Thursday, May 26, 2016

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Catholic Education Daily


Michael Novak on Georgetown Jesuits and Paul Ryan

Michael Novak, distinguished visiting professor at Ave Maria University in Florida, has some interesting thoughts about the Georgetown University Jesuits and other faculty members who “upbraided” Congressman Paul Ryan in a letter sent to Ryan before the he spoke at Georgetown. Nearly 90 Jesuits and other faculty and staff at the university signed a letter to Ryan, who had said that Catholic teaching informed his thinking in coming up with a cost-cutting federal budget proposal, before he spoke at the university in April. The letter accused Ryan of “misrepresenting Catholic social thought.” Novak, who was once a member of the Catholic left, explains how the two flanks of the Church differ--and why it is important that they remain on speaking terms.
In six succinct paragraphs, some leading Jesuits and other professors and staff members at Georgetown University upbraided Congressman Paul Ryan, one of the more serious Catholics in the Congress, for “misrepresenting Catholic social thought.” That is, they simply made no contact with his arguments, couldn’t understand his basic Catholic principles, and did not recognize that he was fighting on their side, only that he was advancing from the opposite flank. The letter begins kindly enough: “Welcome to Georgetown. We appreciate your willingness to talk about how Catholic social teaching can help inform effective policy in dealing with the urgent challenges facing our country.” This is a refreshing break from those institutions that ban, hoot down, and refuse to listen to anyone who has a different starting point. Thomas Reese, S.J., the Jesuit author of the letter, is to be commended for this approach. Of course, right after this kindly paragraph there comes the unsurprising “however.” Four charges appear to be uppermost in the minds of those on the left flank of Catholic social teaching: (1) Catholic Republicans such as Ryan engage in “misuse of Catholic social teaching.” They do this as they (2) “defend a budget plan that decimates food programs,” and (3) “radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick,” and (4) “gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few.” The professors further aver that this is a time “when charities are strained to the breaking point,” and “local governments have a hard time paying for essential services.” What it means to be on the left flank is that at such moments, one mainly turns to “the federal government” for help — for “subsidium” (in Latin).
You can read the whole piece here.

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