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.
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.