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Paul Ryan blows off Catholic bishops. How will they respond?

March 21, 2012, 1:16 pm | Posted by Dan Nejfelt

Paul Ryan is Catholic, and he seems to care what leaders of his church think about his federal budget priorities. Last year, he took the time to send then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan a detailed (yet shoddy) theological defense of his federal budget plan, which flouted Catholic social teaching on poverty, economic inequality and health care. Dolan’s response was so indirect and tepid that some in the media misconstrued it as an endorsement of Ryan’s proposal.

Fast-forward to 2012. Two weeks ago the US Conference of Catholic Bishops sent Congressional leadership a letter calling on Congress to put defense cuts on the table and to spare food stamps, health care, and other crucial protections from harmful budget cuts.

Yesterday, Ryan unveiled a federal budget plan that increased military spending, made explicit, draconian cuts to food stamps and Medicaid, and called for overall spending reductions that would necessitate gutting every domestic program that protects the vulnerable. He seems to have blown off their request altogether.

The bishops were wise to spell out clear moral priorities in advance of the budget’s release. Their voices are needed in this debate. I’m anxious to see how they respond to Ryan’s direct disregard of their counsel and Catholic social teaching. The contraception debate has shown that Church leaders are capable of mounting aggressive and formidable political efforts. Will they put as much political muscle into protecting the poor from devastating cuts as they’re putting into ensuring that Catholic Taco Bell owners can deny their employees coverage of contraception?

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