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'Idolizer Of The Market': Paul Ryan Can't Quite Hear The Catholic Church's Call For Economic Justice

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Paul Ryan accuses President Obama of engaging in "sowing social unrest and class resentment." The House Budget Committee chairman says the president is "preying on the emotions of fear, envy and resentment."

Paul Ryan accuses Elizabeth Warren of engaging in class warfare. The House Budget Committee chairman the Massachusetts US Senate candidate is guilty of engaging in the "fatal conceit of liberalism."

But what about the Catholic Church, which has taken a far more radical position on economic issues than Obama or Warren? What does the House Budget Committee chairman, a self-described "good Catholic," do then?

If you're Paul Ryan, you don't decry the church for engaging in class warfare. Instead, you spin an interpretation of the church's latest pronouncements that bears scant resemblance to what's been written -- but that just happens to favor your political interests.

Ryan's certainly not the only Catholic politician in Washington to break with the church.

For years, Catholic Democrats from House minority leader Nancy Pelosi to Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to former House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey have taken their hits for adopting positions that are at odds with the church's teachings with regard to reproductive rights and same-sex marriage.

But many of the same politicians who align with the church on social issues are at odds with the social-justice commitment it brings to economic debates.

Ryan's rigidly right-wing approach to issues of taxation and spending, as well as his deep loyalty to Wall Street (he led the fight to get conservatives to back the 2008 bank bailout), has frequently put him at odds with the church's social-justice teaching.

But never has the distinction been more clear than in recent days, as Ryan's statements have reemphasized his status as the leading congressional spokesman for policy positions that are dramatically at odds with those expressed in a major new statement by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace?

That puts the congressman in a difficult spot.

Ryan has always identified as a Catholic politician, and he has frequently suggested that he is guided by the teachings of the church, going so far as to write in a July 2011 column for a Catholic publication that "Catholic social teaching is indispensable for officeholders."

So what, Ryan was asked after the release of the Pontifical Council's statement, did the House Budget Committee chairman think of proposals that the Rev. Thomas Reese of Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center suggests are "closer to the views of Occupy Wall Street than anyone in the US Congress"?

Time magazine observes: "Those politicians who think the Dodd-Frank law went too far in attempting to reform Wall Street will likely need smelling salts after taking a look at a proposal for reforming the global financial system that was released by the Vatican." Calling into question the entire foundation of neo-liberal economics and proposing one world financial order? You never know what those radicals over at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace will come up with next."

So what was Paul Ryan's take?

What did the chairman of the House Banking Committee  think of the pontifical council's highlighting of Pope John Paul II's criticism of the "idolatry of the market"? What of the council's call for "the reform of the international monetary system and, in particular, the commitment to create some form of global monetary management" that will end abuses and inequity and restore "the primacy of the spiritual and of ethics needs to be restored and, with them, the primacy of politics -- which is responsible for the common good -- over the economy and finance"?

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

Nichols writes about politics (more...)
 

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"Fatal conceit of liberalism"? WTF is that? Must e... by Jack Shneidman on Tuesday, Nov 1, 2011 at 9:13:01 PM