Rosa DeLauro, CNS, and the Disoriented Catholic Left

One does wonder, sometimes, just what goes on at Catholic News Service (CNS), an agency that wouldn’t exist were it not for the U.S. bishops and the bishops’ conference. This past April 16, CNS distributed a lengthy interview with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., giving her a platform to blast the 2013 federal budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and to badger Cardinal Timothy Dolan to pay as much attention to “the poor, the hungry, the middle class, the people who are going to be evisceratedby the Ryan budget” as Dolan and the bishops he leads are paying to the defense of religious freedom.

The Congresswoman’s appeal was specifically Catholic—“my Church, the Catholic Church, needs to speak out loud on this issue”—which involved an irony left wholly unexamined by CNS. For Rosa DeLauro’s voting record is in some tension, to put it gently, with Catholic understandings of justice.

The Catholic Church teaches the inalienable right to life of the unborn and insists that that obvious moral truth be acknowledged in law; Rep. DeLauro is a consistent pro-abortion vote in the House. The Catholic Church worked with District of Columbia education authorities to provide “opportunity scholarships” to Catholic inner-city schools for poor children; Rep. DeLauro supportedthe Obama administration’s cruel refusal to fund that program. The bishops have declared that religious freedom is under serious assault in theUnited  Statestoday; the gentlewoman fromConnecticuthas been notably AWOL in defending the first of American liberties.

How, then does Congresswoman DeLauro imagine herself as someone who speaks for “my Church, the Catholic Church?”  My hunch is that she imagines herself a spokesperson for authentic Catholicism because she, like many other Catholics on the port side of both American politics and the Church, have long thought that they alone hold the high ground at the intersection of Catholic social teaching and public policy.

Memo to Congresswoman DeLauro and friends: Those days are over.

They’re over because four decades of intellectual and political work, coupled with extensive care for women in crisis pregnancies, have made the pro-life cause the cultural marker of serious Catholicism in America.

They’re over because much of the Catholic left has obstinately refused to promote religious freedom in full and the inalienable right to life as priority social justice issues.

And they’re over because contemporary history has vindicated Catholicism’s anti-statist social justice principle, subsidiarity.

The impending fiscal meltdown of European welfare states vindicates subsidiarity by making clear that providing necessary aid to those in genuine need means, among other measures, developing the associational and charitable instincts of civil society. The alternative is state bankruptcy and social chaos.

Then there is Obamacare, which flatly contradicts subsidiarity and its principled rejection of vast concentrations of state power—the dangers of which are amply demonstrated by the coercive HHS “contraceptive mandate.” The universal health care the Church rightly seeks must be accomplished by means other than handing over one-sixth of the economy (and critical medical decisions) to unregulated regulators.

These home truths are bad news for Rosa DeLauro and those of her persuasion. Now, to make matters worse, here is Paul Ryan, a congressman of uncommon intelligence who can ably argue the public policy implications of Catholic social doctrine and who understands that what the Church asks of a just society is the empowerment of the poor: breaking the cycle of welfare dependency and unleashing the creativity the Church believes God builds into every human soul.

Paul Ryan is the Catholic left’s worst nightmare and his demonization from that quarter has just begun. Ryan is a big boy, though, and he’ll fight his corner well. That argument might even lead to some consensus about empowerment-based anti-poverty strategies and fiscally responsible social welfare policies among serious Catholics of both political parties.

Rather than being a megaphone for dissenting Catholics posing as authentic representatives of the Church and hyperventilating about people being “eviscerated” by a budget, might CNS help provide a level playing field for the debate?

George Weigel


George Weigel is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and the author, most recently, of The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II⎯The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy.

  • Alex

    I remember hearing Mother Angelica, many years ago, telling about the Bishops wanting to take over EWTN. She said there was no way she would let them run it. Thank goodness, and it has remained a faithful font of Catholic instruction.

  • MAT

    Will there ever be sanity and good common sense? Oh, how I hope you’re right that the left-leaning attacks of the Church and her teachings are losing any sense of credibility. And CNS? There needs to accountability.

  • Philopus

    Thank you George, for this insightful article. It seems time
    to either reform the CNS or eliminate it. A similar wayward effort of the
    Bishops is The Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The CCHD has been and
    continues to see reform after the Church Militant (us) pointed out numerous
    flaws. Your article is helpful in pointing out CNS’s many flaws.

    Speaking of reform, it seems that public figures who promote
    serious scandal in the church need to be censured by the local ordinary if not

  • Graham Combs

    I recall reading a CNS columnist in the Michigan Catholic some time ago who wondered “where are all the rebels?”   I could only wonder, rebelling against what and for what?  But CNS is the sole national news source for MC and it has been many many moons since the official publication of the Archdiocese of Detroit has printed a George Weigel essay.  Not their kind of countercultural rebel.   AOD has also replaced EWTN with Catholic TV.   So be it.   As far as the Bishops’ Conference and religious liberty goes … this is not a “teachable moment” for the Church, but a moment to listen and learn.    Few here in Southeastern Michigan are asking how and why this Constitutional crisis arose.   The marching orders are literally be quiet and get in line.    I guess there will be no million dollar academic study querying how we got here.   I still see more negative scrutiny of the Founders than of the President.    As for this crisis uniting Catholics, I don’t see nearly as much evidence of that as is claimed.   Perhaps if we took seriously the teaching that our union is in a Who not a what …

  • Mima

    Thank you, George, for saying what has needed to be said for so long!  You give me courage to speak up, and defend our faith.

  • Jcsmitty1212

    I’ve never understood why diocesan newspapers are filled with articles from CNS that have such liberal slants. When Obama promised he’d make the pro abortion Freedom of Choice Act a priority if elected, there was nothing about it in our local diocesan paper despite letters to the editor from yours truly and others. Yet immediately after Obama’s election, there was a postcard campaign by the bishops opposing FOCA in every parish. Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has left!!! CNS is a disgrace, but then the bishops have been captive to the Democrat party for so long that it shouldn’t be a surprise. Someone needs to tell CNS that the bishops have woken up!

  • Jcsmitty1212

    I should have pointed out below that my letters to the editor re: FOCA went unpublished.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    Next in line for the Vatican to appoint a bishop to investigate are:
    #1 Catholic News Service
    #2 Catholic Campaign for Human Development (changed its name because of the ACORN scandal).
    #3 Catholic Relief Services
    #4 Catholic Charities USA
    #5 Catholic Hospital Assn.

    All those who work for any of these agencies which are so critical for the Church and her work should be asked to sign a document similar to the one drawn up by Bishop Robert Vasa when he was bishop of Bend OR.  This document  required those occupying public roles in the Church  to attest to the fact that they affirm and believe the basic teachings of the Church as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    You would do well to access that document; your head will spin.

    The time has come to do the same with those who occupy public  leadership roles in agencies that  use the word “Catholic.” 

    • Voxfidei

      You can add and its various incarnations too. EWTN is not free of wolves in sheep’s clothes that appear orthodox but are something else. Thank God they’re not many. This ilk is passing. Some are repenting and changing. Duty, obedience, fidelity to   the faith of our fathers… all that is good shall prevail and survive. The rest is chaff that the wind of history will carry away. Great article!

    • Bob M

      Deacon Ed, your response scares me. We have people on the front line living out the beatitudes in the name of the Catholic Church and you want to call people to the carpet to do what exactly, recite the newest version of the Creed without looking down at the prayer card? Look at the broader picture to see the good these institutions do and worry less about each individual’s intent. We need to trust that the Holy Spirit will guide us as a Church toward what is right. You can find examples in every institution of people gone astray, even within the institution you want to investigate the others. 

      • Deacon Ed Peitler

        you are poorly informed.  what if I provided you with concrete evidence that a Catholic Charities agrncy in one diocese actually escorted and signed for an abortion for a minor female in their custody?  that should scare the hell out of you.

        • Bob M

          I know of all these stories Deacon Ed, but anecdotal stories aren’t a reason to put an entire agency under review. I am as aggrieved as you when these tragedies happen, but investigating the entire agency would be extreme. Couldn’t the same problem be addressed by the local bishop? Shouldn’t the same problem be addressed by the local bishop?

          Even with an investigation by whoever –  bishop, the Vatican – we are still going to have people act outside the tenants of our faith on occasion. You only have to look at any survey of practicing Catholics to see large percentages don’t practice what our faith teaches when it comes to contraception, abortion, marriage. So to think out of the 65,000 employees and 200,000 volunteers working for Catholic Charities, all are perfectly in line with Church beliefs is unrealistic. 

          Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services should be held out as beacons of faith by all of us. They do the work required of us by Christ every hour of every day. They are led by the most compassionate of priest, religious, and laity. I am humbled by what they do in the name of the Catholic Church.

          And as for CNS, to believe that there is some strong undercurrent of subversive messaging being orchestrated is folly. I have worked with some people at CNS, and met many others, and I would never subject them to an inquiry on their faith because again, they practice it through their work. These are people of faith who work for the Catholic press by choice. Most are talented enough to go out into the secular world and make twice the money they earn through the Catholic press, but they see what they do as a vocation. If you read every story they made available during the course of the year, you’d be hard pressed to find any kind of pattern of them working against Church teachings. 

          These ongoing battles between good Catholics and bad are wasted time.  They detract us from doing good, caring for others, loving. While you and I are debating the Catholicity of an agency, the people working for them are feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, providing compassionate medical care, or writing a story about martyred Christians in Iraq. They need to defend that?

          Putting up a list of agencies to investigate makes me uncomfortable. All of this sideline scoring of who is or who isn’t an authentic Catholic makes me even more uncomfortable. 

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  • Cathy

    Sometimes when I reflect on government as it is today, I think about the first temptation placed by Satan towards Christ in the desert,  to command that stones become bread.  Far from “helping the poor”, the social aid networks through which the government responds to poverty seem to have denatured the government, the Churches, the family and the individual.  In my own state, the legislature recently approved state supplied prenatal care to illegal immigrant women presenting the argument that money spent now will prevent money spent later on children born with birth defects.  This was actually defended by the pro-life community – “..if you are pro-life you must necessarily support this legislation”.  Maybe it’s just me, but, two things concern me, 1) does this put the government at odds with the responsibility of border defense and 2) do we realize that if the state’s role in prenatal care is primarily the fiscal cost of medical care for the born child, prenatal diagnosis of a child with birth defects may result in a warrant against the child’s life.

  • Brian D.

    Since when did Christ’s command to feed the poor turn into support additional goverment intrusion? We as the people of God need to follow His command and not delegate this to some government agency which will waste at least 40% of the funds.

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  • The_Monk

    The materialism of ‘liberation theology’ seems to maintain more than a toe-hold in the left-of-center thinking of a huge block of self-identifying Catholics.  George Weigel, per usual, gets it exactly right in this column.

    As a side note, here in the northwest, our Archbishop Sartain has been tasked with helping the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) reform.  The good Archbishop Delegate has yet to commence and already the cacophonous din of howling and beating of drums against his commission is deafening.  I agree with other comments noting that the Bishops need to be crystal clear in laying out the true Roman Catholic social justice accord….

  • Al_Kilo

    George. Life does not end at birth. How can you advocate the selfish philosophy of Ayn Rand and mix it with Catholicism? What people like you and Mr Ryan are doing is exactly the same thing Marxists tried in the 50’s and 60’s when they high jacked the debate on poverty to advance their pet atheistic “philosophies”. You tried this with Ayn Rand by kissing up to a criminal like Fr Maciel, and you ended up looking like a fool. You have not learned your lesson. When Jesus spoke of the poor, this never was “prudential”. Yet according to the Falangist/Vichy/Ayn Rand/Escrivista wing of the Catholic Church that you and Mr Ryan  seem to belong to, the second commandment, “love thy neighbor”, is merely “prudential”, optional.
    Many kids with serious medical conditions in this country can not get proper care, even though this overall costs pennies compared to corporate subsidies that Paul Ryan wants to keep. Yet Mr. Ryan plans to cut already under funded prevention programs, so that his buddies can save money and give it to his PAC for his re-election. The Bishops are doing the same by closing schools in poor neighborhoods, to subsidize the legal expenses of their disgusting cover ups (not to mention a Cardinal’s real estate dealer nephew that tried to profit from this).  
    There is no way abortion will end by using rhetoric, by advocating incarcerating every teen that becomes pregnant. The only way is through hard work and example, by offering education not just to rich gated communities. It will really end when we start all to open up our homes to adoption, even if it is without government subsidies. That means over one million families per year that are willing to open their homes, with or without hand outs. Yet the Church is closing adoptions.
    Otherwise abortion is just a rhetorical propaganda tool used hypocritically by people that try to advance selfish agendas that are against Church teachings. What you are advocating is for the US to become a “paradise on earth” like post coup dangerous dump Honduras is, a place where the “Church is helping rebuild institutions”, as was said 3 years ago.
    Falangist/Vichy/Ayn Rand/Escrivistas Catholics=Marxist Liberation Theology=Selfish materialism=not Catholic

    • Cord_Hamrick


      You have to keep in mind that, on average, people on the rightward side of American politics are twice as generous to the poor as people on the leftward side. That is, if you study their volunteerism and their charitable giving, you find that people who vote for left-liberals give about half as much of their pre-tax income to charity as people who vote for conservatives. This is true at all income levels, and it’s true both in absolute dollars and as a percentage of income, and it’s true at every income bracket, from the highest to the lowest.

      You see, people on the rightward side of American politics, as a cultural hallmark, believe that they are personally and individually responsible for the care of the poor, both in their neighborhood, and in their region, and in the world. This attitude doesn’t exist nearly so strongly on the left, because they believe their sole moral responsibility in such areas is to delegate such piddling and distasteful concerns to the government so they don’t have to think about it, and then to talk loudly in public about how overwhelmingly generous they are and how much they care for the “least of these.”

      Anyway I point this out — and it is all well-backed by statistical information available to the public and documented in the book Who Really Cares by Arthur C. Brooks (himself not a right-winger who was surprised by the results of the studies) — to demonstrate how completely incorrect you are to ascribe Ayn Rand-ism to Catholics who vote for conservative and small-government politicians.

      Simply put, you’re accusing the people who work harder and show more personal initiative in almsgiving — the people who demonstrably care more for the poor — of holding to the philosophy of Ayn Rand, who thought it was immoral to be altruistic. Rand didn’t believe in charitable giving at all; but you’re holding that the folks who’re best about charitable giving in society are the ones who agree with her in opposing it.

      That’s clearly nonsense, so take a step back and re-evaluate: Since the folks in the U.S. who care most about the poor (judging by their actions) are the ones most opposed to using government compulsion as a channel of caring for the poor…why is that?

      Your first theory (Ayn Randism) is proven false; is there another that fits the evidence better?

      If not, then…why not ask the conservatives?

      It turns out that conservatives give lots of reasons for supporting a private-almsgiving-only (with tax credits or deductions to encourage them) system for helping the poor. Among them are the following:

      1. In most Christian or previously-Christian countries there is or once was a strong culture of private almsgiving. However, government welfare systems tend over time to displace private almsgiving instead of adding to it. Take a country without a welfare system, and you have folks giving 10% or more to the poor; add a welfare system that distributes 5% of everyone’s income to the poor and over a period of 50 years the private almsgiving tends to drop by5 to 10%. The poor often end up objectively worse off.  In Europe, the welfare states have almost completely destroyed the culture of private almsgiving. In America, even leftists average 3-4% of their pre-tax income; in Europe, it’s around 1% society-wide. In Russia, where communism blotted out private responsibility for almsgiving almost beyond memory, it’s 0%. So one reason to keep away from welfare statism is to preserve private almsgiving, which though damaged by FDR and Johnson, still yet survives as a cultural hallmark of the U.S.

      2. Private almsgiving correlates powerfully with giving to one’s Church: Show me a person who just drops a dollar in the plate without thinking, and you’ll show me a person who relies on the government for giving; show me a person who thinks of charitable giving as a duty of good citizenship and a regular obligation of any adult, and I’ll show you someone who helps their parish keep the lights on. So there’s reason to believe our churches would be better-maintained and have more well-funded ministries if the welfare state wasn’t messing things up.

      3. When the poor receive most of their assistance from their neighbors, they know that their neighbors could have spent it on themselves and have reason to feel grateful. This reduces class tensions in society. When those who have much voluntarily give to the poor, they exercise their “love your neighbor muscles” and begin to identify more with people of a different income level. This also reduces class tensions in society. And when much of it comes through Church ministries, they also have reason to associate love and provision with God, which makes the churches a central part of community and culture.

      By contrast, when the poor receive their assistance from government, they feel entitled. When it isn’t as much as they hoped for, they feel cheated. When there’s a budget deficit and programs may get cut back, they feel resentful and fearful. Class tensions result. Politicians capitalize on this to get elected by promising more, thus whipping up class resentments even more and replacing the good citizen’s reason for voting (because Policy X would be better for society) with the wicked citizen’s reason for voting (because Policy X would be better for me at the expense of others). Meanwhile, instead of feeling generous, those who have more to give now are not given a choice; so, they feel their pockets are picked. Class resentment builds on their end. They see themselves pilloried by the politicians who’re pandering to the left and, if they themselves are generous with private alms as conservatives tend to be, they resent the lies besmirching their character. In the end, society is more sharply divided.

      4. By creating patterns of dependency and perverse incentives, the “moral hazard” of the welfare state tends to perpetuate poverty over time.

      5. The welfare state requires Congress to exercise powers that aren’t actually permitted to them under the U.S. Constitution. Doing so required left-leaning jurists to invent dishonest and anachronistic “interpretation” schemes unrelated to the original intent of the authors. This in turn made the Constitution flexible enough to allow the government to pretty much do anything…like imposing pro-abortion and pro-contraception mandates on the country. The Rule of Law has been undermined, and thus the freedom of all Americans. Conservatives tend to support a pro-10th Amendment, pro-Enumerated Powers, pro-Subsidiarity approach not only because they believe small government is better at reducing poverty long-term, but because it also strengthens the Rule of Law…and lawless societies can often be safely navigated by the rich, but the poor tend to suffer in them.

      6. Government isn’t wise enough to understand the economy. Literally, the best minds at the Fed and in Congress lack, collectively, the necessary brainpower to understand the economy well enough to safely make centralized decisions. The Soviets and the North Koreans didn’t want massive famines and industrial failures; but that’s the best limited human brains can do when they lack both the information to make each tiny subsector of the economy efficient and the processing power to understand all that information even if they could get it. So as a matter of humility and of understanding their own limitations they tend to try to leave individual economic decisions affecting the lives of individuals up to the individuals who’re most familiar with those lives and who’ll be the most affected by bad decisions. This has been proven over time to help the poor best. It also tends to help the rich a lot…sometimes more than it helps the poor. But that presents us with a choice: Are we willing to help the poor the best they can be helped even if it means the wealthy get wealthier? Or are we so intent on destroying the wealth of the wealthy that we’re willing to let the poor suffer more so long as we can “sock it to the rich?” Conservatives, who’re not typically as consumed by class envy, opt for the former approach; left-liberals opt for the latter.

      7. People don’t understand how close to economic collapse we are…perhaps because so many have cried wolf before? I don’t know, but the CBO projects entitlement spending alone to go to 30%+ of GDP over the next 25 years or so. When you realize that over the last 100 years we’ve never, under any combination of taxes, been able to extract more than 22% of GDP as federal revenues for more than 5 years at a time, and that the 10-year moving average has tended to stay around 19%, then you realize that entitlement spending is expected to use up all plausible federal revenues, plus half as much again…and that’s leaving nothing left over for having a military or federal law enforcement or a judiciary. At the moment we’re almost-Greece; but if we continue overspending at Obama/Democrat levels, we’ll be Weimar Republic material in another ten years. Who suffers worst under social economic collapse and hyperinflation? (Hint: Not the wealthy.) The Ryan plan is perhaps two-thirds as austere as it needs to be to avert catastrophe.

      …and there are other reasons, but that’s enough to go on.

      Now some conservatives stress certain of these reasons more, and others less, but if even half of them are half right, it’s easy to see that conservatives have the better of the argument.

      So if you’re really concerned for the poor, why don’t you exercise your preferential option for the poor by voting to reduce the size of government while doubling your annual charitable giving?

      Then you’d be thinking (and acting) like a conservative.

      • Al_Kilo

        Hi Cord.

        Thanks for the reply. I am a centrist. I even agree with some of what Paul Ryan said at Georgetown. He said that his is point of view was “prudential”. To me those that say dogmatically that “government=always bad”, and “private sector=always good” are just as bad as those that say “government=always good”, and “private sector=always bad”. Both are nonsense. The US constitution defines a pretty amazing system of government. The discussion of more or less government is a matter optimal level of subsidiarity, of pragmatically defining what works best, all debatable amongst reasonable people.

        Sure, there are great charities and generous people. But not all can be done by charities. If the government stinks at present, its our fault for not holding it accountable. I don’t want to dwell on Ayn Rand because you and I covered this topic extensively some time ago (I was under “Tom”, Al_Kilo is my disqus moniker, that I use it to try to defend religious freedoms on Al-Jazeera English, it’s lot of fun…).

        That is not what is most upsetting. What is upsetting is when some one like Weigel equates a true moral wrong, abortion, with a prudential and rather extreme economic position. One has little to do with the other. I am not in marketing, but there are many ways of selling the pro-life message, even to the so called “progressives” (some possible examples:;

        This, to me, is the most important issue. To make a difference in abortion rates, yes, it will be important to abolish Roe v. Wade, but that is just the start. It will also require a massive change of hearts, with a lot of sweat. Using abortion as a ploy, a wedge issue to advance other agendas, without intending to change anything in regards to abortion, is dishonest, it seems to me. I hope I make some sense…

        BTW, where is prof Zmirak? I hope he is ok. Miss his stuff.

  • bliss23

    “[C]ontemporary history has vindicated Catholicism’s anti-statist social justice principle, subsidiarity.”  In reading the Church’s teaching on social justice, it most often occurs that immediately preceding or immediately following discussion of the principle of subsidiarity I encounter the Church’s teaching on “solidarity.”  Yet, all the “starboard-leaning” Catholics who rush to the side of Congressman Ryan and other conservative Republicans conveniently omit any reference to that principle.  It smacks of a cafeteria-style approach to social justice.As for affordable health care, the U. S. Bishops can be traced back to 1919 advocating that it must be universal, and in much of their writings on the subject, acknowledgment has been made  that government must have a role.  The current federal law is flawed, but I’m still waiting for the conservative/Republican proposal for making health care affordable for all Americans.  (I’m assuming the likely Republican nominee’s plan for Massachusetts is not going to be on the table.)  I would hate for the Church to take the position that no plan is better than one that is flawed.  (And I am not defending the HHS mandate, which is plainly wrong.)

  • mark

         Rosa DeLauro  and people like her use social justice for power and control.  The money
    and those to whom it supposedly goes to help, will reward DeLauro and other liberals come
    election time.  The DeLauro’s of politics do not want to be criticized for encouraging amoral
    laws, as it could possibly affect the passage of bills and election bids.  So, they yell constantly about social justice in an effort to keep people focused on social justice monies.