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Poverty and the Gospel

April 26, 2012

US Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is known for arguing falsely that Catholic doctrine opposes programs for the poor. Catholic bishops, priests, and theologians have vigorously disputed Ryan’s repeated misrepresentation of Christian values and beliefs.

Staff members at Georgetown University have now joined in. Excerpts from their compelling correspondence with Ryan may be found below:

“…[W]e would be remiss in our duty…if we did not challenge your continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few…

In short, your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love.

Cuts to anti-hunger programs have devastating consequences. Last year, one in six Americans lived below the official poverty level and over 46 million Americans — almost half of them children — used food stamps for basic nutrition… At a time when charities are strained to the breaking point and local governments have a hard time paying for essential services, the federal government must not walk away from the most vulnerable.

While you often appeal to Catholic teaching on ‘subsidiarity’ as a rationale for gutting government programs, you are profoundly misreading Catholic teaching. Subsidiarity is not a free pass to dismantle government programs and leave the poor to their own devices. This often misused Catholic principle…calls for solutions to be enacted as close to the level of local communities as possible. But it also demands that higher levels of government provide help…when communities and local governments face problems beyond their means to address such as economic crises, high unemployment, endemic poverty and hunger…”


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