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Congressman Ryan and the liberal anathema

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | May 01, 2012

In a Wall Street Journal column on Rep. Paul Ryan’s speech at Georgetown, William McGurn makes an important point:

Now, let us stipulate that those of us who incline to Mr. Ryan's application of Catholic social teaching—not least Mr. Ryan himself—do not assert we enjoy any monopoly. Plainly others applying the same principles can and do reach very different conclusions. When that happens, the obvious thing to do would be to have an honest conversation about which path has proved better at achieving its goals.

This is the most salient difference between Ryan’s argument and the arguments of his journalistic critics. He allows for the possibility that someone might disagree with him on economic questions, and remain a good Catholic. They don’t.

Liberal pundits are generally allergic to the notion that the Catholic Church might assert authority on any question in the political sphere. They find it terribly unfair that a bishop might say a particular politician is not a good Catholic, simply because he supports the legalized slaughter of unborn children. There should be a plurality of Catholic opinions, they argue, and the bishops should tolerate those who disagree with them. By that logic, one would expect them to criticize Ryan by saying that he is wrong in his economic analysis, or wrong in his interpretation of Catholic social thought. But certainly they shouldn’t say that he is a bad Catholic. Yet they do.

The same liberals who gasp and howl in protest when bishops rebuke politicians for supporting legal abortion sound awfully anxious to hear the same sort of rebukes directed at Ryan. So anxious that they’re ready to begin hurling the anathemas themselves.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: ronaldruais1947 - May. 01, 2012 6:29 PM ET USA

    In the Bishops’ letter to congress they make a case against budget cuts. They, and rightfully so, suggest that budget cuts should consider the poor and the vulnerable. But what exactly does it mean? There can be no disagreement with the criteria as a goal. However, the criteria are so broad that they cannot be used as a measuring stick. Under the criteria specified would a $1 million dollar cut fail to protect or threaten human life and dignity (the Bishops’ criteria)?