VP Role for Paul Ryan Has His Former Parish Priest Worried

The entrance to St. Mary Elementary School in Janesville, Wisconsin has two identical archways with contrasting inscriptions. One entrance says, "For God." The other says, "For Country." That is where Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, first merged his studies of government and religion as a young student.

And the priest who presides over the archways and the towering steeple of the Nativity of Mary says that Ryan's interpretation of Catholic teaching in national budgetary matters and his prospective vice presidential role have him "worried." Father Stephen Umhoefer told the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) that he supports a role for religion in the public square, but that Ryan's austerity budget and proposed steep cuts in social programs are inconsistent with the Catholic teachings that Ryan cites to justify the policies. "If he is following his conscience, he is doing the morally correct thing. But he shouldn't wrap himself in Catholic teaching because he is not using that [teaching] in what I would say is a balanced way," said Umhoefer.

Umhoefer, 72, has led the church since 2002 and was the Ryan family pastor until the family left for another Janesville parish a few years ago. Ryan's current parish is led by a priest who teaches on the diocese faculty under the deeply conservative Madison Bishop Robert Morlino, who characterizes Ryan's judgment as "in accord with all the teachings of the Church."

Ryan's Defense of Austerity Budget Kicks Up Controversy

Ryan's leadership as chair of the House Budget Committee and author of the "Path to Prosperity" Republican budget blueprint and the FY 2013 House Budget Resolution has become a lightning rod for criticism by other Catholic bishops, ecumenical groups, and lay leaders.

Nativity of Mary Parish, Janesville, WisconsinIn introducing Ryan to the nation as his running mate Saturday, Romney said that Ryan's beliefs "remain firmly rooted in Janesville, Wisconsin," and pointed to his life as a "faithful Catholic." If elected, Ryan would become the first Catholic Republican vice president in history. The Ryan budget, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 but died in the Senate, would slash taxes on the rich and on corporations, while implementing massive cuts in social safety net programs. It would repeal Obamacare, cut Medicaid, transform Medicare into a voucher system, cut student loans, and end the Earned Income Tax Credit program for the poor, while reversing Wall Street financial reforms.

Standing alone, the harsh austerity budget was controversial enough. But in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network in April 2012, Ryan defended his budget as in conformity with Catholic social doctrine. "[T]he preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenets of Catholic social teaching, means don't keep people poor, don't make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck in their station in life. Help people get out of poverty onto [a] life of independence," Ryan said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops took sharp exception, calling on Congress to resist "for moral and human reasons" cuts to food and nutrition programs to the poor. The Conference called instead for "shared sacrifice ... including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly." Faculty at Georgetown University put it more bluntly in an open letter to Ryan: "Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Father Umhoefer followed the controversy from Janesville. He said in an extended interview that he had a "very friendly pastor-parishioner relationship" with Ryan, but that the two "never sat down and talked politics." He noted that he has not read in full the dense, 60-plus page Republican budget, but that he has reviewed the budget through a range of Catholic and ecumenical materials and media reports, and he shared the concerns expressed by the bishops.

"The Primary Question Is, How Does This Affect the Poor?"

For Umhoefer, the test of the budget is a simple one: "The first question is how does this affect the poor. And everything else follows from that. That doesn't mean it's a Republican or Democrat [question] -- you could argue that. But the primary question is how does this affect the poor?"

Umhoefer said that Ryan's lack of attention to the poor and the emphasis on individualism espoused by role models such as Ayn Rand concerned him. "Paul would say that the only way to save the country from a coming [fiscal] disaster is 'follow my plan.'" But according to Umhoefer, the problem is "you can't tell somebody that in ten years your economic situation is going to be just wonderful because meanwhile your kids may starve to death."

Umhoefer said that in Janesville, which lost some 5,000 jobs related to the auto industry after a GM plant closed in 2009, residents continue to seek emergency food and housing support and social service organizations have been running out of funds. A house across the street from the church sits with a red "condemned" sticker prominently on the door, and another house on the block has a sign that declares, "Price Reduced."

"The welfare check runs out and people are suffering now in ways that they haven't before," he said, noting that the church has hired two former auto workers with wages and benefits far below their former level.

St. Mary School, Janesville, WisconsinUmhoefer said that wealthy church members have offered support for shared sacrifice and revenue raising proposals such as the Warren Buffet rule that asks millionaires to avoid loopholes and pay a tax rate of 30 percent. "I can't always invite my neighbor over to dinner, but I ... need to pay a certain amount of taxes. And I need to vote to make sure taxes are used to help make sure that my neighbor isn't starving," he said.

Umhoefer also laments what he calls an excess of individualism in America that is sometimes abetted by politicians. He prepared for CMD a section of the church catechism, which states that the church "has refused to accept, in the practice of 'capitalism,' individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor." Umhoefer said that he doesn't mean to accuse Ryan of choosing individualism as a creed over community, but that Ryan's promotion of Ayn Rand to his staff and others is "an alternative universe of which he is a member.... What I call an excessive attitude of individualism is doing a great deal of harm to us as a society because we are forgetting society values," said Umhoefer.

Priest to Ryan: "You Can't Just Pack Your Own Heat"

Umhoefer said that Ryan has also selectively presented to his audiences a Catholic concept of empowerment known as "subsidiarity." Ryan explained subsidiarity to the Christian Broadcasting Network as "not having big government crowd out civic society, but by having enough space in our communities so that we can interact with each other, and take care of people who are down and out in our communities."

Umhoefer said that he agrees with the "Nuns on the Bus," a group of liberal nuns who recently undertook a bus tour and visited Ryan's Janesville office to underscore the absurdity of Ryan's approach. "Just on food stamps alone, Congressman Ryan is wrong that the church can take care of this issue. The cuts that have been proposed and passed by the [U.S.] House are going to require every church, every synagogue, every mosque, every house of worship in the United States, each year for ten years, to each raise $50,000. It's impossible," said Sister Simone Campbell during the Janesville stop. CMD covered the Nuns on the Bus Tour and sought the interview with Umhoefer after the nuns presented an alternative "moral budget" in Janesville.

Reading from the catechism, Umhoefer explained that government "should support [local communities] in case of need and help to coordinate its activities with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good." He said that when subsidiarity lacks resources and coordination, government can fail when it is most needed. But sometimes we need to be rescued: "You can't just pack your own heat and protect your own building," he cautioned.

"What I wish for Paul -- he is so smart and so articulate and has made this whole budget, which he can defend on his own view ... of how the economy and politics work. I wish he wouldn't bring in the Catholic church. He doesn't need to if his economic and political argument are strong, and I'm sure he believes that they are."


You are totally brainwashed by your church/religion to believe anything that comes out of ryans mouth. If you vote for romnney/ryan,you can kiss your government aid goodbye,and then good luck to you!

Ryan/Romney Budget Plan: As President Obama said, “Robin Hood In Reverse” - Best Described As “Romney Hood” For The Top 2% Income, or “RobMe Hood” For The Rest Of Us 98%ers.

As someone who was raised Catholic and agrees with much of Catholic social teaching, I don't get this idea of right to life. I understand it means no abortions, but doesn't it also mean that we deal with the issues that sometimes lead to abortions such as poverty, inadequate education, and inrquality. For example, if someone is barely getting by having to suffer their whole life because they do not have enough to eat or cannot get medical care, don't they have a right to life. Thus the right to life issue is just as much economic as social. Let us not forget that abortions are oftens affects of largers causes that are not taken care off. We could outlaw abortion, but most likely they would go on underground because we have not dealt with the underlying causes.

You attempt to separate the issue of life and care of that life once it is born. It can't be done. Life cannot be sacred in the womb, then left to fend for itself once it takes a breath. You need to learn about Cardinal Bernadin's Seamless Garment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consistent_life_ethic (The only people getting generous benefits from the government are those who are double and triple dipping retirement benefits, such as, politicians who have held different offices, then collect from each, or military service members who go into politics and collect from both. If you fit one of these catagories, you're right, you're swimming in cash.)

I do not understand how you can call Ryan "pro-life" except he is concerned about the fetus from conception to birth and then to hell with it. Do you not get that he is going to gut ALL social services and this means your food stamps, your Medicaid and whatever else you receive? This man is a satanic troll doing the bidding of the Uber rich Kochs and others. He will rip the old folks off Medicare as quick as you can blink. He cares nothing for born children, adults and old people. The nation is in the throes of economic hardship thanks to BushII and his unpaid for wars, which Ryan supported. What will it take for Pro-lifers such as yourself to see who Ryan really is, a shill for the wealthy and them only. Will people die in the streets from starvation and homelessness before you get how un "pro-life" this monster is? A credit to Wisconsin? Wrong, he is a shame and an "Immoral Disaster" to Wisconsin. Wake up and smell the coffee!

"Paul Ryan seems like a good Catholic to me" BALONEY Whoever wrote this is Paul Ryan... "I am a poor person who receives an extremely generous amount of government aid myself..." If Paul Ryan has his way there will be NO Government aid of any kind, no social security, no medicare, no veterans benefits "NUNS ON THE BUS" WAS WONDERFUL, GOOD, INFORMATIVE, AND A TRUE WITNESS TO THE GOSPELS OF JESUS!

It is completely wrong to quote one bishop and say that he trumps the OFFICIAL pronouncement representing ALL the US bishops. Asked if the bishops' statements critical of the Ryan budget http://www.usccb.org/news/2012/12-063.cfm might not be seen to favor the Dems, the author -- elected by his fellow bishops (Bishop Blaire) -- said that maybe that's the case, but that the point is that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has to side with the "least" among us.

There's absolutely Nothing Christian about Ryan. Nothing is sacred to him when it comes to his pocketbook. Wait for the news to pick up on his insider information and how he profited. There's rules/laws in place to prevent politicians from profiting by their positions - he doesn't care. There's religious beliefs that all religions share concerning the poor, the weakest in society - he doesn't care. He is an adopted "white evangelical christian" and a member of the New Right of Paul Weyrich whose ideology diminishes our lives - our value.

This is why nothing appears to be working in the US. Imagine Paul Ryan voted for the US to go to a war that the Congress forgot to include in its budget. There appears to be a lot of amnesia in budgetary planning on Capitol Hill. The rich appear to be forgotten in the shared sacrifice of budgetary planning. Instead, the poor are being asked to perform more miracles by the Ryan budget and to turn water into wine. In these times, it is to turn garbage green -- literally -- into dollar bills. In addition, could you imagine running a country in the absence of well researched data but based on a person's personal predilections. One only has to go through C-Span's videos to see Republican representatives sharing their personal stories on why certain policies should be adopted and can work. For how many decades now, it has been proven that when more is given to the rich, they demand more and find secret bank accounts to stash the excess. Yet, Ryan's budget unrealistically seeks more income for the rich, the logic being that if poor people have less assistance, they will be forced to extract blood out of stones. The exception has become the norm in the Republican House of Dreams.

much of this debate as a misunderstanding of national accounts in our currency arragement as a fulcrum. when The Catholic Association lauds Ryan, it says (http://goo.gl/Y6w6Z), it quotes him: "One approach gives more power to unelected bureaucrats, takes more from hard-working taxpayers to fuel the expansion of government, and commits our nation to a future of debt and decline. This approach is proving unworkable – in Congress, in our courts, and in our communities. "This path fails to do justice to either subsidiarity or solidarity. It dissolves the common good of society, and dishonors the dignity of the human person. "Our budget offers a better path, consistent with the timeless principles of our nation’s founding and, frankly, consistent with how I understand my Catholic faith. "We put our trust in people, not in government. Our budget incorporates subsidiarity by returning power to individuals, to families, and to communities." this lays bare Ryan's lack of economic competence -- which is unsurprising in any politician of either party, even (especially?) one lauded for their economic vision. Ryan (and politicians generally) see government debt as the public sector equivalent of private debt, the stock of which they think of as a burden which future tax revenues will have to be diverted to service (or reduce), eventually bringing some kind of fiscal crisis. even the Democratic side would acquiesce that deficit spending is bad, and that in good economic times a countercyclical government should run a surplus -- as it did under Clinton -- to prevent the accumulation of sovereign debt. as i've learned over the course of twenty years in finance, nothing could be farther from the truth. the United States dollar is a fiat currency with unlimited convertibility at a floating rate. as such -- and completely unlike the operation of a fixed-convertibility (e.g. gold-standard, or euro within the eurozone) currency -- it has absolutely no need to raise funds through tax in order to spend. taxes do not "fund" anything; there is no linkage between tax revenue and outlays. the US government creates dollars when it spends them (by marking up the payee's bank account in a computer) and literally destroys dollars when it collects them in tax. to the extent that it creates more than it destroys, it adds to the stock of net financial assets in the private sector. this is essential to understand, because the myriad consequences of this operational reality destroy Ryan's notions of the beneficence of fiscal subsidiarity. in light of this, how do we comprehend our times? we have seen a massive boom and bust in private sector credit caused by an extended period of widespread fraudulence in mortgage finance. the bust has ruined the balance sheet of many private sector entities -- banks, households, pensions, insurers, some businesses linked to housing. these entities began in 2008 to repair their balance sheets by halting new borrowing and redirecting income to debt service and reduction that had been employed in consumption, which of course deprives many other businesses and households not linked directly to housing of their incomes, forcing them to cut their spending as well -- starting a self-reinforcing spiral of declining income. this is a pattern of Depression that has been seen many times in the past. we know, however, that the government deficit is equal to the net gain in private sector financial assets -- which is also to say that, when the private sector engages to reduce net debt and improve its equity position, the public sector must run a deficit equal and opposite to that improvement. this explains why we have seen much larger government deficits -- private sector balance sheet repair is driving them. mind you, this would happen irrespective of the level of spending Congress may set -- should Congress plan to spend too little to satisfy the private sector's desire to improve its balance sheet, the deficit will be compelled to increase through a reduction in economic activity that diminishes tax revenues until the required deficit materializes. read that again -- when Ryan (or anyone else) talks about cutting spending to cut deficits, he betrays his lack of understanding. Congress does not control the deficit flow; the private sector does by determining in aggregate how large a surplus it must run. but the system does feed back, and if Congress insists on cutting spending or raising taxes in an effort to reduce deficits they reduce economic activity and effectively make it harder for the private sector to repair itself -- the increased difficulty being reflected in greater damage to balance sheets, thereby increasing the impetus for repair and ultimately increasing the sum total of the deficits Congress will ultimately have to run. this behavior has been directly observed in several Depressions, including Japan in the 1990s, the US and Europe in the 1930s and elsewhere the currency-issuer attempted to reduce deficits during a Depression. so what is the optimal solution to escaping Depression? the only way out is facilitating the private sector's balance sheet repair -- which in the case of a very large financial crisis means running large government deficits for an extended period. this is only possible for the party that stands on the other side of the currency users of the private sector, the currency issuer. every other entity -- households, businesses, municipalities, states -- is required on some level to balance its books. for these entities Ryan's concerns would be very valid. a company or household cannot run large deficits ad infinitum without eventually collapsing into bankruptcy. the currency issuer can -- because it can never go bankrupt, as it creates the dollars it spends with and which its debt is priced in without limitation -- and must in order to balance the dollar universe and facilitate private sector balance sheet repair. this puts a very severe circumscription on the utility of subsidiarity -- in a Depression, an impaired private sector is completely dependent on the currency issuer to avoid a death spiral of income and asset destruction that will suck in and destroy first the bad, then the good until the entire society is so impoverished that it can no longer save anything, finally shutting off the income leakage that drives the crisis, a level at which the private sector no longer can run a surplus. that is incidentally where the US was headed (but did not get close to reaching) under Hoover's repeated but unsuccessful efforts to balance the federal budget by cutting spending and raising taxes in order to stay on the gold standard between 1929 and 1933, until FDR mercifully took the US off the standard on June 5 1933. no matter how we might like to organizationally devolve power to localities and individuals, these are still necessarily currency users who are dependent on the competence of the operations of the currency issuer. Ryan is being either disingenuous or ignorant in claiming that people should simply work this out for themselves without the interference of the government. Ryan and others are further concerned that the increase in the public debt stock that necessity (as above, it is very much unavoidable and necessary) entails will result in an ever-increasing amount of tax revenue diverted to debt service and ultimately a fiscal crisis that results in an American 'bankruptcy' or a dramatic rise in Treasury-based interest rates. but we can see that these concerns are operationally null. because the US government can spend any amount of dollars without regard to tax or any other limitation, it can buy back at any price at any time any amount of its debt or indeed any dollar asset it desires -- which means it unilaterally sets the rate of interest. (this is notably not true of European sovereigns like Italy or Spain, who are tied to a euro that they cannot unilaterally create and so are currency users like any household or business or US state.) nor clearly can the US go bankrupt when it can unilaterally obviate its debt at any time and create any amount of dollars to service whatever debt it chooses to issue. some observants may argue that this could mean devaluing the currency -- and i completely agree, the creation of large amounts of net financial assets by the operation of the currency issuer will tend to devalue the currency, all else being equal. but i would also argue that this would only be likely should the rate of creation of net financial assets by the government exceed the rate of cancellation of gross financial assets in the private sector. this process within the private sector has driven deflation in debt-financed US assets (eg houses) much as it did in Japan in the 1990s. moreover, even in terms of trade, we would have to devalue at a greater rate than competing economies and their currencies to see a material reduction against them. you'll hear none of this in the popular political discourse of our times, more's the pity -- but it is common knowledge in select places like the operations folks at the Fed (who have of course a long-running familiarity with the machinery of the currency) and has quietly become ever more widely acknowledged in financial circles as the 2008 crisis upended and destroyed various other dubious but politically useful theoretical economic frameworks. one must hope and pray that a greater competence overtakes our political leaders before they engage in counterproductive fiscal attacks in the name of subsidiarity and solidarity.