Catholic professors slam Boehner: "Your record is at variance from the Church's ancient moral teachings" — UPDATED

Catholic professors slam Boehner: "Your record is at variance from the Church's ancient moral teachings" — UPDATED May 11, 2011

It’s not often that a conservative Catholic speaker at Catholic commencement comes in for criticism from Catholics — but that’s exactly what has happened to the Speaker of the House.

From the New York Times:

House Speaker John A. Boehner, a Republican who grew up in a devout Roman Catholic family in Ohio, is scheduled to give the commencement address this Saturday at the Catholic University of America in Washington, a prestigious venue in church circles for its affiliation with the nation’s bishops.

But now Mr. Boehner is coming in for a dose of the same kind of harsh criticism previously leveled at some Democrats — including President Obama — who have been honored by Catholic universities: the accusation that his policies violate basic teachings of the Catholic church.

More than 75 professors at Catholic University and other prominent Catholic colleges have written a pointed letter to Mr. Boehner saying that the Republican-supported budget he shepherded through the House of Representatives will hurt the poor, elderly and vulnerable, and therefore he has failed to uphold basic Catholic moral teaching.

“Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings,” the letter says. “From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress. This fundamental concern should have great urgency for Catholic policy makers. Yet, even now, you work in opposition to it.”

The letter writers go on to criticize Mr. Boehner’s support for a budget that cut support for MedicareMedicaid and the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, while granting tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations. They call such policies “anti-life,” a particularly biting reference because the phrase is usually applied to politicians and others who support the right to abortion.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, responded by e-mail: “The Speaker will be delivering a personal, non-political message at the Catholic University of America that he hopes will speak to all members of the graduating class, regardless of their backgrounds or affiliations. He is deeply honored to have been invited by CUA to address the school’s graduating class, and is looking forward to receiving an honorary degree from the only Catholic college in our country that is chartered by Catholic bishops.”

Read more. And there’s some reaction from Kathryn Lopez.

UPDATE: AMERICA’s Karen Sue Smith has this analysis:

Two things make this letter stand out. First, it appears to be a form of peer ministry or something close to it, and in structure it reads like a New Testament letter, at least the admonishment portion. The letter even ends with a prayer. Mostly lay Catholic professors, after all (with a few clergy among them, including Jesuits) are here admonishing a fellow Catholic leader to abide by Catholic social teaching.

The second thing that makes this letter distinctive is that the bedrock teaching these signers hold up does not concern abortion, but care for the poor. Who, in this age of cutbacks, is sticking up for the poor?

Last, while the signers do allude to teachings of the pope and of the U.S. Catholic bishops, they themselves wield no authority and make no threats. Yet with what one could call a “pastoral letter” they do intend to instruct, convince and influence the Speaker’s conduct as a Catholic leader–a peer or colleague with a lay vocation in this world.

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66 responses to “Catholic professors slam Boehner: "Your record is at variance from the Church's ancient moral teachings" — UPDATED”

  1. That’s one of the things that drives me crazy about the Church leadership, the knee jerk liberalism.

    The speed at which Democrat politicians who can get secret annulments from the Church without informing the other spouse, giving Communion to pro-abortion politicians despite being ordered not to by the Pope, hosting pro-abortion leaders (Notre Dame) and then having peaceful protesters arrested is plain old hypocrisy.

    I have a long list of issues, but will keep it short.

  2. As I’ve said elsewhere today, I’m pleased to see critical engagement with the Catholic moral and theological tradition beyond perpetuating the fallacy that American Catholics are supposed to be a “single-issue demographic.” There is much more to the Catholic moral tradition than abortion and it’s about time to broaden that discussion. Beyond the budgetary critique, might Catholics raise concerns about Rep. Boehner’s leadership in a party that oftentimes espouses views of war and torture that are also in conflict with Catholic teaching?

  3. I would like to ask where was the Catholic left over the issue of the killing of Osama, from information obtained via “enhanced interrogation”?

    Where was the Catholic left when the President stated that he would rather shut down government than de-fund Parenthood?

    Where is the call from the Catholic left when we have spent billions and billions to elimate poverty programs which do not work, and yet, all we seem to hear is a call for more programs?

    Where is the Catholic left calling for an end to the war (and mass demonstrations in front of the White House) in Afghanistan, Iraq and now our bombings in Libya?

    They have been SILENT.

  4. Oh…and a couple more things…

    Looking at some of the signers, we see a big time supporter of VOTF (William D’Antonio) and Fr. Nangle (who likes to protest in front of the White House when Bush was president, but seems to have been silent recently — wonder why?)

    Also, have you ever wondered about the “Circle of Protection” term…it is used by Wiccans and for those of you familiar w/ the Magic game, it is used there too.

  5. I find it interesting, that there is a majority of people on this site that concentrate on a one issue mentality (pro-life) but are quick to attack programs and services that help the disadvantaged and the poor.

    (I grew up with my catholic faith as this being important.)

    I wonder how many here who attack these programs are actually using these programs such as social security and medicare and the big question?

    If you feel these programs are so bad… why dont you turn back what you have received in beneifits and get out of these programs?

    Its about time Catholics start questioning “cafeteria catholics” such as the likes of Boehner.

  6. @ Don from NH

    You can make an argument that Democrat “Great Society” policies actually created large increases in poverty, illiteracy, and the dissolution of the family structure.

    But, you won’t see any criticism from the Church. If you really want to talk about pro-life policies that the church has ignored, the last admin literally saved millions of Africans via AIDS programs which got A) ignored by the press and B) was cut by the present admin.

  7. It’s not the “Church” calling the speaker to task–it’s professors at a University. Who knows how many of them are trained in Theology and how many are even Catholic.

    I think that the criticism of Republicans can be taken seriously. Many Republican stances may be at variance with Church teaching, but I wonder why the profs are complaining so loudly. Boehner was only speaking at a commencement. The complaints with Obama at Notre Dame were related to his reception of an honor. It wasn’t simply a matter of his being a speaker.

  8. I don’t think most people including Catholics have any problem with programs to assist the poor and needy. What they do object to is entitlements for people who don’t want to work or simply don’t even try to find work.
    Social Security and Medicare are benefits for those who have worked and contributed to it.

  9. What these professors are hoping we ignore or miss is that Catholics may differ on which government program is most effective at helping the needy, they may differ on whether a war meets “just war” doctrine, they may differ on whether a killer should be executed by the state; they can’t differ on whether it is ever okay to kill a child in the womb. It isn’t.

  10. I find it intersting that if you question the success of these programs, you are suddently a one issue Catholic. I wonder how many of these programs really help people out of poverty or create a permanent class of poor, who will never get out.

    Social Security is paid for my the wages that I earn and that of my employer. It is a tax. It is a “promise” that you will get that money back at retirement age (which you notice keeps increasing). Personally, I would prefer the government give me back my money (and that of my employer) and let me manage my retirement.

    Social Security is a government run Ponzi scheme. And you can quote me on that.

  11. I think it is fair to say that when it comes to the preferential option for the poor, there is no absolute yes or no as there is with regard to abortion or capital punishment (and on capital punishment, the Church does not have a constant or absolute teaching as it does on abortion). With respect to caring for the poor, it is not yes or no, but how much and in what sort of programs and at what level of government. Therefore, this is very much a comparing apples and oranges situation.

    Obviously, no Catholic should say that government has no business trying to alleviate poverty. And every Catholic legislator should take the needs of the poor into account. But to say that when someone votes to fund a program at x billion dollars rather than y billion he is going against the teachings of the Church is definitely a stretch.

    A century ago, each city and town in Massachusetts was responsible for providing for the needs of its indigent residents. There was a Board of Welfare Commissioners who ran the program, which provided the necessities of life — usually in a “poorhouse” to those who lacked them. Then the state took the burden off local government. Now we have homeless people. Some of them stay overnight in shelters run by charitable organizations. Some are housed at state expense in hotels and motels away from their home towns. Some are on the street. And more than forty years of the federal War on Poverty have not brought victory any closer.

    It seems to me that the Catholic principle of subsidiarity has been violated, with the unfortunate result that the poor are worse off now than they were 100 years ago.

    As for Social Security and Medicare, I think they are actually designed to keep middle class people from sinking into poverty, and they have been useful for that purpose. The precise form and level of benefits and timing of eligibility is a matter of prudential judgment, not a moral absolute.

  12. Naturgesetz — As I remember, there is no “wiggle room” in issues of faith settled as an infallible decision. To believe in them is part of being Catholic. To not believe separates one from the Church.

    That being true, all other issues are subject to the conscience of the individual whether official teachings or not.

    Such is true with abortion and capital punishment — official Church teaching but without the dictates of an infallible decision. I don’t believe either topic is, as you wrote, “absolute” which implies an infallible decision.

    Again, as I remember, the last infallible decision was early in the last century concerning Mary, the Mother of God.

  13. Until modern times no Catholic would take seriously the preachments of anyone about helping the poor who didn’t “put some skin in the game” and followed Christ’s injunction to “sell all you have and give to the poor.”
    Considering that many college professors are in the financial elite–I wonder how many give such serious donations to the poor. Few, I will wager.
    Instead they want government power to be used to extort money from average taxpayers to feed an omniverous, bloated government bureaucracy. And neither Christ nor the Church is in favor of the highway robbery government commits each day.
    I worked for 2 years in the Dept. of Youth Services in Mass. That dept. services juvenile delinquents.
    One year we had a huge amount left in our clothing budget. Orders came down from on high to spend the money FAST–buy luxury goods, buy the most expensive boots and coats we could. For, if we didn’t, we couldn’t ask for more money to spend next year.
    Sure enough, eventually on the evening news we saw the head department bureaucrats (of the liberal dem left, of course) crying poor mouth. If their budget didn’t go up kids would be clothed in rags because those conservative Republicans want to cut the clothing budget.
    To put it blunty, after 2 years working in a state agency and 2 years as an elected city councillor, and
    37 years in the public school system, I discovered that almost every poor mouth cry by politicians and government bureaucrats is not to feed or cloth or educate the poor but to feed a corrupt, lieing government.
    For every dollar the Republicans want to cut–a dollar can easily be found hidden in the bureaucratic morass of lies and deceit that I have witnessed myself. But when Republicans cut–do the Democrats go after the waste, fraud, and bloat in government. NOOO! They, and their liberal Democrat allies in the media and the world of academe (most who have never really worked deep inside the “belly of the beast” known as Big Government”) smear Republicans and conservatives as heartless, (wanting children in rags, etc.)
    In fact, in the interest of transparency and honesty–will any news outlet research to see if any of these profs going after Boehner are devourers of government largesse and grants??????

  14. Deacon John: Well said!


    You give abortion and capital punishment equal weight, but official Catholic teaching does not.

    Please read CCC paragraphs 2271 and 2272. There is no ambiguity there concerning abortion – it is always gravely wrong, no exceptions, no provision for prudential judgement.

    Then look at CCC paragraph 2267 concerning the death penalty and you will see a different teaching. Even though the exceptions for modern society are seen as rare, they are still there and prudential judgement is to be used.

  15. Art–two words Catholics need to know that you used “prudential judgement.” When bishops, priests, or deacons and Catholic professors pontificate to get people to line up with their point of view they will rarely mention what in their statements are based on prudential judgement and what are hard, fast doctrine.
    Whenever we clergy or professors talk as though something where there can be honest, prudential, disagreement is somehow solid, ex cathedra Church doctrine–we lie.

  16. What was that that Elizabeth Scalia wrote about, clarity and charity? I am really appalled and quite saddened by the tenor of this conversation, well at least portions of it.

  17. Frank — You have too narrow a view of settled doctrine. The teaching against direct abortion as always gravely wrong has been constant throughout the Church’s history. The Second Vatican Council said “abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes.”

    More generally, see Lumen Gentium §25 on the teaching office of the church, cited in the Catechism at Nos. 888-892.

  18. Oh give me a break. These are obviously lefty Catholics. I don’t find anything Boehner is doing to be unCatholic or even not compassionate. Government going broke will mean a heck of a lot more suffering. If those Catholics have such compassion, then let them donate all their earnings to help the poor. Government is not a means of charity. Charity is giving as an act of love. Tax collecting (government putting a gun to the head of tax payers to pay up) does not engender love. Quite the opposite. That’s why tax collectors were so hated in the Gospels. Surprise, surprise, this comes out of the NY Times.

  19. It’s good to see that a “righty Catholic” legislator is at least – at least being questioned about the catholicity of their voting record.

  20. First, are these so-called scholars so ignorant that they cannot distinguish negative moral absolutes (i.e. do not murder) which are valid always and for always from positive precepts (to give alms, etc.) which require prudence and are valid always but not to be applied always. Throwing money at a federal program does not necessarily fulfill a positive precept.
    Ignorance of this basic distinction undermines the credibility of those who claim to know the Catholic moral tradition.

    Meanwhile, another point. Faithful Catholics who oppose abortion do not use “religious” arguments in the public arena. They refer to natural law. They refer to the humanity of the baby conceived and the immorality of murder.

    Yet, those attacking Boehner seem to be using purely religious arguments. Why don’t they prove why there is an obligation to care for the poor from a natural law perspective? Yet, hypocrites (like Pelosi and Biden) support abortion saying they can’t oppose it based on faith and then invoke God to tax people and throw money at their favorite pet projects which hire the people who vote for them.

  21. Janice Militsky — You should send your comment # 22 to the NYT as a letter to the editor, if you haven’t already done so.

  22. The comments here are yet more evidence that you can be conservative or Christian. You cannot be both.

  23. Mike #24:
    Do you imply then that liberals can be Christian?

    My personal position is that a true Christian must reject both some liberal tenets and some conservative tenets.

    A true Christian understands that charity is not achieved through the liberal use of the force of taxation followed by redistribution. All that achieves is inter-class theft enshrined in law.

    A true Christian understands that the conservative tenet of rampant deregulation allows the abuses of cartel behavior and deceptive contracts. That also leads to inter-class theft by means of legal versions of inducement and fraud.

    Thus my position that both liberal and conservative each have their own form of evil that they seem to be blind to.

  24. “The comments here are yet more evidence that you can be conservative or Christian. You cannot be both.”

    Yes, sure. But you can be pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro entitlements and still be Christian. lol

  25. A letter from 75 professors. Is that supposed to be taken seriously?

    Given the snark it leads with, I’m no longer sure it intends to be. There’s more than a whiff of payback for the bishops who protested the President’s receipt of an award at ND, I think.

    When you toss in the fact that none of the professors made so much as a peep when the previous Catholic Speaker vastly expanded abortion in the District of Columbia…I’ll just say that their concern for how Catholic Speakers of the House align with the ancient teaching of the Church is tragically selective.

    Which is a shame, because the letter makes good points, and the GOP’s budget is problematic in how it cuts programs. Pointing out the fundamental option to the poor is essential. Alas, the professors gave a fundamental option to their distaste for the addressee instead. “Stunner–liberal Catholics don’t like me,” responds the Speaker. Crumple, crumple, toss.

    A blown opportunity that highlights little more than the Catholic divide.

  26. Deacon John,

    I had somewhat the same experience in a government internship program at SEH. The motto seemed to be never Return Alloted Money lest you not get the requested amount in th enext budget.

  27. Interesting English the 75 dons employ in their quasi-magisterial letter: “To preference.” To preference?

    Even if that is a verb, which I doubt, it is obviously designed to hearken back to the “preferential option for the poor” catchphrase back in so-called liberation theology’s heyday in the 80s. And we all know what the Magisterium had to say about liberation theology.

    Speaker Boehner would do well to ignore this letter.

  28. Receiving a handout is inherently degrading, unless it is a gift of love.

    The government does not love you.

    Therefore, government handout programs are inherently degrading.

    If you receive help from a person, you can “pay it back” in future help, in present prayers, or by “paying it forward” to other people. This makes you not feel helpless and worthless.

    If you receive help from a government program, you have no way to make a response to “pay it back”. This makes you feel helpless and worthless.

    So in at least two ways, government handout programs make the poor feel like helpless, degraded pieces of c**p, instead of people who are down on their luck but will soon get up again. This is not something Christians should support.

    Christians should help the poor with their own money and time and love, and they can certainly encourage other people to help. But they shouldn’t oppress the poor by helping the government lord it over them. (Worse than “lord it”, really. “Lording it” requires some kind of human lord, not a faceless bureaucracy of paperwork.)

  29. I will add that the early Church did not support the Roman Empire’s social welfare program of “bread and circuses” handouts. The Church found out who was poor or sick or needed help, and individual members living nearby helped them and worked with them (coordinated by deacons, and with any funds financed by individual church members’ tithes and offerings). The Empire ended up looking to the Church for an example of how to care for citizens, not the other way ’round.

    So yeah, Catholic academics. You take that beam out of your eye, and we’ll see about Mr. Boehner’s splinter.

  30. Especially since universities are doing a pretty good job of oppressing the poor and the middle-class and the rich, even, with their astounding exorbitant degree pricing structure and their naked intent to lure kids into debt to what can only be termed “usurers” instead of banks.

  31. Brother Jeff #30:

    I am one of those who have a fairly solid understanding of both the pastoral issues in Central and South America and also have a profound respect for Blessed John Paul II. I have been convinced for years that the condemnation of Liberation Theology by Blessed John Paul II was a “given” but not because it was heresy. Blessed John Paul II firmly believed that the ultimate hidden core value of Liberation Theology was Atheistic Communism and he had a deep personal hatred for that philosophy, having suffered under it first hand for so many years. In fact, Blessed John Paul II used that — almost “Cold-War” — understanding in his message to the Central/South American bishops when he did condemn it.

    The obvious inconsistency is that Liberation Theology was not invented by any atheist but by a Roman Catholic priest-theologian from South America. It was embraced by the bishops of Central and South America — including the martyr Bishop Oscar Romero — way before Blessed John Paul intervened.

    Yes, everyone had to get on that page officially, but there is far more to the story than your comment about the condemnation.

  32. Maureen: Yes! for #33.

    Deacon Norb,

    I was born and raised in Latin America and experienced Liberation Theology first hand. I found it to be very divisive and I can’t recall a homily on the subject of poverty that was not a rabid anti-US rant. I recall a particular one (at a 50th wedding anniversary Mass nonetheless!) where the priest went into a rant on how much he hated the United States because we produced special foods for dogs and cats. This was not a homily about creating a conscience on the rights of the poor, it was hateful and, yes, he did use that word. Eventually, many people I know who were cradle Catholics abandoned the Church and joined Protestant ones. One quote from one of them was: “If we need a new union leader, we go to the priest. If we want to hear about God, we go to the minister.”

    Much of what I saw about Liberation Theology was that, as long as people have hope in a spiritual life, they will not revolt about their material poverty and opression. As a result, spirituality and devotions were taken away and worship became empty social rants.

    For the past 22 years I have lived in the US mainland and have spent half of that time working for the government and the other half in the corporate world. Neither one is perfect or examples of Christian charity to say the least. Greed and lust for power exist on both sides because God is not allowed in, particularly in government. A government that aims to create the Kingdom of God on Earth without God, with man as it’s creator. Sounds pretty scary to me.

  33. I must agree with Fran in #18 that the tenor of this discussion was truly very sad. I had to walk away before coming back to finish. Much anger and little effort at understanding, Just throwing labels around! I did not expect that on this site.

  34. Those Catholics (and other Christians) who resist supporting government programs that provide a safety net for the poor (including mothers of young children and the children themselves) often fall back on the idea of voluntary charity as being more consistent with biblical teachings.

    It seems to me, though, that when you are willing to vote into office someone who gives a darn about the poor, an office holder who does not think someone’s ability to eat or keep their kids from freezing in the winter should be a matter of chance, charity, or good fortune, you are in fact voluntarily providing for the welfare of the poor. You are choosing to be taxed in order to make sure that the poor (the people Jesus talks about so much in the gospels) are treated like human beings rather than inconvenience, free loaders, and welfare queens.

    It also seems to me that when one writes to or calls a member of congress and disparages the poor, in the name of the “give me my tax break” mentality, one is voluntarily choosing to reject one of the core messages of the gospel.

    Can reasonable people disagree about appropriate levels of taxation, or appropriate government mechanisms for ensuring for the welfare of the weakest, most vulnerable, most marginalized in our society? Definitely. But the idea of rejecting government’s role in providing a basic safety net strikes me as a prime evidence of a “me first” approach to life. “I’ve got mine; don’t you dare come at me with all that
    society-is-a-covenant garbage.” You see that all over the place, and it has more to do with selfishness than Christianity.

  35. Perhaps someone can point out to the “academic sages” that Catholic Social Teaching starts with human life in the womb, period, of which nothing else matters prior.

    Pope Benedict makes (Oh silly me, what academic listens to the Pope?) it more than crystal clear in his encyclical: If life isn’t respected in the womb, everything else is “phony” (and my words, agenda driven), from those who pretend to be champions of social justice while at the same time, not defending life in the womb.

    Bottom line, all social justice starts in the womb, period, no exceptions, nothing more important than life itself.

    One of the many beauties of Truth is the inability to hide from it. I actually have more respect for Peter Singer (who at least admits abortion is murder (just ok that it is), than the PHONY Catholics of Congress as well as those who proclaim to be Catholic.

    I recently heard Dr. Peter Kreeft say, “You know, for 1300 years, Islam fought Europe with a sword. But now they have found the real ‘weapon’, MOTHERS. He also added (paraphrase) that if we really were serious about a “Catholic social agenda”, we would replace all of the catholics in congress with Muslims and Mormans, who are more catholic in their heretical beliefs than most catholics are in their moral relativistic beliefs, starting with both faiths respecting human life!

  36. Safety net? How many federal government billions does it take to make a safety net? Why does the federal government have such a responsibility in the first place? The fact is, the federal government is a bureaucratic pile of debris in a deficit spending whirlpool that is circling the drain.

  37. Speaker Boehner has helped to reinstate the DC Opprotunity Scholarships, which gets students out of failing public schools into private ones (just the President Obama does).

    This program was basically KILLED by the President other Democratic Party politicians.

    Giving a child the opportunity to learn how to fish, instead letting them flounder (I was just angling for a complement), is not helping the poor and less fortunate, I don’t know what is.

  38. Alter Dan, when you turn to the Preamble to the Constitution, you will find that the federal government of the United States was created in part to “promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” Our posterity would certainly seem to include the poor, the unemployed, children whose parents live in poverty.

    Beyond the constitutional charge mentioned above, it certainly seems that Jesus wanted the poor and vulnerable to be treated with dignity and respect. Nowhere does Jesus state that any help that does not come from the church is off limits. You could even argue that Jesus recognizes that people should be willing to pay taxes: ““Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” Jesus did not come into the world, in other words, to serve as fodder for tea party arguments on why we need to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans (those with annual incomes of a quarter million or more) at the expense of the poorest Americans.

    Perhaps you would like to live in a society without a safety net. In that case, feel free to reject any Social Security check you may one day receive, as well as all Medicare benefits. Please also tell all your relatives that you hope they will reject their safety net as well, as you are prepared to be the one and only source of their financial and medical security in their old age. If one deems a safety net as a socialistic (and anti-Christian?) concept, one would seem to be obligated to reject that safety net entirely, not just when the safety net is protecting someone else (a poor person, someone you may not know) from falling into profound poverty.

  39. Steve;

    I do not believe that anyone would disagree w/ you that we should attempt to treat the poor with dignity and respect. I believe the disagreement comes with the “who” and the “how.”

    Nowehere does Jesus state that the GOVERNMENT is mandated to help the poor and that you must FINANCE that help.

    You could argue that Jesus recognizes that people “should be willing to pay taxes” but I doubt that very highly. I believe that the interpretation is that you are OBLIGATED, even if you are not willing.

    Jesus did not come into the world to support another mandated government jobs program nor did he come into the world to support the DNC arguement that if you only increase a program by 2% and not 4%, you are KILLING the poor and making them homeless. (And the same for funding NPR and PP.)

    Steve, I would suggest that anytime you (or your family) agrees to receive any assistance directly from an individual or a non-governmental organization (scholarship, food pantry, lift to work, etc.), that you refuse it on the grounds that only the government can help me and do it effectively and efficiently, since the government is the best safety net we can ever envision.

    BTW, Social Security is paid for by each of us and our employers for us and kept in the magical “lock box” ALGORE talked about so often and lovingly of. And anytime it is mentioned that people keep their money and prepare themselves, the howls are incredible.

  40. ArtND’76

    If I am correct that ND’76 means that you graduated from the University of Notre Dame, class of 1976, let me say: “Cheer, cheer… .”

    Your comment makes a lot of sense to me. I applaud your critical thinking skills and ability to express your thoughts so well.

    Too often (and I do this myself) we form opinions and then we find any facts to substantiate those opinions, no matter how cruel or petty. We don’t like to see any facts that do not support our opinions, so we trash any good from the other side. I think we call it being close-minded.

  41. Steve (#40),

    I have met so many people who argue for government programs and vote the liberal politicians in because that gives them the “good feeling” that they are doing “something”. That is the extent of their charity and care towards the poor: take money from somebody else and spend it (irresponsibly, many times) so that I can feel good about myself without having to do anything else. I see this especially among younger people and those with advanced degrees (mostly academics).

    I also know many who put their actions where their votes are but the numbers in the above category are substantial.

  42. HMS: Your surmise is indeed correct. Thanks for the compliment, but I give God the credit for patiently guiding my sometimes stubborn and foggy mind.

    I think I see where you are going with the “government safety net” idea being okay versus the help coming from the individual and voluntary aid associations.

    The fundamental problem I have with government providing this safety net as one interpretation of “providing for the general welfare” as found in the constitution is this: I think our current government’s policies in the areas of both taxation and distribution of benefits violate the 7th commandment: “Thou shalt not steal”.

    Now I think God would not command us to care for the poor in violation of another of His commands to not steal. If the class of people supplying most of the money is being taxed at a percentage rate higher than those who voted for that tax rate, then those supplying most of the money cannot be said to have given their assent to the tax. In fact, since they constitute a tiny minority of voters, the only way they can change the tax is by resorting to other illegal or immoral means: “buying” legislators to quietly doctor the tax code, for instance. This is an open violation of a major complaint in our declaration of independence: taxation without representation.

    On the distribution side, all government benefits must be known to those who may need them and then applied for (not a good assumption, since the benefits and their criteria must be defined by law or regulation, which invariably leads to freeloaders gaming the system, which lead to more bureaucratic layers in an attempt to suppress the gaming, leading to more & more truly needy people getting denied benefits, etc., etc.) Also, for political reasons the government pays many benefits long past the expiration of the need, especially if the beneficiaries have significant political power. All this leads to various forms of legalized theft in the distribution of government money.

    In summary, I agree that help for the poor can and should also come from someone other than the church — as long as that help isn’t stolen from somebody else. I think that voluntary associations with open books meet that criteria, but government does not.

  43. Art ND’76

    Yes, but you were there when Hesburgh was president and I bet when that student, whose name escapes me, used to organize fasts for World Hunger on campus.

  44. HMS:

    Yes I was, and when I graduated I was still a Catholic in spite of all that, rather than because of it.

    Look up the Sycamore Trust, read their materials, especially the history of ND that I lived through (& the earlier Land O’ Lakes conference), and you will know what I mean.

    I wonder what the Cardinal Newman Society has to say, if anything, about this group of professors?

  45. And you never were influenced by the global and social justice initiatives at Notre Dame at that time?

    Sadly, in the words of Rick in Casablanca: “I was misinformed” about what you learned from your formation at Notre Dame during those years.

    I have great respect for Hesburgh.

    Still, I affirm your thinking process.

  46. As always I enjoy reading the comments. I do wonder about the comments citing liberal and conservative Catholic philosophies. I’m not sure Christianity in general, or Catholicism in particular, is one or the other.

    As I remember the song based on the bible verse; “God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God, and God in him”

    That indicates to me that love in all its forms — including charity — is neither liberal nor conservative.

    And if, as many conservative leaning people believe, the USA is founded on Christian principles, then “the general welfare” very clearly should include a safety net. A pretty good safety net at that, for charity is given without bias.

    A person taking what they do not need will answer to God — not to us. The person giving, either from their own pocket or willingly through taxes, also answers to God, though with a more pleasant consequence.

  47. HMS:
    Yes, I was influenced by those initiatives all right. I still want to cringe when I hear the words “social justice” coming from the mouth of a Catholic, especially at a “Catholic” university. That is because during those days it appeared to me to be a way for the “social justice” crowd to receive fame and recognition for all the “good” they were doing. Never mind how wrongheaded it was, nor the attitude of “we know better”, especially to the bishops in union with the Pope. I believe those bishops in union with the Pope comprise the teaching magisterium of the church that is subject to the promise of the Son of God that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

    Land O’ Lakes in ’67 & ’68, with Hesburgh as a leader, issued a statement of university independence from that church’s teaching authority. As far as I know, ND has never recanted from that position. I think many have gone astray from the truth, clearly thought out, because of that position. By taking that position, they took themselves out from under the protection of the promise. They took that position in order to be more “effective”, but by whose definition?

    So I wonder about the thinking of the professors in this Catholic to Catholic statement. While their intentions may be good, have they been seduced by the thinking of this other “Catholic” yet “independent” in order to be more “effective” in teaching “social justice” crowd?

  48. “Safety net? How many federal government billions does it take to make a safety net?”
    -alter Dan S in #42

    Billions? Try trillions. Not sure what the exact number is, but when you add up all the billions year after year counting back to the Great Society Programs of the mid 60’s, the accumulation is easily trillions. And has poverty gotten any better? We could have divided all that money and given it directly to the poor and we would have done a better job at addressing poverty.

    Sometimes the most compassionate thing to do is to let people struggle to self actualization. Making people dependent solves nothing in the long run. A poverty program keeps you in poverty.

  49. The professors need to take the bishops stance and make abortion the #1 issue. How many times does the Holy Father need to speak out on this? Did not that last letter from the U.S.C.C.B. on the last Presidential Election narrow the issue to abortion settle the matter?

    The Church spoke out on it’s plan for poverty:

    “…distributive justice which regulates what the community owes its citizens in proportion to their contributions and needs” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2411).

    A person should not given justice in proportion to his contribution, not just his needs.

    As Paul said:

    “if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat” (2 The 3:10).

  50. I guess the perfect “Catholic politician” would be Stalin, then. In the forced collectivization of Soviet agriculture, he “raised taxes” (to 100%) on “the rich” (farmers) while supporting “the poor” (which quickly became everyone except for him and his henchmen) by giving them “ownership” in “common” of all of the product of the land.

    Except that there wasn’t any produce from the land once it was no longer owned by “the rich”. Tens of millions of people died, and the survivors were degraded to murder, selling their children, etc.

    Last century we conducted several “experiments” in taking from the rich and giving to the poor, and got a nine-digit death count to show for it.

    I have come to believe that, of the Ten Commandments, the single most important support to civil society is not “Thou shalt not steal” but rather “Thou shalt not covet.” And stealing isn’t even number 2; I think “Thou shalt not bear false witness” would be in that spot. If we took all of the WORK that people like these 75 professors put into being envious of other people’s stuff, and scheming to get other people’s stuff, and making up rationales for taking other people’s stuff, and telling lies to get other people’s stuff, and hiring lawyers and lawmakers and policemen and judges to go after people trying to take our stuff… If we took all of that effort and redirected it towards those people creating their OWN stuff, think of how peaceful and prosperous we would be!

  51. Steve,
    You’ve gone off track and assumed/presumed that I hold certain positions. If I were to reply to you by saying “your comments show that you are a communist”, I would have responded to you the way you responded to me, implying that I am against paying taxes, want no “safety net,” don’t care about the poor, am eager to hurt the poor to help the rich, don’t know what Jesus had to say, etc. You can do better than that.

    I will say this: if I had a choice and could keep my money that is going into the social security black hole, I would. Frankly, 40 years from now when I am at retirement, if a social security check came to me I’d probably die from shock. There is no reason for me to reject a social security check: it is my money. I don’t want to put it there but I have to. If, miracle of miracles, social security “gave” me more than I put in, I’d reject it. Anyway, how is it that social security, as it is now and as it is projected to be, a safety net? It’s imploding. I prefer a controlled demolition. Same for medicare.

    Promote the general welfare…how many years was the Constitution in effect before modern-day social security, medicare, medicaid, welfare, etc? We can fully observe the requirements and goals of the Constitution without these federal programs.

  52. What you do unto the least of these you do unto me. That is all I have to say about Boehner speaking at Catholic U. He will with GOP way of thinking end life for those who can not fight back the older Americans on limited income and the poor who never have their voices heard. Surely, abortion is wrong in many ways but making decisions to keep two wars going while killing off the elderly and poor is equally wrong in the eyes of God and in most of the Western world.

  53. I found this clip of Speaker Boehner’s speech at Catholic University’s commencement on Youtube (It is probably done by a proud member of one of the graduate’s family.)

    I get the impression that his Catholic faith is very important to him. He gives a nice shout-out to a Catholic school coach.

  54. Just love the mixing of religion and politics! Church and state should not be intermingled. It seems that some of the Catholic Colleges should just start inviting only members of the clergy, who supposedly have not strayed from the church rules, as speakers. (check their records for any violations—especially after the molestation scandals). Of course, as in many large established businesses and corporations, the church is also very political in it’s interior. Guess there are no more perfect speakers to choose from to inspire the graduates. (no I’m not a fan of Boehner).

  55. HMS: Yes, JFK had to explain himself because of his faith. Of course that was also before folks knew JFK was unfaithful to his wife —-thus breaking the church rules by committing adultry. Would the Catholic colleges have him come to speak with that knowledge? Almost makes political decisions seem tame. Lifes’s tough, ya know? :o)

  56. Pagansister:

    The point I was trying to make, obviously not as clearly as I would have liked, is this:

    I find it interesting that Kennedy had to convince some people that, as president, his Catholic faith would not influence his decisions. (An acquaintance of mine was convinced that were he elected, he would have a hot-line to the Vatican.)

    Today fifty years later, some Catholics are demanding that our Catholic government officials make their decisions based on Catholic Church teachings.

  57. HMS:
    Got it! I am old enough to remember that election, but wasn’t 21 yet, so couldn’t vote in “those days”. Now 18 year olds can vote and that is a good thing. Yes, I heard all the speculation of whether JFK was going to do what the Pope said.

  58. Pat #59 — “killing off the poor and elderly” strikes me as an absurd hyperbole.

    Of course, Obama isn’t Catholic, so I suppose nobody should blame him for “making decisions to keep two wars going.”

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