Among those stoking the outrage and indignation in the run up to Congressman Paul Ryan's visit to Georgetown University this morning was a group called Catholics United.
Catholics United thinks that Congressman Ryan's budget is “an outrageous slap in the face to our nation's poorest and most vulnerable citizens,” being, as it so obviously is, “based on the anti-Christian ideals of social Darwinist Ayn Rand.”
Catholics United and its lefty friends were in fits over Paul Ryan — a Republican! — coming to Georgetown — Georgetown! — to talk about the way Catholic social teaching informs his view of policy. Given the lumps Catholics United and their friends have been taking lately, one can almost sympathize with their apoplexy.
For starters, despite having a bona fide community organizer in the White House, many of the “social justice” causes favored by Catholics United and their ilk have fallen on hard times. When the stories of malfeasance on the part of ACORN went supernova in 2009, it came to light that the Catholic Campaign for Human Development – an instrument of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — had been funneling millions to ACORN and groups like it.
Since that embarrassing episode for the bishops, CCHD has been forced to be more conscientious about which organizations it funds. Anti-poverty programs, good. Pro-abortion and pro-gay “marriage,” not so much.
A recent piece in the New York Times highlighted the financial plight of some of these organizations whose affiliations have placed them at odds with Church teaching. As CCHD money dries, they're struggling to stay in business.
Certain that this must be about partisan politics, Catholic United has been very vocal in its opposition to the Catholic bishops' inexplicable insistence that Catholic money be spent on projects compatible with the tenets of the Catholic faith. “What is apparent,” Catholics United's executive director, James Salt told the Times, “is that these conservative groups are succeeding in subverting the mission of C.C.H.D., which is probably the most important antipoverty foundation in America.”
Speaking of partisanship, Salt helped launch Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good — a Soros-funded outfit whose Advisory Council includes Catholic luminaries like John Podesta and Paul Begala.
The hits keep coming. According to the Catholics United website, Salt also “oversaw the Kansas Democratic Party's faith outreach efforts, including messaging work for Governor [Kathleen] Sebelius and development of faith-based messaging resources.”
To suggest that Kathleen Sebelius is not the most esteemed Catholic in the country these days would be something of an understatement. Prior to becoming Obama's Secretary for Health and Human Services and overseeing what the USCCB has since called “an unjust and illegal” mandate which constitutes a threat to religious liberty of “unprecedented magnitude,” Sebelius was best known (outside of Kansas, at least) for her close ties to the late George Tiller, abortionist extraordinaire.
It seems Salt's “faith-based messaging” acumen may all have been for naught. In 2009, Sebelius's own archbishop, Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., publically likened the then-Kansas governor to the character Richard Rich from A Man for All Seasons, of whom St. Thomas More famously asked, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul, but for Wales?”
More recently another of Salt's former employers — NETWORK, a social-justice lobbying group — was singled out for its particular deficiencies in the Vatican's recent crackdown on nuns, one of whom runs the place.
So you see, Catholics United and friends have had a rather rough go of things these last few years, and they're getting desperate for a win. Social activism is all about momentum and the recent setbacks have sapped much of the enthusiasm of the Catholic Left that reached full flood around President Obama's visit to Notre Dame in May 2009.
Adding insufferable insult to political injury, Paul Ryan, GOP superstar, has been making his case for conservative entitlement and tax reform in the language of Catholic social teaching. As Ryan put it this morning at Georgetown, “I suppose there are some Catholics who for a long time have thought they had a monopoly of sorts . . . not exactly on heaven, but on the social teaching of our Church. Of course there can be differences among faithful Catholics on this.”
It's hard to tell what irritates the Left more: Ryan's proposals for conservative fiscal policies or the fact that he is making a compelling case for those proposals on moral grounds to which the Catholic Left believes it holds exclusive rights. To the likes of Catholics United, Ryan isn't just wrong, he's an unsettling rival — and we all know how the Left feels about competition.
- Stephen P. White is a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and coordinator of the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society.