One of the indicators of progressive or whatever pre-fix label Catholicism is the trend to dogmatize the prudential and prudentialize the dogmatic. If there is some letter by a subcommittee of some Bishops’s conference that agrees with some point it trumps all of Church teaching on the same subject however magisterial.
For example the document 1978 document “Environment and Art in Catholic Worship” was treated as if passed down from the hands of Moses regardless that it never had any force of law or was ever even voted on by the American bishops. Yet this document had a massive (negative) impact on Church architecture and the liturgy. This pattern is evident over and over again.
Back in April and May Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice, Peace and Human Development critiqued the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan. For example in this letter. As a result of course progressive Catholics are saying Ryan has a “Catholic Problem” and of course the Nuns on a Bus also made this a central part of their tour.
So you have a statement issued by the head of a committee speaking on behalf of the USSCB. Later at the USCCB meeting in Atlanta there were some concerns about this statement.
“There have been some concerns raised by lay Catholics, especially some Catholic economists, about what was perceived as a partisan action against Congressman Ryan and the budget he had proposed,” said Bishop Boyea. That statement “didn’t really further dialogue in our deeply divided country.”
In his view, statements that endorsed specific economic policies revealed a lack of “humility.” He told the assembly, “We need to learn far more than we need to teach in this area. We need to listen more than we need to speak. We already have an excellent, fine Compendium [of the Social Doctrine of the Church].”
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., agreed that the committee was “at times perceived as partisan” and neglected the principle of subsidiarity, which calls for solutions that can be provided close to people in need.
Archbishop Naumann suggested that drafters of the statement needed to rethink a tendency to advocate for government assistance, and he said that the conference’s proposals should not ignore the ballooning national deficit.
“Sometimes we’re perceived as just encouraging the government to spend more money, with no realistic way of how we’re going to afford to do this,” he observed.
A third statement, by Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, echoed Archbishop Naumann’s suggestion that the proposed document focus more on the family as the central social institution and spoke of how the “disintegration of the family” had fueled the demand for government assistance.
This is of course the problems that result when the USCCB wade into prudential questions in application of Church teaching. Bishop Blaire’s statements had the implication that these problems were mandated to be acted upon at the Federal level and with this understanding any cut in any social program was a detriment to the poor. It was also not helpful that his statements didn’t actually quote from the Church’s documents or show how the Ryan budget actually contradicted any of these teachings.
This is not to say that Paul Ryan made perfect prudential decisions in balancing what programs needed to be cut. This is an area where Catholics in good faith can argue about how best to apply the Church’s social teaching and treating the poor as Jesus himself. There is the temptation to solve everything at the Federal level since that seems to be the easiest way to lobby an idea. Federal budgets when they make cuts on some programs don’t detail how the slack is to be taken up. Subsidarity gets short shrift and very little gets done at the local level and States/Cities are unwilling to step in. These are of course problems that budgets can’t solve and the outsourcing of charity to other people’s tax money diminishes us all when we don’t personally answer the Gospel call.
I don’t object at all to any critiquing of the Ryan budget in regards to application of Catholic social teaching. What I object to are those that say Ryan has a “Catholic problem” and they would not make the same claim about Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sec. Sebelius, VP Joe Biden. This is just totally unhelpful partisan crap that advances nothing. Complaining about prudential application and dismissing outright support of intrinsic evils is really straining for gnats while swallowing a camel. This cafeteria Catholicism makes it easy to ignore a message that might contain valid criticisms. Thought that is the problem on both sides with the faith gets trumped by party “nationalism”. A temptation I must constantly fight and evaluate myself.