Matt Lewis

Rep. Paul Ryan discusses his Catholic faith and his budget at Georgetown University

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Matt K. Lewis
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      Matt K. Lewis

      Matt K. Lewis is a senior contributor to The Daily Caller, and a contributing editor for The Week. He is a respected commentator on politics and cultural issues, and has been cited by major publications such as The Washington Post and The New York Times. Matt is from Myersville, MD and currently resides in Alexandria, VA. Follow Matt K. Lewis on Twitter <a>@mattklewis</a>.

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) recent comments — that his budget was inspired by his Catholic faith — has proven controversial.

Thursday morning, Ryan sought to clarify his comments, delivering a speech titled, “America’s Enduring Promise,” at the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute’s 2012 Whittington Lecture.

Here is a key excerpt which specifically addresses how his faith influences his politics:

… Of course there can be differences among faithful Catholics on this.

The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it.  What I have to say about the social doctrine of the Church is from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding to the problems of the day.

Serious problems like those we face today require charitable conversation. Civil public dialogue goes to the heart of solidarity, the virtue that does not divide society into classes and groups but builds up the common good of all.

The overarching threat to our whole society today is the exploding federal debt. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has charged that governments, communities, and individuals running up high debt levels are “living at the expense of future generations” and “living in untruth.”

We in this country still have a window of time before a debt-fueled economic crisis becomes inevitable. We can still take control before our own needy suffer the fate of Greece. How we do this is a question for prudential judgment, about which people of good will can differ.

If there was ever a time for serious but respectful discussion, among Catholics as well as those who don’t share our faith, that time is now.

Later, he added this …

And since we meet today at America’s first Catholic university, I feel it’s important to discuss how, as a Catholic in public life, my own personal thinking on these issues has been guided by my understanding of the Church’s social teaching.

Simply put, I do not believe that the preferential option for the poor means a preferential option for big government.

Look at the results of the government-centered approach to the war on poverty. One in six Americans are in poverty today – the highest rate in a generation. In this war on poverty, poverty is winning. We need a better approach.

To me, this approach should be based on the twin virtues of solidarity and subsidiarity – virtues that, when taken together, revitalize civil society instead of displacing it.