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Catholic Scholars Teach Boehner Church Doctrine on the Poor

May 11, 2011, 11:32 am | Posted by Dan Nejfelt

Thumbnail image for boehner.jpgJohn Boehner will give the commencement address at The Catholic University of America on Saturday. The university obviously has the right to invite whomever they wish to speak, but it’s noteworthy that they chose a Catholic Speaker of the House who very recently passed a federal budget plan that contradicts Catholic Social Teaching in numerous ways.

Catholic leaders are using this as a teachable moment for Boehner. This week a delegation of Catholic University faculty are delivering to Boehner’s office a letter signed by more than 70 Catholic scholars, clergy and leaders – including 30 Catholic University faculty – about how the Republican budget plan recently passed by the House violates Catholic doctrine about treatment of the most vulnerable members of society. They’re also giving the Speaker a helpful resource to inform his policy positions – a copy of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, a Vatican publication that highlights centuries of Church teaching on social justice issues.

It’s important to note that, in contrast to the Catholic right’s effort to intimidate Notre Dame into withdrawing its commencement invitation to President Obama, this letter does NOT call on the university to disinvite Boehner or ask Boehner to cancel.

“Speaker Boehner’s budget eviscerates vital programs that protect the poor, the elderly, the homeless and at-risk pregnant women and children. This is not pro-life,” said Stephen Schneck, Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America. “As he visits our university to be honored as commencement speaker, we pray that the Speaker reflects on our Church’s ancient moral teachings and signs on with our bishops to endorse the Circle of Protection.”

Full text of the letter and the list of signatories is below the fold.

Dear Mr. Speaker,

We congratulate you on the occasion of your commencement address to The Catholic University of America. It is good for Catholic universities to host and engage the thoughts of powerful public figures, even Catholics such as yourself who fail to recognize (whether out of a lack of awareness or dissent) important aspects of Catholic teaching. We write in the hope that this visit will reawaken your familiarity with the teachings of your Church on matters of faith and morals as they relate to governance.

Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings. From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress. This fundamental concern should have great urgency for Catholic policy makers. Yet, even now, you work in opposition to it.

The 2012 budget you shepherded to passage in the House of Representatives guts long-established protections for the most vulnerable members of society. It is particularly cruel to pregnant women and children, gutting Maternal and Child Health grants and slashing $500 million from the highly successful Women Infants and Children nutrition program. When they graduate from WIC at age 5, these children will face a 20% cut in food stamps. The House budget radically cuts Medicaid and effectively ends Medicare. It invokes the deficit to justify visiting such hardship upon the vulnerable, while it carves out $3 trillion in new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. In a letter speaking on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Stephen Blaire and Bishop Howard Hubbard detailed the anti-life implications of this budget in regard to its impact on poor and vulnerable American citizens.

A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.

We also fear the human and social costs of substantial cuts to programs that serve families working to escape poverty, especially food and nutrition, child development and education, and affordable housing.

Representing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishops Hubbard and Blaire have now endorsed with other American Christian leaders a call to legislators for a “Circle of Protection” around programs for the poor that you, Mr. Speaker, have imperiled. The statement of these Christian leaders recognizes the need for fiscal responsibility, “but not at the expense of hungry and poor people.” Indeed, it continues, “These choices are economic, political–and moral. As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up–how it treats those Jesus called ‘the least of these’ (Matthew 25:45).”

Mr. Speaker, we urge you to use the occasion of this year’s commencement at The Catholic University of America to give fullest consideration to the teachings of your Church. We call upon you to join with your bishops and sign on to the “Circle of Protection.” It is your moral duty as a legislator to put the needs of the poor and most vulnerable foremost in your considerations. To assist you in this regard, we enclose a copy of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Published by the Vatican, this is the “catechism” for the Church’s ancient and growing teaching on a just society and Catholic obligations in public life.

Catholic social doctrine is not merely a set of goals to be achieved by whatever means one chooses. It is also a way of proceeding, a set of principles that are derived from the truth of the human person. In Pope Benedict’s words: “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way… the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite.”

We commend to you the Compendium’s discussion of the principles of the common good, the preferential option for the poor, and the interrelationship of subsidiarity and solidarity. Paragraph 355 on tax revenues, solidarity, and support for the vulnerable is particularly relevant to the moment.

Be assured of our prayers for you on this occasion and for your faithful living out of your vocation in public life.

Sincerely,

Stephen F. Schneck

Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies

The Catholic University of America

Ken Pennington

Kelly-Quinn Professor of Ecclesiastical and Legal History

The Catholic University of America

School of Canon Law

The Columbus School of Law

The Catholic University of America

Karen M. Korol

Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Studies

School of Theology and Religious Studies

Catholic University of America

Rett R. Ludwikowski, Ph.D.

Comparative and International Law Institute

Columbus School of Law

The Catholic University of America

Patricia C. McMullen, Ph.D., JD, CRNP

Dean

School of Nursing

The Catholic University of America

Kenneth P. Miller, Ph.D, RN, CFNP, FAAN

Associate Dean for Administration

School of Nursing

The Catholic University of America

Timothy J. Meagher

Associate Professor

Department of History

The Catholic University of America

Sr. Ann Patrick Conrad, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

National Catholic School of Social Service

The Catholic University of America

Sr. Vincentia Joseph, Ph.D.

Professor Emerita

National Catholic School of Social Service

The Catholic University of America

Maryann Cusimano Love, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Department of Politics

The Catholic University of America

Stephen McKenna, Ph.D.

Associate Professor & Chair

Department of Media Studies

The Catholic University of America

Linda Plitt Donaldson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

National Catholic School of Social Service

The Catholic University of America

Margaret Martin Berry

Columbus School of Law

The Catholic University of America

Leslie W. Tentler, Ph.D.

Ordinary Professor

Department of History

The Catholic University of America

Rev. Anthony J. Pogorelc, Ph.D.

Fellow

Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies

The Catholic University of America

William V. D’Antonio, Ph.D.

Fellow

Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies

The Catholic University of America

William Barbieri, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

School of Theology and Religious Studies

The Catholic University of America

Enrique Pumar, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Department of Sociology

The Catholic University of America

Joseph J. Shields

Associate Professor

The National Catholic School of Social Service

The Catholic University of America

Ellen M. Scully

Assistant Clinical Professor

Columbus Community Legal Services

Columbus School of Law

The Catholic University of America

Marie J. Raber, MSW, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Associate Dean and MSW Program Chair

National Catholic School of Social Service

The Catholic University of America

Michaela L. Zajicek-Farber, MSW, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

National Catholic School of Social Service

The Catholic University of America

William D. Dinges, Ph.D.

Ordinary Professor

School of Theology and Religious Studies

The Catholic University of America

William P. Loewe, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology

The Catholic University of America

Karlynn BrintzenhofeSzoc, Ph.D., MSW, OSW-C

Associate Professor

Director, Data Management & Outcomes Assessment

National Catholic School of Social Service

The Catholic University of America

James A. McCann, Ph.D.

Professor of Political Science

Purdue University

Visiting Fellow, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies

The Catholic University of America

Chris Grech

Associate Professor

School of Architecture and Planning

The Catholic University of America

Ernest M. Zampelli, Ph.D.

Ordinary Professor

Department of Business and Economics

The Catholic University of America

David A Lipton

Director, Securities Law Program

School of Law

The Catholic University of America

Murry Sidlin

Professor, School of Music

The Catholic University of America

John Sniegocki

Associate Professor of Christian Ethics

Xavier University

Cincinnati, OH

Kristin Suna-Koro, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Theology

Xavier University

Cincinnati, OH

Jean Lim

Visiting Professor, Theology

Xavier University

Cincinnati, OH

Arthur T. Dewey

Professor of Theology

Xavier University

Cincinnati, OH

Edward P. Hahnenberg, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Theology

Xavier University

Cincinnati, OH

Vincent J. Miller

Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture

Department of Religious Studies

University of Dayton

Una M. Cadegan

Associate Professor, Department of History

University of Dayton

Francis Xavier Doyle

Former Associate General Secretary

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Arturo Chavez, Ph.D.

President and CEO

Mexican American Catholic College

Gary Macy

John Nobili, S.J. Professor of Theology

Santa Clara University

Gerald J. Beyer

Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics

Department of Theology and Religious Studies

Saint Joseph’s University

Dr. Eugene J. Halus, Jr.

Associate Professor of Politics

Department of History and Politics

Immaculata University

Kristin Heyer

Associate Professor

Religious Studies

Santa Clara University

Bryan N. Massingale

Associate Professor of Theological Ethics

Marquette University

Dolores L. Christie

CTSA/John Carroll University

Alex Mikulich, Ph.D.

Research Fellow

Jesuit Social Research Institute

Loyola University

New Orleans, LA

Daniel K. Finn

Professor of Theology and Clemens Professor of Economics

St. John’s University

Collegeville, MN

Terrence W. Tilley

Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Professor of Catholic Theology

Chair, Theology Department

President, Society for Philosophy of Religion

Fordham University, Bronx, NY

Thomas J. Reese, S.J.

Senior Fellow

Woodstock Theological Center

Georgetown University

Bruce T. Morrill, S.J.

Professor, Theology Department

Boston College

Nancy Dallavalle

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies

Fairfield University

Lisa Sowle Cahill

Monan Professor of Theology

Boston College

Bradford Hinze

Professor of Theology

Fordham University

Mary Ann Hinsdale

Associate Professor of Theology

Boston College

Paul Lakeland

Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J. Professor of Catholic Studies

Director, Center for Catholic Studies

Jeannine Hill Fletcher

Associate Professor of Theology

Faculty Director, Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice

Fordham University

Paulette Skiba

Professor of Religious Studies

Clarke University

Dennis M. Doyle

Professor

Department of Religious Studies

University of Dayton

Maura Donahue, Ph.D.

Director, Program for Christian Leadership

University of Dayton

Richard R. Gaillardetz

Murray/Bacik Professor of Catholic Studies

University of Toledo

Christopher Pramuk

Assistant Professor of Theology

Xavier University

Marie Dennis

Director

Maryknoll Office for Global Concern

Mary Ann Brenden MSW, LICSW

Associate Professor of Social Work

St. Catherine University/University of St. Thomas School of Social Work

Mark Ensalaco, Ph.D.

Director, Human Rights Studies program

University of Dayton

Dr. Marie J. Giblin

Associate Professor

Theology Department

Xavier University

Frank Farrell, Ph.D.

Chair- Liberal Arts Division

Senior Associate Professor, Religion

Manor College

Rev. Joseph Nangle, OFM

Our Lady Queen of Peace

Arlington, VA

Todd Whitmore

Associate Professor of Christian Ethics

Department of Theology

University of Notre Dame

Christine Firer Hinze, Ph.D., B.A, M.A, CUA

Professor of Theology

Director, Francis & Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies

Fordham University

Ed Kelly

Adjunct Professor

University Writing Program

University of Notre Dame

Maria McKenna, Ph.D.

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Department of Africana Studies

University of Notre Dame

Sr. Mary Hughes, OP

President

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Ron Pagnucco

Chairman

Department of Peace Studies

College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University

Michael A. Zampelli, SJ

Paul Locatelli, SJ Professor

Department of Theater and Dance

Rector, Santa Clara Jesuit Community

Santa Clara University

John A. Coleman, SJ

Casassa Professor of Social Values, Emeritus

Loyola Marymount University

Jim Hug, S.J.

President

Center of Concern

Lew Daly

Director, Fellows Program

Demos

Author of God’s Economy: Faith-Based Initiatives and the Caring State

John A. Barba

will receive Ph.D. in Historical and Systematic Theology at Catholic University graduation on Saturday

2 Responses to “Catholic Scholars Teach Boehner Church Doctrine on the Poor”

  1. Louis says:

    ‘ve never read the faith in public life blog before hearing about the letter to Boehner. After review of the top stories on the blog and the coincidental location of the organization, it’s pretty clear the viewpoints of this blog are in lock-step with the Democratic Party. As a Catholic I believe in compassion and generosity for the poor and for those that cannot help themselves. However, what is occuring in this country, and assisted through your preaching that government programs are the answer, is that the poor, less able and many times the undeserved are supported by those that have a little more not just by free will, but by the force of government. God believes in helping all through free will and with human liberties intact. Nothing can perverse that more than the Democrat government using Catholic organizations to promote the creation programs and policies for “charity” by forcing others to act at the expense of their free will. These same Catholic organizations should look internally to further grow these programs outside of government. Shameful. What’s ever more shameful is this post will probably never make it public at the discretion of the site owner.

  2. Alice Sullivan says:

    How many of the letter writers were Democrats? how many Republicans….