With Ryan on the Ticket, Spotlight Focuses on the Catholic Church

After Mass on Sunday, North Carolina pastor Rev. Andre Mangango was approached by a man who, a day earlier, was introduced as Mitt Romney’s running-mate for the 2012 presidential election.

“I am Representative Paul Ryan and this is my son,” the man said.

Ryan reportedly attended the 7:30 mass that morning with a group of Secret Service agents at St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina prior to campaign events later that day in the state.

“Our rights come from nature and God, not government,” Ryan said, in his post-nomination speech. “We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.”

Those words characterize Ryan’s understanding of the role of government.  As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan put forth a plan for America in his budget that passed in the House. His goal? The pursuit of growth and opportunity.

The plan proposed significant reforms in the welfare programs that characterize modern American society.

Ryan’s lean budget caught the attention of two bishops from the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, who warned that cuts to programs designed to help the poor failed to meet “moral criteria.”

Ryan responded respectfully to the Bishops and maintained a dialogue with the USCCB that included several letters. Ryan also corresponded with Archbishop Timothy Dolan about the matter, arguing that some cuts and reforms were necessary to ensure a healthy growth-based economy.

After Ryan was criticized publicly by professors at Georgetown University, he visited the university to defend his budget in person.

“Our budget offers a better path, consistent with the timeless principles of our nation’s founding and, frankly, consistent with how I understand my Catholic faith,” Ryan explained to the skeptical professors. “We put our trust in people, not in government. Our budget incorporates subsidiarity by returning power to individuals, to families, and to communities.”

In addition Paul cited Pope Benedict XVI to explain the need to serve all peoples by creating a strong economic system.

“The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has charged that governments, communities, and individuals running up high debt levels are ‘living at the expense of future generations’ and ‘living in untruth,” he explained.

Now that Ryan is Romney’s running-mate, these criticisms have boiled back to the surface. Ryan’s bishop, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, wrote a surprising column praising his “diocesan native son.”

“Vice Presidential Candidate Ryan is aware of Catholic Social Teaching and is very careful to fashion and form his conclusions in accord with the principles mentioned above,” he wrote. “Of that I have no doubt.”

In his column, Morlino explained that where “intrinsic evil” was not involved, a Catholic political figure was expected to act according to his conscience.

Morlino explained that Ryan’s view of solidarity—the responsibility to help fellow human beings—was well within the principals of the Church.

“Making decisions as to the best political strategies, the best policy means, to achieve a goal, is the mission of lay people, not bishops or priests,” he wrote. “As Pope Benedict himself has said, a just society and a just state is the achievement of politics, not the Church.”

Ryan attends Mass every week, attends a prayer group on Capitol Hill and sends his kids to Catholic school. Ryan was raised Catholic, served as an altar boy, and attended Catholic schools himself.

With Ryan on the ticket, Romney can attract Catholic voters who identify with his values. But the Obama ticket has the first Catholic Vice President, attracting his own share of the Catholic vote.

Although the two are both Catholic, both Biden and Ryan remain starkly different on the issues which have already attracted the attention of the media.

“Biden vs Ryan: two very different Irish-Americans fighting over a ‘bucket of warm spit'” read a news headline, referring to the famous description of the office from former Vice-President John Garner.

Catholic University’s Stephen Schneck, the director of America’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Research explained the difference between the two Catholics to TIME magazine.

Biden’s Catholicism, Scheck said, was the Catholicism of “ethnic neighborhoods and union halls and St. Christopher medals on the dashboard” while Ryan’s was about, “obedience to the bishops, about pro-life politics, and reflects the professional class of Catholics who made it out of the old neighborhood and into the suburbs.”

Biden’s “ethnic Catholicism” described by Scheck, often comes into play during popular public events and holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day, but remains hidden when critical moral issues come into play.

Biden has long supported abortion rights in spite of his personal views, and his Catholicism has remained nearly invisible during his term as the first Catholic Vice President. Ryan, however, has maintained a pro-life voting record and has a record opposing gay marriage.

In 2007 Biden expressed the personal understanding of his faith to the Christian Science Monitor: “There are elements within the church who say that if you are at odds with any of the teachings of the church, you are at odds with the church. I think the church is bigger than that.”

During the Obama administration’s fight against the Catholic Church regarding the Health and Human Services Contraception mandate, Biden had little to say publicly. Reports suggested that Biden warned the president about the political consequences of challenging the Catholic Church, but he was unable to sway Obama’s position on the issue.

After the administration feigned a compromise on the issue, Biden publicly insisted “the conscience clause is being honored in its literal sense,” and insisted that he had worked out a compromise with the Catholic bishops.

The bishops disagreed, and over 40 Catholic organizations filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s decision.

Contrast that with Ryan, who last week hosted a conference call with Catholic leaders, warning that the HHS mandate was an “assault on our religious liberties” and was “a serious threat to all peoples of faith.”

“No American should be forced to choose between their faith and their job,” he said. “No one should be forced to choose between their conscience and their livelihood.”

Biden notably ignored Catholic moral teaching when he revealed his support of same-sex marriage.

“I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights,” he said in an interview earlier this year. Biden’s comments forced Obama to publicly reveal his own position of support for gay marriage.

Biden’s reluctance to publicly defend Catholic moral principals has continued for many years, often unchallenged by his bishops or fellow Catholics.

Paul Ryan has only been on the trail for a week, but already a great deal of attention has been given to the teachings of the Catholic Church and their political application in the public square. As the battle between Obama and Romney continues expect even more light to be shed on issues important to Catholics.

Charlie Spiering


Charlie Spiering writes in Washington D.C. for the Washington Examiner. He previously wrote for the Rappahannock News and worked as a reporter for columnist Robert Novak.

  • Objectivetruth

    Ryan’s Catholicism I believe is a rebirth of orthodoxy where Catholics actually read, study, and pray on the Catechism, papal encyclicals, scripture, early church fathers, etc. and follow these teachings. I wonder if politicians such as Biden, Pelosi, Sebelius even own a Catechism.

    • John200

      Perhaps such CINOs use the Catechism as a Christmas gift. That would cover their tracks nicely as they avoid reading it.

      Mrs. Pelosi seems to think herself a real, true, believing Catholic. Pitiful.

      Biden, ditto.

      I have seen nothing Catholic in this SebeliusThing, going back to her political career in Kansas.

      • Factswin

        I had a friend who considered herself a ‘real, true, believing Catholic’. In fact she is still a eucharistic minister. (!) However, she is pro abortion, pro gay marriage, hated our beloved Pope John Paul II and ‘privately’ declares herself a Buddhist at heart.  When we refuse to humble ourselves to a higher authority and try to be God ourselves, our values get distorted.

        • John200

           Stunning. It is a good thing for all of us that the sacraments work “ex opere operato” (spelling?) which means “from the work done” (by the actions themselves), and do not depend on the mental gyrations in the EM’s mind.

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    The value of having Ryan, a well-spoken and faithful Catholic, on the Republican ticket is that it flushes out all the pro-abort, pro-contraception, pro-same sex marriage, pro-homosexual, pro-priestess “Catholics”.  Many of these work right under the noses of our bishops at USCCB, CRS, Catholic Charities USA, CCHD and the other myriad social justice organizations that have plagued the Church for 50 years. 

    Isn’t it great to have a man like Ryan on the national ticket – a man who speaks the truth and does not violate his principles? 

    Isn’t it refreshing not to hear those famous words “Personally against but…?”

  • The_Monk

    Good column differentiating Ryan and Biden.  Thank you, Charlie Spiering….

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  • Sherry

    Ryan is a breath of fresh air!

  • Clement_W

    Good article, however, dealing with the here and now. The here and now is nothing new. It happened at the time of the Prophet Samuel (1 Samuel Ch. 8) and in todays Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours, Isaiah 3:1-15 describes almost exactly where we are today.

    We have, over the 25 decades since the Declaration of Independence, have delegated othe protection of OUR RIGHTS and increasingly the performance of OUR DUTIES to the GOVERNMENT – The Government of the people, by the People, for the People (Abraham Lincoln). Should it be a surprise that the current President Barack Obama should have been elected with what he considered a Mandate? See Isaiah 3 verse 6 in the Office of Readings.

    Are we celebrating Paul Ryan’s selection by Mitt Romney with the intention of doing to the Romney/Ryan ticket, if they win, what the Israelites of the time of the Prophet Samuel did to Saul, their first king, then to David and his successors AND WE HAVE DONE to each of the Presidents of the United States since 1776?

    A plug for the liturgy of the Hours: Since I started doing the Divine Office a little over a year ago, I have been amazed at how appropriate the Readings and the Psalms have been for each and every day with regard to the personal, local, national and, yes, international events and the state of affairs at that time.

  • Coffie

    Why is VP Joe Biden even allowed to call himself a Catholic? Shouldn’t support of abortion “rights” and more recently Gay “marriage” … both in radical and public opposition to Catholic Church teachings, have rendered him an Ex Communicant years ago? Failure of any bishop to support the authentic Catholic, Magisterial teachings by allowing any public ( or even private) figure who  openly opposes the rules undermines all Catholic credibility and identity. It makes the Church seem to be hypocritical.   

    • John200

      Abortion gets you excommunicated latae sententiae (by the very act). If the sinner later repents, then he gets to come back into full communication. All that is set out in Canon law.

      But Biden is still Catholic and always will be. That’s a direct result of baptism, even if he acts like a CINO (Catholic in Name Only).

      We have a complement of CINO bishops who interfere with our spiritual progress. They have work to do, some of it on themselves. We know they are not perfect, but they are heading toward perfection and should be teaching us how to join them.

    • Scott S

      Fake Catholics
      I share the positive impression of Paul Ryan, a welcome breath of political fresh air. 
      With apparent R-Catholic values. I would stop short of ex communcating the errant fake Catholics in political life; Pelosi, Biden etc. it’s so permanaent  is my understanding.
       Perhaps they might find mercy and grace and seek forgiveness in their futures.  I certainly would like to see the bishops /clergy sanction their blatantly non- Catholic practices and publicly renonce them, because they publicly renounce their faith.
      Many Catholics, and some clergy who have made public statements, should see some sanction as well for contrary actions. Such as those jumpimg on the same sex marriage bandwagon, contrary  to church doctrine. Many Catholics falsely believe with pop secular views that marriage is about sexual attraction- SSA, that’s NOT so, (theres no end to variant sexual attractions among our human brethren).  Marriage is about creating and raising children in God’s image and preservation of  His family. If only from a secular viewpoint it’s about procreation, that can’t happen long term except in hetero-sexual marriaige. Or from a pureyt political viewpoint; why should 2-5% of the SSA population redefine marriage for the other 98%-/+?

       Some Catholics see the example of the unchallenged errant views of popular political figures as tolerable or condoned, by the church leadership. Denying these  public figures the Euchrist, presuming they attend mass, and a public renouncement should be the minmum stand our leaders should take.  

  • In short, Ryan is a Catholic and Biden is not…

  • respectlife

    Great article comparing two Catholics.  One who follows the church’s teachings and one who does not.  Its now up to us to decide what kind of leadership we want in the white house.  May God Help us all if we choose wrong!  Pray for our church leaders and shepherds to share the papal message.  We need “Holy” Change..

  • patp007

    Great description on how Ryan lives his faith and how Biden fails to live his. The two are representative of Catholics as a whole in the USA. It’s refreshing to have a candidate like Ryan defending Catholic teaching in the public sphere. Regardless of what happens in November, Ryan is leading our future Catholic politicians by example.

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  • Ontheroad1

    If you are a Catholic your responsibility is to love and help.  It is not the government that is tasked with this job, but each and every one of us to do so.  Understanding human nature, if you give they want more, if you provide direction they will follow, and with giving more you end up giving up you freedoms to choose.  Like abortion if you are catholic you should respect life in the womb, not just when you think it is best for you.

  • Scott

    Well said and I echo many others readers comments.  But, let’s be honest.  The Catholic that actually has good formation and knows, studies, and lives the Faith is probably already well aware of the contrast.

    They are also likely well aware of their responsibility as Catholics to vote for life.  Given each party’s platform, this unequivocally rejects voting for the Democrat Party.

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  • Tony

    Paul Ryan can bludgeon the opposition with uncomfortable facts — most especially, that social welfare programs AS THEY ARE NOW STRUCTURED are like vampires, sucking the blood out of poor communities and providing them a shadow-life of dependency in return.

    Just a few hours ago, at lunch, I was speaking with a local fisherman who has had business dealings with some Inuit elders, who live in the northernmost community in Canada.  How far north?  Put it this way: if you’re thinking about the balmy shores at the mouth of the Mackenzie River, you’re too far south by a LONG shot.  There are about 150 people in the community.  The Inuit have lived there for more than two thousand years, seminomadically, following the caribou herds.  No longer: the government has planted them down in one place.  With this favor, though, has come dependency, and all the social ills in its train — alcoholism, family breakdown, general irresponsibility.  People who defend the impersonal and countereffective system we have now do not think of the poor as persons, who need to be trained up in virtue.  They think of them as irremediable problems, as vicious or stupid by nature (with a happy exception here and there), and so they allocate money, that is, other people’s money, to palliate the symptoms, but never to effect a cure.  The only cure involves some difficult virtues …

  • crakpot

    Ryan understands the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence for what it is – a rather perfect statement of conscience about matters political.

    Biden understands little more than his belly lint.

  • Oneill

    There are in fact two Catholic Churches in America.  There is the Roman Catholic Church, a two thousand year old institution based on the magisterium and teachings of Christ, and there is the American Catholic church which follows the teachings of the Ted Kennedy family.  Ryan is a Roman Catholic and Biden is an American Catholic.  Biden’s church is a product of the big city ethnic enclaves where catholics gathered around the parish, the union hall and the local bar for community; when a choice had to be made between what the magisterium states and what is good for the local union and democrat groups, the American Catholic chose the political area of their lives.  I am old enough to remember the days when the ethnic Catholic would have a picture of the Sacred Heart with a picture of Pope John XXIII and a picture of John F Kennedy on each side.  Unfortunately too many of the Catholic bishops in America are in the Joe Biden camp.  The orthodox Roman Catholic numbers are growing and the Biden ethnic Catholics are slowly disappearing just like the city neighborhoods they inhabited.  Ryan is part of the living growing Roman Catholic America.

    • Decider2

      The Church that’s growing is ethnically Latino and Democrat. Catholics have two lousy candidates to choose from. Another vote for Ron Paul from me.

  • Because of Ryan, Romney receives my “Catholic Vote”.  

  • The Prodigal


     NEITHER political parties reflect true Christianity; and much less a Catholic mindset. I would like to see a political party which truly has a commitment to moral good and genuine  “common good” of all humanity – because they have never had the discernment necessary to arrive at policies which reflect the intrinsic value of each person – spiritual and material. You can only reach such discernment with sincere prayer for wisdom. NEITHER party has displayed much wisdom.   NEITHER  are really interested in glorifying God by “love one another as I love you.” BOTH parties are more interested in fattening their wallets, even at the expense of the poor.

    We ALL need a serious RE-assessment of every value we stand for.
    Otherwise a similar affliction of the sin of INDIFFERENCE will set in – the INDIFFERENCE so prevalent just prior rises of Hitlers, Stalins, Mao Tse Tungs, Pol Pots.   Remember, if it can happen in a “civilised and cultural country as Germany” was – it can happen ANY-where.   Any country, for their very survival, must not allow evil to rule.

  • Uuncle Max

    One of the reasons john Kerry lost in 2004, besides the obvious one – he was john Kerry – was that he lost the Catholic vote.

    5 years ago Obama knew that if he was to win the presidency he would have to win the catholic (small c) vote. The obvious solution – a CINO, aka Catholic In Name Only. The best bet was – Joe Biden. (Did you even have to ask?)

    To put it as simply as possible – Biden gives liberal catholics cover to vote for Obama and Obama knew that.

    It worked in 2008, it worked in 2012.

    Of a Sunday in a ‘Catholic’ parish near here in Maine (I don’t go there) there are about 15 cars with Obama-Biden stickers, there are none with Romney-Ryan stickers.

    There are numerous cars with ‘Yes on 1’ (same sex marriage) stickers, none with ‘no on 1′ stickers – unless I’m there.

    We will get through this – be not afraid.

    One of the leading ladies in the parish is a proud member of catholics for marriage equality’.

    • Uuncle Max

      whoops – the last paragraph was supposed to follow paragraph 5 – it was NOT supposed to be the last one.

      My bad