Last April, the US Catholic Bishops sent a blistering message to the House Ways and Means Committee saying that any federal budget must be judged by the way it protects the 'least of these.' In Bishop Blaire's words: "The House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria."
The architect of the budget the Bishops deemed immoral was Rep. Paul Ryan, a Catholic, who has now joined Mitt Romney as his running mate on the GOP ticket.
Much has already been said about how Gov. Romney's choice of Rep. Ryan will turn the presidential election into a substantive debate on policy. But the choice will also provide Catholic voters with a choice in the November election that will serve to highlight internal tensions and conflicting priorities.
The Catholic Church is already under immense stress. Just Friday (August 11), the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents most Catholic nuns in America, formally rejected the Vatican takeover of their organization and its accompanying Bishop overseers.
These nuns have been accused of emphasizing work with the poor and not focusing enough on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Some of them participated in the media-friendly Nuns On A Bus tour, during which they traveled to nine states protesting the budget proposal of Rep. Paul Ryan. Sister Simone Campbell was quoted as saying that Ryan's budget "rejects church teaching about solidarity, inequality, the choice for the poor, and the common good. That's wrong."
Their months-long critique of Rep. Ryan's budget is unlikely to lessen in the coming months.
Another show of Catholic concern with Rep. Ryan came when he was invited to speak at the Jesuit affiliated Georgetown University. Before he arrived, Ryan was sent a letter signed by more than 90 faculty, including over a dozen Jesuit priests. In the letter, the vice presidential candidate was again taken to task by Catholics: "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."
So, on the one hand you have a rare show of Catholic unity in condemning what is considered Paul Ryan's major asset to the Romney campaign -- namely his radical fiscal conservatism.
However, Rep. Ryan is certainly in line with the Catholic Bishops on questions of religious freedom (as understood as exemption from the contraception mandate), gay marriage and abortion. And these three, especially abortion, will rally many 'pro-life' Catholics to the Romney/Ryan ticket.
Interestingly, the match-up between Obama/Biden vs. Romney/Ryan offers a good illustration of the tension within the church. Both the current vice president and the recent addition to the Republican ticket are Catholics from heavily Catholic states.
Yet they represent opposing views on virtually every issue.
Much is made about the Catholic vote. According to the Pew Study, in the 2000 election, Catholics preferred Gore to Bush; in 2004 they preferred Bush to Catholic candidate John Kerry; and in 2008 Catholics preferred Obama to McCain 54 percent to 45 percent.
This year, Catholics will have a clear choice, as will all Americans, but how this disperate group will vote is unclear.
Nine Sayings By Jesus About The Poor
<strong>Luke 6:20-21</strong> Then he looked up at his disciples and said: 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 'Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. 'Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
<strong>Luke 4:16-19</strong> When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.'
<strong>Matthew 25:34-36</strong> Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me."
<strong>Mark 10:21-22</strong> Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
<strong>Mark 12:41-44</strong> He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."
<strong>Luke 14:12-14</strong> He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
<strong>Luke 16:19-25</strong> "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.
<strong>Luke 11:39-42</strong> Then the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you. "But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God
<strong>Luke 12:16-21</strong> Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."
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