Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Degrees of Difference

In today’s WSJ, William McGurn writes the on progressive attempts to paint Paul Ryan as a “bad Catholic” by equating his differences with the bishops’ views on social justice with their far more serious deviations from church teachings on matters such as abortion. Social Justice and Ryan the Heretic:

As for Mr. Ryan, what drives progressives bonkers is that he insists on talking about spending in terms of promises made to the American people. In this sense, "Can we pay for it?" is a moral as well as practical question.

Manifestly some bishops do not like Mr. Ryan's answers. Then again, Catholic social teaching itself holds that the bishops possess no special competence on the subject. Applying the principles of Catholic social teaching involves prudential judgments that are the special province of Catholic laymen and laywomen.

Mr. Ryan's own bishop, the Most Rev. Robert C. Morlino, addressed the subject with his most recent column in the diocesan paper for Madison, Wis. The church, he wrote, regards abortion as an "intrinsic evil" (meaning always and everywhere wrong, regardless of circumstances). In sharp contrast, he said, on issues such as how best to create jobs or help the poor, "there can be difference according to how best to follow the principles which the church offers."

"I'm not endorsing Paul Ryan," the bishop told me later by phone. "People are free to disagree with him, and disagree vehemently. But it's wrong to suggest that his views somehow make him a bad Catholic."

The church has long been quite clear that while there are some areas where its leaders and the laity may have differences, when it comes to abortion there is no room for compromise. It's dishonest for progressive Catholics to attempt to conflat issues like government spending and abortion in order to seek to diminish those they disagree with while also providing cover for their own lack of fidelty to the values that matter most to the church.