Recently, Rep. Paul Ryan wrote to New York’s Archbishop Timothy Dolan to “to provide facts about [Ryan’s proposed] Budget to help advance an informed debate in light of social teachings about the well-being of the family, subsidiarity, the preferential option for the poor, and the dignity of the human person.” The letter outlined some of the main features of the Ryan plan, and suggested ways in which this plan was designed to meet the goals and principles of Catholic Social Thought. Here’s a snippit:
Nothing but hardship and pain can result from putting off the issue of the coming debt crisis, as many who unreasonably oppose this Budget seem willing to do. Those who represent the people, including myself, have a moral obligation, implicit in the Church’s social teaching, to address difficult basic problems before they explode into social crisis. This is what we have done, to the best of our ability, in our Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Resolution.
Yesterday Archbishop Dolan responded:
It is clear that all of this correspondence reflects recognition of the foundational principles at work. Within the given parameters of such principles, people of good will might offer and emphasize various policy proposals that reflect their experience and expertise. The principles of Catholic social teaching contain truths that need to be applied. Thus, one must always exercise prudential judgment in applying these principles while never contradicting the intrinsic values that they protect….
Your letter is correct in observing that the Church makes an essential contribution to society when she raises up moral principles to help guide and inform decisions about public policy in a compelling way. We bishops are very conscious that we are pastors, never politicians. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, it is the lay faithful who have the specific charism of political leadership and decision (Lumen Gentium, 31; Apostolicam Actuositatem 13).
Personally I have some reservations about the Ryan plan, and if I were in charge of fixing America’s long term budget problem that is the the solution I would pick. I fear, however, that unless the problem is resolved soon, we are liable to end up with a “solution” which is worse than Ryan’s proposal from just about any perspective.