Catholic Scholars Challenge Rep. John Boehner on Church Teaching Before CUA Commencement

A number of Catholic scholars, among them several theologians from The Catholic University of America, have sent a delegation to the office of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), in anticipation of his invited commencement address at CUA. In a press release from Prof. Stephen Schneck, an organizer of this response to the Speaker’s invited address, we are told that the Catholic scholar delegation will “deliver the [following] letter to Speaker Boehner’s office along with a copy of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church – a Vatican publication that highlights centuries of Church teaching on social justice issues.”

The press release, dated May 11, 2011, continues:

When Catholic universities host influential political leaders, they must not simply honor their achievements, but also critique their departures from Catholic teaching,” said Vincent J. Miller, Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture at the University of Dayton. “This is especially the case with Catholic University, founded by the bishops. Speaker Boehner leads a movement that actively undermines a Catholic vision for government’s vital role in serving the common good. The budget he worked to pass in the House literally takes food from hungry children while enacting massive tax cuts for the wealthy. These actions are antithetical to Catholic doctrine. As he visits Catholic University, where the great Msgr. John Ryan helped lay the moral foundation for New Deal policies that protect the poor and most vulnerable, Speaker Boehner must be reminded of those core teachings of his Catholic faith he is now disregarding.

The full text of the letter (also printed below) includes the full list of signatories, Catholic scholars from CUA as well as other Catholic Colleges and Universities around the United States, such as Fordham University, The University of Dayton, Xavier University and The University of Notre Dame, among others. You can view a PDF of the signed letter here. In addition, one can find notable Catholic leaders like my Franciscan brother, Fr. Joseph Nangle, OFM, and Marie Denis, director of Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

Here is the full Text:

Dear Mr. Speaker,

We congratulate you on the occasion of your commencement address to The Catholic University of America. It is good for Catholic universities to host and engage the thoughts of powerful public figures, even Catholics such as yourself who fail to recognize (whether out of a lack of awareness or dissent) important aspects of Catholic teaching. We write in the hope that this visit will reawaken your familiarity with the teachings of your Church on matters of faith and morals as they relate to governance.

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.

Representing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishops Hubbard and Blaire have now endorsed with other American Christian leaders a call to legislators for a “Circle of Protection” around programs for the poor that you, Mr. Speaker, have imperiled. The statement of these Christian leaders recognizes the need for fiscal responsibility, “but not at the expense of hungry and poor people.” Indeed, it continues, “These choices are economic, political—and moral. As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up—how it treats those Jesus called ‘the least of these’ (Matthew 25:45).”

Mr. Speaker, we urge you to use the occasion of this year’s commencement at The Catholic University of America to give fullest consideration to the teachings of your Church. We call upon you to join with your bishops and sign on to the “Circle of Protection.” It is your moral duty as a legislator to put the needs of the poor and most vulnerable foremost in your considerations. To assist you in this regard, we enclose a copy of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Published by the Vatican, this is the “catechism” for the Church’s ancient and growing teaching on a just society and Catholic obligations in public life.

Catholic social doctrine is not merely a set of goals to be achieved by whatever means one chooses. It is also a way of proceeding, a set of principles that are derived from the truth of the human person. In Pope Benedict’s words: “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way… the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite.”

We commend to you the Compendium’s discussion of the principles of the common good, the preferential option for the poor, and the interrelationship of subsidiarity and solidarity. Paragraph 355 on tax revenues, solidarity, and support for the vulnerable is particularly relevant to the moment.

Be assured of our prayers for you on this occasion and for your faithful living out of your vocation in public life.

Stephen F. Schneck
Director, Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies
The Catholic University of America

 (et al.)

Photo: US House of Representatives
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29 Responses to “Catholic Scholars Challenge Rep. John Boehner on Church Teaching Before CUA Commencement”

  1. Matt Doyle Says:

    I only hope that it will do some good.

    • Miriam Muse Says:

      Just wondering: where were these so-called Catholic scholars when pro-abortion, pro-DOMA repeal Obama spoke at Notre Dame? I suppose that was appropriate, because of his stand on “social justice”…My husband and I had to let our honest, hard-working employee go (member of our parish) due to the failing economy and tax increases…is that social justice?

  2. Rev. Br. John F. Sprissler O.Carm Says:

    Mathew 25 need I say more!!!!!!!!!!

  3. george bouchey Says:

    Made my day! About time someone helped hoist the Speaker on his Petard!

  4. Our last Congress headed by catholic Pelosi bankrupted this country in the name of social justice. The sad thing is that all the cash went to banks and wealthy democratic supporters. I work with the pregnant and the criminal poor and the “social justice” in this country is bankrupting their work ethic and the quality of their lives and those of their children. Please get some exposure to the real poor in this country as opposed to espousing your lofty propaganda from your academic pedestals which makes you feel good. If you really cared about the poor you’d see that the root cause of their disastrous lives is not the lack of money or food but the immoral culture in which we live which has broken the family in pieces. But you academic and liberal “Catholics” cannot and will not preach, teach and support legislation that upholds marriage, family life, or the culture of life.

    • Such a dichotomized stance does little to further dialogue. Placing “social justice” and “Catholics” in quotation marks further erodes the dialogue, as does the use of the second person in the final sentence. Is it really true that academic “Cathollcs” do not support the culture of life? Or that the support of social justice is at odds with promoting family life? Or that academics have no exposure to real poverty and simply “expose lofty propaganda from pedestals”? Catholic social doctrine is not “lofty propaganda,” it’s the Gospel mandate of love of neighbor rooted in the “truth of the human person.”

    • Wait a minute. You’re saying people are poor because of moral failings? That’s rather Calvinist, isn’t it?

    • Miriam Muse Says:

      Thank you, Jackie, for having the courage to challenge this hijacking of Catholic teaching. When Jesus preached the parable of the Good Samaritan, there was no mention of a government agency extracting money from the Samaritan’s purse. This exemplary person helped the victim out of the goodness of his heart and proved to be the good neighbor. Burdening individuals such as the small business owner (like myself) with crushing taxation (much of which funds immoral programs the Catholic Church purports to be against) is not the gospel’s answer. There is no reward for coherced, legalized plunder.
      I will add one observation: the very administration that looks to raise taxes for so-called social justice programs has no love for Catholic teaching. It is the same administration that counteracts core doctrine of our faith and will continue to distort and degrade it in the name of progressive secularism. Are you blind guides or just fools?

  5. It is good to call our lawmaker’s to honest confrontation

  6. You know, it makes me wonder if these same people would have baned the Servant of God, Dorothy Day from speaking. After all, she said things like:

    “We believe that social security legislation, now balled as a great victory for the poor and for the worker, is a great defeat for Christianity. It is an acceptance of the Idea of force and compulsion. It is an acceptance of Cain’s statement, on the part of the employer. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Since the employer can never be trusted to give a family wage, nor take care of the worker as he takes care of his machine when it is idle, the state must enter in and compel help on his part. ” (CW Feb 1945 http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/daytext.cfm?TextID=150)

    There are certainly legitimate reasons to not want a Republican to come speak at a Catholic school, especially a Trotskyite in “neo-con” clothing. However, the idea that he shouldn’t come speak because he stole food from a starving poor person?! Ha! That’s not the role of the State! That’s the role of those signatories and each one of us who claims to be following Christ.

    • Just a clarification: the signatories do not request that Rep. Boehner not speak at CUA. In fact, the letter opens with a congratulatory note.

  7. “Social Justice” is not the high point of Catholic moral teaching, but thepreaching of the gospel for the salvation of souls. The popes have already said that on economic or social questions of public policy, there is room for legitimate differences on how best to serve the common good of society. The republicans in congress were elected by the American people in overwhelming cases to disavow the excess spending and bankruptcy of the country with astronomical debt. This surely is a matter of justice for future generations of Americans. The previous speaker “Catholic” Pelosi ws all for abortion and gay marriage, on which there is NO room for dissent to remain in good standing as a Catholic.

    • “Action on behalf of justice is a constitutive part of the preaching of the Gospel” (Synod of Bishops “Justice in the World”)

    • Miriam Muse Says:

      Well said, pete! I love the saying: the trouble with socialism (and make no mistake, this administration is aiming for that) is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money. Tell me how that helps the poor? And yes, wait until marriage is redefined and Catholic schools are totally eliminated…what will this “Catholic” intelligentsia say then?

  8. William Says:

    It is surprising to learn that so-called Catholic scholars have suddenly become interested in promoting Catholic positions. The subject letter is meant to convolute the issues and damage Boehner and other conservative Catholics. Meanwhile, the silence of the so-called scholars with regard to Child Sacrifice is deafening.
    Think about what Mother Teresa said, “the Fruit of Abortion is Nuclear War. Or the prayer of Blessed JP-II in his Litany Of Peace, “from Nuclear War …. deliver us.”
    So when cities are destroyed and large portions of the population are killed because of Abortion, the so-called Catholic scholars want the poor to have a little more money in their pockets as they lie dead in the streets.
    Good thinking Catholic scholars !!

    • Miriam Muse Says:

      Excellent points, William! These Catholic scholars are unaware (or are they?) of the slippery slope they’ve embarked upon. As I stated in the post above (replying to Jackie): the very administration that looks to raise taxes for so-called social justice programs has no love for Catholic teaching. It is the same administration that counteracts core doctrine of our faith and will continue to distort and degrade it in the name of progressive secularism. Are you blind guides or just fools?

  9. george bouchey Says:

    Yes, helpint tovhoist the Speaker on his own petard is a Christian act. After all, he needs much help, as he and his associates seem to believe that the people exist for the law, and not that the law exists for the people. What else is one to believe when he and his associates are taking material substance away from those who sorely need it, while at the same time giving material substance to those who already have many times more than the need?

    • Miriam Muse Says:

      Hey George…perhaps you should look up the definition of charity. Each act of charity recorded in the gospels is voluntary; no mention is made of compulsory redistribution of wealth. The early Christians lived a communal existence voluntarily. One will not be rewarded as a good and faithful servant if one is forced into funding government programs, many of which defy Catholic teachings. My husband and I sponsor 4 children, volunteer in the community and donate to many worhwhile causes and charities. Our taxes as property and business owners prevent us from giving even more, as well as from hiring. Proponents of this form of “social justice” know very little about sound economics. The poor benefit when private-sector employment is up and prices are down as in a free market unencumbered by government entitlements. And by the way, this may sound harsh, but I don’t know anyone who ever got a job from a poor person…without the “haves” there would be many more “have-nots”.
      “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”.
      Just wondering when Karl Marx became your patron saint.

      Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/k/karl_marx.html#ixzz1MO6KhKaKSince when did Karl Marx become your patron saint?

      • Miriam, I will only say this once. I have already deleted some of your remarks per the DatingGod.org“Rules of Engagement” (http://datinggod.org/the-rules-of-engagement/) Your comments are verging on the point of insult without constructive content. You are welcome to comment here and offer response to my original posts or the comments of other readers, but if you do not gain some composure and show some respect for your fellow commenters, you will no longer be permitted to post comments here.

  10. george bouchey Says:

    Shooting the messenger is bad form, my dear. Let’s try to stick to the subject. And while Marx is not my patron saint, his qualifications to comment in this discourse are quite impeccable. I note that missing from your concepts is the one about much being expected from those to whom much has been givern. I congratulate you on the good you do, and remind you the the reward for doing good is the doing good.

  11. THis message to John Boehner is nothing more than Democrat tripe. As several respondants have noted, this same group of leftist catholic luminaries are completely silent about the morality of bankrupting our nation, which will cause FAR greater misery than they are accusing the House budget of promoting. These saints in their academic ivory towers have no compunction about their silence before Democrat promotion of abortion, free sex, homosexuality, destruction of marriage, destruction of families by misguided welfare programs that create government dependency, and promotion of class and race warfare for political gain.

  12. Bonnie B. Says:

    I am so relieved to find that the Church in America is challenging the Congressman. I believe that the Pope should excommunicate him for what he is doing, and I hope the USCCB and others will urge him to do so.

    About the facts: Obama is not a Catholic and so is outside Church jurisdiction. In addition, Pope Benedict has personally spoken to him about abortion. The bailout of financial institutions seems to be a mistake, but that has nothing to do with care for the the vulnerable members of society. In addition, if we withdrew from Iraq and Afghanistan, our budget would immediately be balanced.
    The popes never said that it was okay to take away societal programs that benefit the poor, the disabled, or the elderly. Never, never, never did they say that. If one really reads the whole of Dorothy Days statement, given by a comment, she is stating that it is a sin that the government has to do what private business should do, i.e. take care of its elderly and disabled workers.

    The US Conference of Catholic Bishops urged President Bush not to attack Iraq, but he did it anyway. Unfortunately, Obama has not kept his promises of withdrawing, and the military actions in Afghanistan are infuriating the world because of the high civilian casualities, many times women and children. These actions are decreasing the safety of American citizens.

    In reading the comments, it is obvious that many of the people writing, who sound as if they may be Catholics, have no understanding of Catholic teaching. This is so common here in the United States. I would urge you to read the encyclicals of John Paul II and Pope Benedict and the writing of the US Conference of Catholic Biships on the issues of the rights of humans and to then consider whether you should change denominations. After reading the encyclicals, on the Vatican website, and the Bishop’s comments, then ask yourself: Am I a Roman Catholic? Or am I, for example, a Baptist, perhaps? As Catholics, we do not interpret the Gospels on our own but in the light of Church teaching and tradition. For example, wise and educated persons such as the popes, bishops, and other so-called Catholic intelligentsia provide our teaching and tradition. Deal with it, or go become a Baptist, I say.

    As Catholics, we must tirelessly work for the rights and safety of the unborn, but there are many other aspects involved in being a true Roman Catholic. To be loyal to the Church’s teachings, one must understand them. The teachings involve much more than simply abortion and sex.

  13. Obama is not outside the jurisdiction of the Church. No one is outside the jurisdiction of the Church! To claim that one is outside the jurisdiction of the Church is to claim that one is not in a state of sin because that person does not believe in God. Simply stated the so-called intellectuals are seeking to damage the reputation a good man and a good Catholic, and in doing so they align themselves with the likes of George Soros and other enemies of the Good. Donations to the so-called intellectuals pet projects are sure to increase as long as they provide the fodder to damage good Catholics. The Speaker is not running the House by fiat, now you can sit back and look forward to the time when Mr. Obama is declares Martial Law and runs the U. S. Government by Executive Order.

  14. george bouchey Says:

    Bonnie B. ,

    About the facts: Obama is not a Catholic and so is outside Church jurisdiction.

    Hmm. Would you clarify this, as I’m not sure what it means. In what manner of jurisdiction do you mean as it usually means control..

    And again, a puzzling statement to me:

    For example, wise and educated persons such as the popes, bishops, and other so-called Catholic intelligentsia provide our teaching and tradition.

    You do not mention theologians specifically. In addition, I have Free Will, Reason and Conscience and an education. I consider myself one of the persons you describe, and like Newman, would toast conscience first, then the pope.

    So help me understand exactly what you mean?

    And William, this:

    Obama is not outside the jurisdiction of the Church. No one is outside the jurisdiction of the Church.

    That is an outrageous statement if I take it literally! Exactly what do you mean? I could accept no one is outside the juirsrdiction of God, unless you were nullifying Free Will.

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    Catholic Scholars Challenge Rep. John Boehner on Church Teaching Before CUA Commencement | Dating God

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