”

Ryan later claimed he misspoke, and called Dempsey to apologize.

 “These are not all the Catholic bishops, and we respectfully disagree,” Ryan said"

This constitutes an "ATTACK"?  Ummm.... that's a little too Keith Olbermann  for my taste.

The GOP agreed to the spending cuts AND small revenue increases as a compromise to raising the debt ceiling which, incidently, was raised seven times under GWB. Now the House Republicans want to renege on the deal, and make more cuts than already agreed to, in order to fund more military programs that DOD says are not needed (the House Republicans know better than the generals exactly which expenditures the military needs).

For the life of me, I can't figure out WHY they, led by Paul Ryan, would want to push this, since it has ZERO chance to pass the Senate and, even if it did, it would be vetoed by the President. On top of that, the additional cuts are NOT SUPPORTED by the American public... but Grover Norquist is still not satisfied. In a showdown, the tea party will inevitably lose.

I think it will be a bloodbath in November.

Romney went far right to win the primaries, and now its more difficult to move to "the center". Everything is recorded, blogged, tweeted, in seconds. It's not like everything he is saying is going to disappear. With all his flip/flop problems, moving to the center will be more flip/flopping.

Romney say that Obama has failed, yet the GDP has grown each and every quarter since he was elected. The automotive industry is back on course. The DOW has gained 5000 under him. Romney keeps attacking Pres. Obama with lies, but present no solutions, in detail, to the problems facing America. The main problem with this strategy is we already know his economic plans, and it's not a pretty picture for the middle class. If Romney and Ryan get their way it will completely end the middle class as we know it.

Austerity (massive cuts), every economic conservative's favorite prescription for an ailing economy would be an utter disaster for employment. It does not work. The more a country has cut, the more unemployment it has. Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland have all had markets (and Germany) force them to radically reduce deficits amidst already deep slumps. The result has been even deeper slumps. Joblessness has jumped to levels not seen in advanced countries since the 1930s. (Source)

Keep Romney's hands off the economy.



I don't want to downplay the bishops' statement on the Ryan budget plan, but the bishops did not do this without significant goading from lay catholics. And, there is a significant number of catholics who do not just follow what bishops spout as a matter of course, especially when it (like being against contraception) makes little sense.

Yes-I agree they had lots of pressure. Why they seem to fight passionately against access to birth control without any nudging but need prodding to fight for the poor is beyond me and VERY telling of where their priorities are. I still think the statement was scathing and Ryan is contradicting his "bishops are always right and we must listen to them always" stance which he trotted out during the birth control fight.

Link from The Hill. And now Georgetown University protests Ryan's use of his Catholic faith to defend his budget plan. Glad he is getting so much push-back.

More than 80 Georgetown University faculty and administrators signed a letter to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday, challenging his use of Catholic teaching in defending his budget proposal.

Ryan is scheduled to speak at Georgetown on Thursday as part of the Catholic school’s Whittington Lecture series.

The letter cites correspondence, first obtained by The Hill, sent by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to the House and Senate criticizing the House-passed budget for failing to meet certain “moral criteria” by disproportionately cutting programs that “serve poor and vulnerable people.”

“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 Georgetown letter read in part.

“As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has wisely noted in several letters to Congress – ‘a just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons.’ Catholic bishops recently wrote that ‘the House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.’”

...The Georgetown letter also to Ryan also criticized cuts in his budget to food stamps and other assistance programs for the poor, claimed that Ryan “profoundly” misreads the church doctrine of “subsidiarity.” They authors of the letter included a copy of the Vatican's Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, commissioned by John Paul II, to “help deepen your understanding of Catholic social teaching.”

“In short, your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” the letter continues. “Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love.”

Ryan has cited Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged and an extreme Libertarian philosophy, as an influence of his.

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