For a second time, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin has expressed praise of Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP Congressman beleagured by persistent Catholic criticism of his radical budget proposal and his poor theological justifications for it.
As before, Morlino made the comments in an interview with EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo. While claiming that he doesn’t have to “approve” of the particulars Ryan’s budget, Bishop Morlino praised the Congressman’s “approach” as responsible and “in accordance with Catholic principles.” He also threw in some harsh words for the Nuns on a Bus tour while he’s at it:
MORLINO: Congressman Ryan has made his prudential judgment about how best to serve the long-term needs of the poor. He has done that in accord with Catholic principles. I don’t have to approve his decision or his budget or anything else. What I do approve of is that he is a responsible Catholic layman who understands his mission and carries it out very responsibly. I feel very strongly about that. The details of his solution are not mine to approve or disapprove, that’s not my field.
I would think that the religious sisters though should concentrate on giving that witness of holiness of all the wonderful works that they do, rather than busing around for political issues…There are many Catholics who feel that way about the sisters, they really don’t like this. Their expectation from the sisters is really not this kind of leadership.
While Bishop Morlino might not think judging the actual budget proposal is his field, his fellow bishops on the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development (whose job is to do just that) already have, and they found it severely misguided.
Committee Chairmen Blaire and Pates have pointed out that Ryan’s basic approach is to make deep cuts in programs that protect the most vulnerable while protecting all military programs and spending even more money on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.
It’s this fundamental imbalance that has led them to describe Ryan’s budget as failing “a basic moral test.” Since that characterization applies to the budget on a broad principled level, not even the guise of “prudential judgment” can excuse Ryan’s approach as responsible.
Morlino’s comments, then, put him at direct odds with the USCCB’s own leaders on this issue, spokesmen whom the conference have specifically reiterated “do represent all the U.S. bishops.”
As the US Catholic bishops launch their “Fortnight for Freedom” to protest the HHS contraception regulation, dioceses around the country are holding various events to join the campaign. One of the most enthusiastic dioceses is Oklahoma City, which held a rally at the city’s downtown convention center today organized by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and a group of lay Catholics called St. Peter’s Fellowship.
This same picture was the center of a similar controversy earlier this month when The Daily Advertiser, a Gannett-owned Lousiana paper, ran it in an advertisement from a far-right group comparing the Obama administration’s activities to the execution.
St. Peter’s Fellowship says they’re operating with the blessing of Oklahoma City Archbishop Coakley. If the Archbishop doesn’t want to be seen as co-opted by right-wing extremists, he would be wise to exercise some more oversight with whom he partners.
Today on the Iowa conservative radio show “Mickelson in the Morning,” host Jan Mickelson had on Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) to talk about the Nuns on the Bus tour and the Ryan budget. Objecting to the tour, Mickelson asked Latham whether he had any power to pull over the bus and “pistol whip” the nuns:
MICKELSON: There’s a bus full of nuns headed towards Washington to lobby against the Ryan plan. Do you guys, do you have any power to pull the Nuns on the Bus over and pistol whip them?
LATHAM: It’s always fun to be on your show [Laughs]
While Congressman Latham doesn’t express outright support for Mickelson’s statement, he seems unfazed by the suggestion and happy to laugh off this grotesque call for violence on women religious. It’s unacceptable for anyone, let alone an elected representative, to tacitly condone suggestions of violence. Rep. Latham should apologize and clarify that he would never support “pistol whipping” religious sisters.
As Simone Campbell explained in an interview this week, one of the purposes of the Nuns on the Bus tour is to respond to Catholic conservatives such as House GOP budget author Paul Ryan, who falsely argued that his radical plan to gut the safety net and slash taxes for millionaires is consistent with Catholic social teaching (and tried to dismiss the bishops when they rebuked him).
But Paul Ryan wasn’t the only Catholic who supported the bill — 58 other Catholic House members voted in favor of it this year, and the nuns are hoping to talk to a few of them. One of those members is Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois, at whose office the bus tour stopped yesterday. Unlike Congressman Ryan, Walsh didn’t try to argue that the budget upholds Catholic teaching — he just admitted he thinks the Church is wrong:
My Catholic teaching tells me that it’s my responsibility to take care of my fellow man,” he said. “That’s not the government’s responsibility. It’s mine. … Oftentimes, the Catholic Church can be misguided on economy and government.
Coming to different conclusions than Church leadership about how to put Catholic moral teachings into practice isn’t unusual for Catholic politicians. Conservative commentators just like to pretend only Democrats do it. It’s refreshing to hear a Catholic Republican acknowledge the disagreement.