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Bishops Still Giving Paul Ryan a Free Pass

April 12, 2012, 12:15 pm | Posted by Dan Nejfelt

Today the US Catholic bishops released a statement arguing in part that the contraception coverage mandate is part of a greater threat to religious liberty and exhorting Catholics to mount a massive “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign in response.

Meanwhile, they continue to shy away from the federal budget debate even though budget author Paul Ryan blew off their request that crucial safety net programs be preserved and is distorting  church teaching by publicly defending his budget on Catholic theological grounds. If that doesn’t amount to thumbing his nose at the bishops, I don’t know what does.

But still they’ve said little. The disparity between their response to Ryan and their response to the contraception coverage rulings reflects their priorities and reveals just how much impact they could make. Here’s a primer on what they’ve done:

Contraception coverage mandate                                                   Ryan 2013 federal budget

  1. Issued numerous press releases                                                    1. Sent Congress a letter
  2. Spoken on the record with countless reporters                                 2.  TBD
  3. Discussed it on Meet the Press and Face the Nation
  4. Ran full page ads in the New York Times and Washington Post
  5. Circulated bulletin inserts in parishes nationwide
  6. Preached about it in pulpits nationwide
  7. Organized fasts and rallies nationwide
  8. Aggressively lobbied the Obama administration
  9. Accused the Obama administration of unfair negotiating
  10. Testified at high-profile Congressional hearings
  11. Endorsed the ludicrous Blunt Amendment
  12. Condemned specific policies in dismissive terms

The Catholic Church has always been a powerful leader in the fight to protect the most vulnerable, and in past decades (especially the 1980′s) Catholic bishops were at the forefront of debates over economic issues. Just last year they lobbied behind the scenes and were leaders in the Circle of Protection which publicly spoke out against immoral budget priorities.

But right now one of the most powerful Catholics in American politics is publicly claiming that church teaching says his plan to take food and health care away from millions of vulnerable Americans is the right thing to do — and the bishops are remaining silent.

Their all-out effort to make sure Catholic Taco Bell owners can deny their employees contraception coverage, by contrast, shows just how forceful they can be. As the moral debate about economic fairness and budget priorities takes center stage in the 2012 election, I hope they will summon their moral leadership to put some real resources and political capital into rejecting Paul Ryan’s cruel, cowardly agenda for America’s future.

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