Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review Online quotes from a public letter exchange between Congressman Paul Ryan and the Archbishop, which exhibits a very high level of political and theological discourse. (Ryan is a Catholic and a serious student of what his Church teaches about social ethics.)
This week, something much more constructive: The public presentation of an ongoing dialogue between Paul Ryan, a Catholic from Wisconsin, who is the House Budget committee chairman, and Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the president of the Catholic bishop’s conference, about Catholic social teaching and its application to the current budget debate.
In his letter of April 29, Ryan wrote:
The House Budget’s overarching concern is to control and end the mortal threat of exploding debt. By scaling back Washington’s excesses, the budget will reduce deficits by $4.4 trillion over the next decade compared to the President’s budget proposal. The House Budget is intended to restore the confidence of job creators in order to encourage expansion, growth, and hiring today. The budget better targets assistance to those in need, repairs the social safety net, and fulfills the mission of health and retirement security for all Americans. The budget reforms welfare for those who need it — the poor, sick, and vulnerable; it ends welfare for those who don’t — entrenched corporations, the wealthiest Americans. It’s a plan of action aimed at strengthening economic security for seniors, workers, families, and the poor.
Here is some of Dolan's reply:
Congressman Ryan concluded:
although the Budget is Congress’ comprehensive spending and revenue plan, my colleagues and I, in developing this Budget, never forgot that the Budget is not just about numbers but about the character and common good of the American people. This Budget is rooted in the dignity of the human person. It honors responsibility to family and self, work, self-restraint, community, and self-government both individually and collectively. The vast network of centralized bureaucracies under a government that grows without limits has reached the point where an increasing majority of citizens are now receiving
Our Budget marks out a new path that restores and respects human dignity by addressing these concerns, encouraging our people to take control of their well-being, to make wise choices about the future of their families, in work, education, investment, savings and all areas of social life. Sustaining national moral character and human dignity have been our paramount goal in developing this Budget.
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.
I hope these facts, considered in the light of the social Magisterium, contribute to the ongoing healthy dialogue about the nation’s budget and the economic foundations that make possible the exceptional generosity of Americans of every faith.
New York Archbishop Dolan responded, in part:
I deeply appreciate your letter’s assurances of your continued attention to the guidance of Catholic social justice in the current delicate budget considerations in Congress. As you allude to in your letter, the budget is not just about numbers. It reflects the very values of our nation. As many religious leaders have commented, budgets are moral statements.
As is so clear from your correspondence, the light of our faith — anchored in the Bible, the tradition of the Church, and the Natural Law — can help illumine and guide solid American constitutional wisdom. Thus I commend your letter’s attention to the important values of fiscal responsibility; sensitivity to the foundational role of the family; the primacy of the dignity of the human person and the protection of all human life; a concrete solicitude for the poor and the vulnerable, especially those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty; and putting into practice the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, here at home and internationally within the context of a commitment to the common good shared by government and other mediating institutions alike.
Clearly, Dolan understands John Paul II well. He also understands that charity and concern for the poor do not equal the nanny state.