That question has come at me several times in the nine days since Paul Ryan joined the Republican ticket as Mitt Romney’s nominee — and not meant in the same way that JFK had a “Catholic problem” in 1960. People wondering about Ryan’s relationship with Catholic voters usually results from Ryan’s attempts to restructure federal spending, or his supposed devotion to Ayn Rand. The last question is easiest to answer, since I’ve read Rand and admired the ideas in Atlas Shrugged while rejecting completely the philosophies of objectivism and atheism Rand embraced. One hardly needs to be an atheist to appreciate limited government, especially after the HHS contraception mandate being imposed on religious organizations and charities. Reading Atlas Shrugged and appreciating the wisdom of limited government is not an excommunicating act in the Catholic Church, I assure you.
What about Ryan’s budget? It’s no secret that liberals dislike it, although some conservatives might wonder why, considering the moderate approach Ryan took toward deficit and entitlement reform.
The Catholic Church goes far beyond political agendas, and encompasses a wide diversity of thought. Attempting to politically pigeonhole people on the basis of faith is usually a recipe for failure. In my opinion, a system on track to put a third of the citizens and residents of the world’s richest nation on federal welfare programs outside of Social Security and Medicare (technically contribution programs) is a nation that is taking too much capital out of systems that would otherwise expand the sources of real prosperity and improved living standards, and is diluting the ability to assist the truly needy of our nation. The need to reform such a system to return capital to those who can expand prosperity and raise living standards while making assistance to the needy more effective and efficient is well within the purpose, motives, and spirit of Catholic social teaching — but I’m not going to be arrogant enough to claim that my perspective is the only one that fits within those parameters.