Monday, August 20, 2012

Making prudent and difficult choices

Paul Ryan's candidacy for Vice-President has brought forth a very vigorous discussion of whether his economic proposals are compatible with his Catholic convictions. Some Catholics are actually praying for his "conversion." Several Catholic prelates [see here and here] have indicated that—while they don't necessarily agree with his proposals and don't endorse candidates—there is nothing that he has proposed that is in conflict with his responsibility as a Catholic in public office. From a recent column by Catholic Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver:
A married friend of mine is loaded with debt. His home is double mortgaged. His wallet is full of credit cards, all of which carry substantial balances.

My friend claims not to enjoy racking up debt. He doesn't seem to think he has a choice. He pays the tuition of his college aged children, and he supports his family in a comfortable lifestyle. His children take private art and music lessons, and he pays the rent of his unemployed nephew. But as much as he desires to love his children, he isn't doing them any favors.

Eventually, for my friend, the debts will come due. When they do, his children will be in a difficult place. Never having sacrificed, they haven’t built or saved money, or prepared for financial independence. My friend’s imprudence will cripple no one more severely than his children. ....

Knowing what is coming; few would say that my friend is acting with compassion, or with a Christian sense of responsibility.

Christian responsibility—expressed sometimes as stewardship—is the practice of making prudent and difficult judgments. It is the recognition that we cannot give everything we wish to, we cannot spend what we do not have, and we cannot borrow what we can’t repay. ....

I am not a policy expert. I do not know whether Paul Ryan’s fiscal plans are the right plans for America’s present or her future. I cannot, nor would I, endorse him or any other candidate. But claims that Paul Ryan’s plan run deeply counter to Catholic social teaching are unfounded and unreasonable. Some criticisms are so insidious that one wonders whether the critics have actually read Ryan’s plans.

For Catholics there are certain social issues on which the answers are firm and absolute. Catholics must recognize the dignity of the unborn, and the injustice of legalized killing. Catholics must recognize the dignity of human sexuality and the immutability of marriage between man and woman. Catholics must recognize the preferential option—the Lord’s love—for the poor. These issues must inform the decisions Catholic leaders make in proposing or supporting policy.

Beyond these non-negotiable principles, there is room for considerable debate on particular policy choices or initiatives. But a primary element of the debate for Catholics—for all reasonable adults—must be the long-term consequences of our choices. St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica insists that strategic decisions take place in light of our end, or purpose, and the means to get there—rather than the dictates of immediate sentimental inclinations. The just means, he says, include the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity—that is, authentic fraternity with the poor, and real respect for the family and the local community. .... [more]
In defense of Christian responsibility - By Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila