This Saturday Speaker of the House John Boehner will give the commencement address at Catholic University, the only American Catholic university chartered by Catholic bishops. He will also receive an honorary degree.
Several professors at Roman Catholic colleges and universities have criticized Boehner for supporting legislation that violates Catholic social teaching. Here is a taste of their protest letter:
Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings. 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 2012 budget you shepherded to passage in the House of Representatives guts long established protections for the most vulnerable members of society. It is particularly cruel to pregnant women and children, gutting Maternal and Child Health grants and slashing $500 million from the highly successful Women Infants and Children nutrition program. When they graduate from WIC at age 5, these children will face a 20% cut in food stamps. The House budget radically cuts Medicaid and effectively ends Medicare. It invokes the deficit to justify visiting such hardship upon the vulnerable, while it carves out $3 trillion in new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. In a letter speaking on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Stephen Blaire and Bishop Howard Hubbard detailed the anti-life implications of this budget in regard to its impact on poor and vulnerable American citizens. They explained the Church’s teachings in this regard, clearly insisting that:
“A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate
revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.” Specifically addressing your budget, the letter expressed grave concern about changes to Medicaid and Medicare that could leave the elderly and poor without adequate health care. The bishops warned further: “We also fear the human and social costs of substantial cuts to programs that serve families working to escape poverty, especially food and nutrition, child development and education, and affordable housing.”
Read the entire letter here. It is signed by professors at Catholic University, University of Dayton, Santa Clara University, St. Joseph’s University, Marquette University, Xavier University, John Carroll University, Loyola University-New Orleans, St. John’s University (MN), Fordham University, Georgetown University, Boston College, Fairfield University, Clarke University, University of Toledo, Manor College, and University of Notre Dame.
Tom Van Dyke says
We realize the irony—do we not?—of JFK having to give a famous speech denying that his presidency would be controlled by the Vatican?
Now, not the Vatican, but American academics presume to advise John Boehner on the proper Romish theology of politics?
And further, that their protest is completely ecclesiastically unsound per the Vatican, as John Sirico notes:
Speaker Boehner need only consult the text of the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching, which the authors of the letter say they have delivered to him, wherein he will read: “The Church’s Magisterium does not wish to exercise political power or eliminate the freedom of opinion of Catholics regarding contingent questions.” (no. 571)
And still further, Benedict's Caritas in Veritate: “The Church does not have technical solutions to offer.” (no. 9)
These protestors are out of bounds, by their own church's teaching.
And Dr. Fea—John—some of those signing the letter are history profs. What possible relevance does “the historian” have to the discussion? Their own partisan views are no more weighty than the random Roman Catholic's on the street.
“The historian” often oversteps his bounds, credentials and expertise. A valid criticism of one Mr. David Barton, who is not even a creditable historian. But the fact is, Barton's sin of mixing history, theology, and current policy debates is no more egregious than what we see here from legitimate history profs.
[Indeed, as a Protestant, Barton can say whatever the hell he wants about what the Bible says, since he is not obliged to defer to the magisterium's authority, as does the Roman Catholic.]
When it comes to the Roman church in cases like these, the insight of “the historian” is often less than useless. The Roman church is not a democracy. The Pope, the Magisterium, etc.
Boehner's critics embarrass themselves here—by putting their credentials under their signatures on that letter, they embarrass themselves professionally and discredit their own credentials.
“The Church does not have technical solutions to offer.”
Pope Ratzinger's an estimable theologian and political philosopher, John. He's quite aware of the difference between church and state.