One of the more interesting back-stage brouhahas of recent weeks has been the effort of Rep. Paul Ryan and his Capitol Hill fans to use a pleasant letter from New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to indicate church support for, or at least neutrality towards, his increasingly infamous budget proposal.
At TNR, Michael Sean Winters provides the essential background to the exchange of letters between Dolan and Ryan. He describes Dolan’s letter not as any sort of endorsement of Ryan’s budget, but as a diplomatic effort to find something positive to say about a document squarely at odds with Church teachings, as part of a characteristic Dolan strategy of non-confrontation.
In the end, Winters predicts, the conflict between the neo-Randian principles of Ryan and centuries of Catholic teaching about the poor just cannot be papered over. It’s that fundamental:
The Catholic Church, with its vast array of hospitals, shelters, and schools, knows firsthand how nutritional and educational and health programs really do make a difference in the lives of the poor. Most importantly, at the heart of the Church is a gospel that instructs the faithful to care for “the least of these” and sets such care as the price of admission to sanctity and to heaven. No matter how Paul Ryan tries to convince himself that Rome and Rand can be reconciled, they can’t. Ayn Rand despised the poor. The Church is called to treasure them.