This is well worth passing along. Karen Sue Smith, an editor at America magazine, wrote a blog entry titled “Boehner and the Poor.” I believe Smith, in a way I’ve yet to see elsewhere, really gets right to the heart of the matter: this letter is not a diatribe or some sort of retributive note, but an admonition offered in a hopeful and pastoral tone.

Smith writes:

What makes the letter a milestone in my view is not partisanship. This is no partisan rejoinder to the brouhaha over President Obama’s speech at the University of Notre Dame.

Instead, two things make this letter stand out. First, it appears to be a form of peer ministry or something close to it, and in structure it reads like a New Testament letter, at least the admonishment portion. The letter even ends with a prayer. Mostly lay Catholic professors, after all (with a few clergy among them, including Jesuits) are here admonishing a fellow Catholic leader to abide by Catholic social teaching.

The second thing that makes this letter distinctive is that the bedrock teaching these signers hold up does not concern abortion, but care for the poor. Who, in this age of cutbacks, is sticking up for the poor?

Last, while the signers do allude to teachings of the pope and of the U.S. Catholic bishops, they themselves wield no authority and make no threats. Yet with what one could call a “pastoral letter” they do intend to instruct, convince and influence the Speaker’s conduct as a Catholic leader–a peer or colleague with a lay vocation in this world.



  1. Hello Brother Dan,

    As a vocal advocate of non-violence, do you feel that the speaker’s pro-life stance is paramount, and offers a model example for other politicians?

  2. Boner has set himself up in a Lose/Lose situation. He can’t endorse Catholic Social Teaching without denying his budget proposal, and vice versa. It will be interesting to see how he weasels out of it. Quite clever of these people to see this.
    george bouchey – evening div ’76

    1. George,
      Thank you for an interesting commentary. I think the expert in terms of a Lose/Lose situation is the professor cited as playing the lead role in writing the letter, Stephen F. Schneck of Catholic University. The professor cites fidelity to Church Teaching as provocation of his letter. Schneck signed a letter in 2009 praising the nomination of Kathleen Sebelius as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services. She defends the killing of babies who are 80 percent born, was the proud recipient of tens of thousands of dollars from George Tiller, the king of partial-birth abortion, and was openly denounced by the last three archbishops of Kansas City. Moreover, Schneck supported the Obama health care bill over the objections of the bishops. Fidelity anyone?

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