Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Defending the Speaker

Representative John Boehner of Ohio, Speaker of the House and a professed Catholic, has been selected to give the commencement address this year at the Catholic University of America in Washington D. C. In response to this honor bestowed upon Boehner, a letter has been issued, signed by Catholic college and university faculty from across the country, which states that Boehner's record as a legislator “is at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings." Specifically the letter points to the Church's preferential option for the poor and Boehner's conservative stance on "social justice" issues.

This is a bold assertion given the tendency of these same 'Catholic' academics to ally themselves with the dark forces of the "culture of death" simply to advance their Statist agenda of ever-expanding bureaucracy. Many in prominent positions at Catholic institutions of higher learning are willing to support politicians who turn a blind eye to the killing of innocent babies in the womb and the destruction of family and marriage, as long as these elected officials will grow the size of government in the name of "social justice." How can they criticize Boehner (or anyone with such a solid record supporting Church teaching on these moral issues) when their own record is so deplorable?

In response to this letter of attack against the Speaker, Rev. Robert Sirico, the president and co-founder of the Acton Institute, writes succinctly concerning the difference between issues of "life and family"  and economic or "social justice" issues when it comes to judging a politician's record from a Catholic perspective:
"It appears then that these Catholic academicians who have written to Speaker Boehner do not understand the distinctions the Church herself makes between fundamental, non-negotiable dogmas and doctrines, and the prudential and debatable give and take when it comes to applying the principles of Catholic social teaching. Here Speaker Boehner need only consult the text of the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching, which the authors of the letter say they have delivered to him, wherein he will read: 'The Church’s Magisterium does not wish to exercise political power or eliminate the freedom of opinion of Catholics regarding contingent questions.' (no. 571)

"The specifics of the 2012 Budget proposed by the Speaker and his colleagues are, the letter’s authors contend, the result of either ignorance or 'dissent.'  I think they are neither; they simply reflect a different, and in many people’s estimation, more accurate and economically-informed way, of proposing how we achieve worthy goals. Indeed, it could be said that what these Catholic academicians are proposing is not a 'preferential option for the poor,' but rather a preferential option for the State. They make the unfortunately common error of assuming that concern for the economically weak and marginalized must somehow translate into (yet another) government program.

"That assumption is wrong, and flies in the face of another principle of Catholic social teaching — the principle of subsidarity. With good reason, this is something the Catholic Left — or whatever remains of it these days — rarely mentions or grapples with, because they know that it would raise many questions about the prudence of any number of welfare programs they support.

"Indeed, what strikes me about this letter to Speaker Boehner is how reactionary it is. Instead of seeking to contribute to a creative discussion about how we best meet the needs of the poor in a time of economic difficulty, its authors cannot even begin to contemplate that there may be better ways to address such problems than government welfare programs. For a group of people who, I suspect, pride themselves upon having 'progressive' views, their attachment to broken models from the past is rather perplexing and frankly, tiring."
Read the entire commentary by Rev. Sirico here.

See also this piece by Kathryn Lopez at

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