A faithful reader takes me to task for being both anti-Catholic and anti-Republican.
I can see his point, but I don't think it is accurate. My problem is that I prefer a Republican Party where Richard Lugar is not considered a liberal apostate and a Catholic Church that does not ex-communicate nuns for accepting surgical procedures that saved the life of a mother of four even though the procedure did lead to the death of a fetus doctors said could never have survived.
All of which leads me to the case of one Congressman Paul Ryan. The Janesville politician is a twofer, both a Catholic and a Republican.
Ryan, for some odd reason, is now considered the intellectual guru of the Republican Party. He has twice put forward budgets approved by the GOP in the House of Representatives that would end Medicare as we know it, replacing it with a subsidy for private insurance, slash funds for medical care for the poor, cut food assistance – and, this is the best part – provide major tax cuts for the richest among us.
He says his budget is an outgrowth of his Catholic conscience.
“We put faith in people, not in government,” Ryan says.
Here's the weird thing: I have a feeling Ryan is absolutely sincere in all this. I just don't think he's a very good theologian.
Ryan once said – he's backed away from this since – that novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand was his inspiration to get into politics. Rand was author of two books, “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged,” that are almost required reading for young people who believe in rugged individualism and who see themselves as being rugged individualists.
She divided the world into moochers and contributors and warned that the successful people of the world were being tied down by moochers who wanted to rob them of their wealth and redistribute it to those too lazy to work.
I remember being pretty thrilled by this philosophy when I first read her books. I most certainly did not want my future success to be frittered away by my inferiors.
There is a little problem with Rand's philosophy, however, and that is that it is antithetical to every religion on earth. She not only rejects religion, Christianity in particular, she considers its call for justice and mercy for the poor to be evil.
You can see where Ryan, as a practicing Catholic, might have a bit of a problem with this.
So he does something many of us do – something, I suspect all of us do to some extent. Rather than changing his politics to reflect his religious beliefs, he found a way to make his religious beliefs absorb his politics.
If you read him closely, he says in effect that he agrees with his church that we are called to have mercy on the poor but that the best way to help the poor is to remove government programs that help them. If they don't help, they will get up off their butts, get jobs and no longer be poor.
A few months ago, he suggested that the “safety net” is in danger of becoming a “hammock.”
I don't know Paul Ryan. I know people who do know him and they all say he's a very nice guy.
If I were a poor person, however, I might have some questions about that.