One thing is certain about tonight’s vice presidential debate.
A Catholic will win.
Some clever headline writers are calling the debate “A Catholic smackdown.” But far more is stake than a tussle between two candidates.
The gulf between the policies of Joe Biden and Paul Ryan reflects a divide both within this country and within the Catholic Church. Should the priority be placed on issues such as abortion and contraception, as many bishops prefer, or on demands for social justice?
On Wednesday Oct. 10, a diverse group of more than 100 theologians and academics released a sharp critique of Ryan’s budget.
The critique is titled “On All of Our Shoulders — a reference to Ryan’s favorite author, Ayn Rand, whose book “Atlas Shrugged” put forth a libertarian perspective of Atlas and his mythological task to carry the world on his shoulders. (Yes, this all gets a bit thick, but what do you expect from Catholic theologians?)
The statement is not a quick read, but the basic point is clear in the opening sentences:
We write as Catholic theologians, academics and ministers concerned for our nation and for the integrity of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. We write to hold up aspects of the Church's social doctrine that are profoundly relevant to the challenges our nation faces at this moment in history, yet are in danger of being ignored. At a moment when the ideas of Atlas Shrugged influence public debate and policy, we write to proclaim the Catholic truth that the stewardship of common good rests upon all of our shoulders together. This is a responsibility we dare not shrug. We fulfill this obligation in myriad ways, but indispensibly among them, through the policies of our government. We highlight these principles of the Church's social doctrine in the hope that their substance will better influence our political and policy debates.
And, just to be clear. the theologians go on to state: “Our concern is that Ryan and his Catholic supporters, must be informed … that some of his positions are fundamentally at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
A Catholic critique of Ryan’s budget proposals first surfaced in the popular media during the “Nuns on the Bus” multi-state tour last summer to highlight the nuns’ work on behalf of poor people and to organize against Ryan’s budget.
And now there is the “Ohio Nuns on the Bus.”
Beginning Oct. 15, Catholic nuns in Ohio will start a 1,000-mile tour throughout the state to call for “solidarity, justice and the common good. And to supported “a faithful budget that affirms the life of all God’s children — not just the wealthiest few.”
As Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne Jr notes, “It’s no accident that the nuns are waging their Ohio campaign against the Ryan budget during the week of the vice presidential debate.”
“Who better than a group of women who have consecrated their lives to the Almighty to remind us that our decisions in November have ethical consequences?” he asks.
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This blog is cross-posted at my blog, “View from the Heartland: Honoring the Wisconsin tradition of common decency and progressive politics.” At the blog, www.barbarajminer.blogspot.com/, you can also sign up for email notifications.