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Karen Sue SmithMay 11, 2011

The letter Speaker of the House John Boehner received after he accepted an invitation to address this year’s graduating class at the Catholic University of America, was signed by 75 Catholic faculty members. The signers did not ask him to forgo his speech, but rather expressed this hope: “that this visit will reawaken your familiarity with the teachings of your Church on matters of faith and morals as they relate to governance.” The message was one part indictment: that Boehner’s record on legislation that addresses the needs of the poor was “among the worst in Congress” and that the 2012 budget “guts long-established protections for the most vulnerable,” like Medicaid, Medicare and WIC (Women Infant and Children nutrition program). It was also one part teaching, explaining the importance of the church's preferential option for the poor and other basic tenets of the faith. And finally, it was one part invitation: The letter urged the Speaker to sign on to the “Circle of Protection” promoted by the U.S.C.C.B. and other Christian leaders, which protects programs for society’s most desperate.

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.


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Tom Maher
11 years 4 months ago
PJ Johnston (#10)

The national debt problems of Greece, Ireland and now Portugal are direct  empirical evicdence of the economic consequences of having a too large a debt that could no longer be financed.  All three countries in the last year could no longer sell their debt becasue their debt as a percentage of Gross Deomestic Product was near or over 100%These countries awere or will be bailed out.  Greece and Ireland may have to be bailed out again even after they have drastically cut back all government expenditures. 

Bad things happen to everyone in countires that have excessive national debt.  In the end eceryone is harmed in countires with too much debt in relation to the size of their economy GDP.  This is public knowledge that can not be ignored.  Currently the United States is approaching debt equal to 100% of its GDP  This is a real problem given what happened to Greece. Ireland and Portugal. 
11 years 4 months ago
Ms. Smith,

I did address points in your article.  You used the word ''indictment'' and I politely said it was the Catholic Professors that should be indicted and that  Boehner was innocent and his accusers were guilty of what they say he is doing.  

Maybe it is the Catholic Professors who representative a certain way of thinking that is responsible for the poor and their conditions.  You could argue very strongly that is the case.
Juan Lino
11 years 4 months ago
I think it would be very interesting to discuss the letter in light of what’s written in CARITAS IN VERITATE and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. 

I’d also be more impressed if those that signed the letter also wrote a similar letter to those politicians who fail to support the right to life of the poorest of the poor – the unborn.
Daniel Horan
11 years 4 months ago
Many thanks for this very insightful take! 
11 years 4 months ago
"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?"

And as I've asked in the previous post, I suppose his sticking up for educational opportunities for poor children of color in DC when the Democrats were happy to leave them in failing public schools doesn't count as "sticking up for the poor"?

Someone let me know when America, et.al. actually think a conservative Catholic does something worthwhile.
11 years 4 months ago

I am on an email list for my parish's social justice ministry.  I get 3 to 5 ''action alert'' emails per day asking me to call my elected official in support of another social program.  If only all of these social programs were funded and approved!  Then we would live in utopia!

Meanwhile my state of Illinois is worried about losing Sears, Motorola and AT&T to Indiana and New Jersey.  We will soon need even more social programs in Illinois when we lose these thousands of jobs!

When will they learn?
11 years 4 months ago
"Meanwhile my state of Illinois is worried about losing Sears, Motorola and AT&T to Indiana and New Jersey.  We will soon need even more social programs in Illinois when we lose these thousands of jobs!"

And WHY are they about to move?  Because of the high costs imposed on them by the HIGH taxes in Illinois to support a bloated system.

We need to think creatively about how to address our fiscal situation, or there won't be ANY safety net left at all.  My problem with liberals (and the US Bishops objecting to certain measurse) is that they don't seem to fully understand this situation.
11 years 4 months ago
Unlike Indiana and New Jersey, Illinois has a compassionate governor Quinn;)  Quinn will soon have even more unemployed to show is compassion!  But don't worry Rahm is coming to the rescue!  If only Blago was still in charge then we would really be in great shape.

Its great to live in such a compassionate state such as Illinois.  At least our convicted compassionate governors can't get the death penalty!
PJ Johnston
11 years 4 months ago
We are spending over a trillion dollars a year on the military (http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1941), much of it off the official ledger - to fund two unjust, unnecessary, counterproductive wars in the Middle East.  This is the single largest budget item and there is nothing remotely close to it.

Most U.S. corporations pay no taxes at all (http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2008/08/13/study-tallies-corporations-not-paying-income-tax/) and many get tax-payer SUBSIDIES on top of paying no taxes (http://www.ombwatch.org/node/2113).

The personal income tax rate for the wealthiest is the lowest it has been since 1958:

Stop the lies.  One could easily balance the budget and expand (not merely save, but expand) the social safety net just by ending the wars and/or making the rich pay their fair share.  And yet the greedy warmongers are more interested in lining their own pockets than honoring the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Tom Maher
11 years 4 months ago
PJ Johnston (#6)

Well that is not what the International Monetary Fund is saying in the April, 2011 "Fiscal Monitor".

aAccording to this current IMF report the United States must specifically cut entittlement programs which re growing year after year out-of-control.  The United States like many western nations has a run-away spending problem not a revenue problem according to the IMF report. 

Your solution of rasing taxes etc to rasie more revenue does not bring the explosive grwth of entitlement spend such as social secuity,medicare, medicaid under control.  These programs have a life of their own and like  balck hole will swallow all revenues avaiable and is accelerating. 

The IMF report does not lie. The United States has big national debt financing problems thast theology majors do not appreciate or know about.  The ruined financnes of Greece , Ireland and Portugal are examples of the nationd debt hazard.  It is immoral to allow the United States to suffer the same economic ruin. And the U.S. has no one to bial it out.  The consequences is everyone income and lifestyle will be profoundly cut and life as we know it willbe changed for years.  

Thologians are not helping anyone by denying this extereme hazard of excessive national debt that is out-of-control.
PJ Johnston
11 years 4 months ago
It should come as no surprise to you that the IMF is an organization that has a political agenda.  It is in essence an organized pro-business, pro-capitalism lobby, and it always recommends cutting entitlements and remains silent about military spending.  This makes it not particularly credible as a source of budget recommendations for Christians.


Whenever I want to post a comment and log in to do so, the software you are using pulls me away from the article I think I am replying to, usually to some other article I have recently read.  Other people might have the same problem.  It matters because you can accidently post your comment to the wrong article if you don't notice that the screen above your text box has changed and go ahead and post.  (You'll find a mistakenly-placed post to the "when is a killing not a murder" article for this reason).  I'm sorry for not noticing.
11 years 4 months ago
I will make my always ignored plea.  What is social justice?  Is something socially just if it has a negative impact on the poor?  Is something socially just because some bishop or theologian says it is so even thought what is espoused hurts the poor?

Look at our current unemployment situation.  Is that socially just?  I don't think so.  What is the origin of it and why the near 20% underemployment numbers?  What is the origin of 70% illegitimacy among African Americans?  What is the origin of inner city decay as exemplified by Detroit and several other cities?  Could they be programs that some advanced because they were thought to be socially just.

If I were a Catholic professor, I would spend my time looking at the origins of those problems.  It just might be that John Boehner has and is in reality conducting the truly socially just solution by trying to get the country healthy again so the poor can be dealt with more easily by jobs and the increased taxes that a more vibrant economy will bring.  Right now we are headed toward economic Armageddon and unless that is addressed the poor are going to have no future at all.  Blithely saying that we are going to tax this and that is folly because the world doesn't work that way.  Unfortunately God created human nature and it is our job to find the best way to harness it to make the poor better off by trying to make sure there are less poor.  That is what Mr. Boehner is trying to accomplish and that may be the most socially just policy.
Juan Lino
11 years 4 months ago
For those interested in reading the actual letter, Kathryn Lopez links to the letter in her post: http://www.catholicvote.org/discuss/index.php?p=16977

ed gleason
11 years 4 months ago
I would have just sent a one sentence letter. "Speaker Boehner; please allow the vote on a 3% surtax on those making $1 million income a year and all collected goes to deficit"
11 years 4 months ago
I read the letter and the Professor's tone is very harsh.  I agree with JR that they do not give a rationale for why Boehner's plan to help the poor is worse than their alternative.  The professor's letter is very partisan.
11 years 4 months ago
"the social safety net just by ending the wars and/or making the rich pay their fair share."

I think in order to adequately assess the fairness of the tax code, one has to look at the total picture of WHO is paying taxes, and by every measure "the rich" pay most of the taxes in the country today.  Indeed most estimates show that nigh 47% of people in this country pay NO federal income taxes (yes, I know they still pay Soc. Sec, Medicare, and local taxes).  Indeed, one of the un-mentioned effects of letting the Bush tax cuts expire will be to raise taxe rates on solidly middle class people (of course the Pres. obfuscates thsi reality by monkeying with the definition of who's "rich").  Again, this doesn't resolve the issue of how we should structure our tax code, but the argument should be built on the numbers.

With respect to corporate taxes, the REASON most corporations don't pay any taxes is that they have been lured by foreign countries most of whom actually have LOWER corporate tax rates that does the US.  Indeed, this is the very reason that OBAMA is proposing to LOWER the corporate tax rate.  And they subsidies they've received (fair or not is, again, another issue) were given as a way of enticing some of them back. 

To Ms. Smith's point, I think you've set up the classic "false choice" between this letter (which you point to as a "new" way of dealing with the problem) as opposed to "mean-mouthed protest of his speaking, not even a Pharisaic prayer.", by which I assume you mean Pres. Obama's speech last year.  It is a false choice because you IGNORE some of the thoughtful commentary from Catholic conservative who DID write letters urging concern (see, for example, the folks over at Mirror of Justice, or Mary Ann Glendon's response).  Moreover, if some of these same letter writers had written to Speaker Pelosi when she was torturing Catholic moral theology in an attempt to justify her (by any fair measure) extremely liberal abortion views, or, as I mentioned above, had bothered to even MENTION the fact of Speaker Boehner's role in saving the DC Scholarship Program, which is DIRECT AID TO POOR KIDS OF COLOR, then I might be more inclined to view this letter as something closer to how you view.
11 years 4 months ago
What Kevin said -it's the same ideologues who go on and on here with ideological rhetoric.
What a pity.....
Helena Loflin
11 years 4 months ago
The problem is 30 years of growing, and now out of control, "wealthfare" rationalized by the theory of trickle-down (remember Voodoo Economics?) despite the fact that, like WMDs that didn't exist, trickle-down failed to happen.

Excellent point, ed gleason (#12).

Kevin Clarke, many thanks for your statements in #19. 
ed gleason
11 years 4 months ago
I'm very sure the GOP posters here do not make a million a year income. So why are you guys so fired up protecting the millionaire tax bracket.? I guess it's another one of those  Catholic mysteries or maybe misplaced identity politics.  
11 years 4 months ago
Mr. Clarke,

Maybe you should engage those who do not agree with you in a more open manner.  Your post was one criticism after another with almost no substance.  

''can we dispense with all the condescending talk''
''Do you gentlemen seriously persist in the belief''
''This is a straw-man argument at its worst''
''you have fairly arrogantly called into question simply because their opinions do not jibe with yours''
''You accuse the left of being deluded and childlike in their attitude''
''To me this bespeaks a complete lack of seriousness''
''Your rhetoric aside''
''You guys seem to buy into the welfare queen understanding of poverty in America''
''Which of these would you sacrifice to maintain America's 36 percent top bracket?''
''You want to find waste first before cutting muscle and bone?''
''If you guys want to discuss seriously how we as grownups living together in a nation begin to confront these problems''
''But if you wish to inhabit an ideological echo chamber of your own construction''
''tossing ad hominems and mere sloganeering about with abandon''
''swarming other site visitors impertinent enough to disagree with you''

And then finally,

''I invite you kindly to move on''

Or if you do not agree with me, don't come here and say so.  I find this one of the most offensive posts I have read here in the year and half since I have been reading this blog.
11 years 4 months ago
''I'm very sure the GOP posters here do not make a million a year income. So why are you guys so fired up protecting the millionaire tax bracket.?''

Never came close to that money but I know that those who do make that amount of money are the ones who provide the jobs for the rest of us.  Not all fit that category obviously but the evidence shows that these are the people who will create the wealth that the others can take advantage of.  That is why I am against these taxes.  Not because of any philosophical reason but because the taxes on these people actual cause job constriction.

So protesting the tax increases is actually caring for the poor for the reasons I have often cited on this blog.  Taxing these people hurts the poor.  You can disagree with that but that is the basis of what a lot of people believe and there is evidence to support it.  So don't denigrate anyone who espouses it because they may care more for the poor than those who advocate the taxes. 
11 years 4 months ago
I'm checking out of this debate as I agree its just become too acrimonious, but I find it confusing how this sentence doesn't qualify as "sloganeering":

"Do we need to rein in the health care costs that is diminishing the middle class and find a way to rationalize Medicare? You betcha. But please let's hear 2st century suggestions, not Randian longing for the good old days of the 19th."

With respect, if you've followed the poilcy debates beyond the last few months, you'd realize that VARIOUS bipartisan proposals have included converting Medicare into what is termed a "premium support system".  Indeed Paul Ryan and Alice Rivlin (Pres. Clinton's former budget director) cooperated to propose something very like what Paul Ryan has proposed (she objects primarily to his estimates on the growth of heatlh care costs).  Moreover, during the Bush administration, a bipartisan commission led by Sen. John Breaux, a moderate, CATHOLIC, pro-life Democrat from my own state, essentially advocated many of the same reforms regarding Medicare and Social Security as Mr. Ryan.

Of course, Paul Ryan's budget does include accepting the proposed cuts by Sec. Gates in the defense budget, and various Republicans have indicated their support for further defense cuts.  Moreover, Tom Coburn is engaged in a scathing debate with Grover Norquist over the ethanol tax subsidies (and agrees with the need to increase revenues as well as cut spending).

What some of us (ideologues I guess) do not accept is the proposition that unless one's voting record looks like Nancy Pelosi, one is not concerned or caring for the poor.  I've mentioned Speaker Boehner's acts with respect to DC schools; no one has said "yes, that evidences a concern for the poor; kudos Mr. Speaker".  Seems to me to be a pretty practical solution for addressing the poor.  Now, back to my echo-chamber.
11 years 4 months ago
''So, yes, I, as courteously as possible, invite you to move on.''

But I am not.  And I will repeat the thoughts till they are adequately discussed and debated which they have not.  This comment above is so anti Jesuit based on what I was taught by them that it is incomprehensible on a Jesuit site.  And that is why I will persist.
Tom Maher
11 years 4 months ago
What have we here?  The thought police?

America articles  are some of the most biased in the world yet you are surprised that people react to such exclusively one-sided, biased  content?  When for example is an article written that advocates for life or  comments on the great progress being made and gains in public support? 

Most tell-tale is the non-coverage of major public news topics such as the deterioration of the nations debt conditions.  Epic events like the negative evaluation by Standard and Poor of the U.S. public debt  and its hugh implications on the federal budget proceare are never mentioned.  These public facts would conflict with the liberal political themes of this very article..   

How realistic is it to title this article as "Boehner and the poor" with a one-sided lead-in that suggest that Boehner is an amoral person in his voting record and never offer any refutation of this outlandish accusation?  You expect that your liberal vocie can "indict" Boehner  and no one will notice or objecyt?  

Your expectatiion show great insularity.  It shows how imbred your organization is that you expect everyone to agree with your one-sided liberal presentations.  Even the Inquisition had a "devil's advocate" to present an other side of the issue.  Most issue have many sides sice reality is complex and can not be prejuged based on any principle.  The federal budget process is a most complex process yet you present one side prejudging anyone as immoral if they have a different conclusion based on different facts. 

You are offended because you think your political ideas are sacred and common to all Christians.  You are very wrong to think all Christian or all Caholics have the same political outlook.  Life is way too complex for everyone to agree even if they were clones of each other.  In the real world people do not agree and any forum takes difference of viewpoints as a fact of life. 
ed gleason
11 years 4 months ago
Mr. Cosgrove says without citing evidence;
'Not all fit that category obviously [making 1 million income]but the evidence shows that these are the people who will create the wealth that the others can take advantage of.  That is why I am against these taxes'
How much of that wealth income is capital gains, taxed at 15% and with  GOP hoping/voting it goes to zero? Of course we  have the GE, XOM et al, who pay no taxes as do their no tax  execs who ship jobs over seas.
Forget the very few entrepreneurs,and forget the so called small business owners;, the million dollar guys I'm citing are  the Hampton's, Malibu, Greenwich crowd who hire the undocumented w/o benefits to clean, mow, watch kids. I asked small business owners in San Francisco if they were one of the GOP million dollar guys and they chased me down the street. I ran into a bankruptcy auction a block away  and hid.  
11 years 4 months ago
Mr. Clarke,

Seems to me there is more than enough ad hominem attacks on both sides of the partisan divide.  Why do you only single out conservatives?
11 years 4 months ago

I agree with your #28 post.  I also was trained by Jesuits and I continue to be drawn to this site hoping for a more balance look at these topics.

It seems that America Magazine is OK with dissent when it comes to certain issues like advocacy for Woman Priests by bishops but not ok with dissent when they are criticized.

I for one think you and Jeff are civil, clear and brief.
PJ Johnston
11 years 4 months ago
Tom Maher:

I'm not disputing that the US has a debt problem.  But given both the relative proportions of military vs. non-military spending in the US budget and the moral problem with spending on wars at all, the obvious source for dramatic cuts is the military budget not the social safety net.  You can more than balance the budget (even create a significant surplus) just by ending the wars.

If it were ever to come down to a choice between cutting the social safety net and raising taxes, then we should raise taxes.  Again, the US has the lowest personal income tax rate since 1958 (one of the lowest in the world) and most major US corporations currently pay no taxes whatsoever and many get taxpayer subsidies.  Even if corporations were paying the statutory tax rates (which they are not), that rate is again one of the lowest in the world.  But you don't even need to go on to this step if we would simply end the wars and dramatically decrease our military budget.

We're losing not only our morality but our very democracy to this unchecked militarism.


(Yes, a politically-biased source.  It's quoted here not to lend support for a position but as a representative statement to let you see what people on the other side believe is at stake in such deliberations, because I'm not sure you understand why we're so animated about out-of-control militarism).
11 years 4 months ago

''Mr. Cosgrove says without citing evidence;''
I have provided plenty of evidence on this blog over time.  What have you provided to support your positions?  What evidence is there that imposing higher taxes on upper income Americans generates more revenue?  We could have an interesting discussion on this and maybe learn the basis for each one's opinions or the lack of any basis.
For example, the balanced budgets of 1999 and 2000 were primarily due to four reasons, reduced military expenditures or the so called peace dividends, restraint by the Republican controlled congress on over all spending, the bubble of the Dot Com phenomena that artificially and temporarily produce large amounts of income in the country and finally and importantly due to a tax cut in capital gains.  The last is rarely cited but the evidence is there and several people have said the tax increases under Clinton are the cause for this when an actual tax cut produced very big immediate gains in the late 1990's.  You can disagree with that but all four including the tax cut are actual phenomena.  I have in the past provided information on the effect of lowering of taxes and the resultant increases in taxes from the top 10% of the people especially the top 1%.  Mr. Reidy had an economist come here for a couple days but he never responded to my evidence of the effects of tax cuts under Reagan.  

Mr. Clarke has just said don't repeat and you want every thing I say documented again and again when others document almost nothing. 
ed gleason
11 years 4 months ago
Mr. Cosgrove #36 cites Clinton higher tax rates and Clinton  balanced budget in 1999 2000 as evidence that we should not be taxing the top 2% at Clinton tax rates. The lower BUSH  tax rates, Cosgrove says,  brings in more taxes. This  didn't happen and Bush ran up the debt  with a no pay Medicare prescription law and two no pay wars. . Even Bush #1 called that kind of stuff, voodoo economics. 
Does the average guy having  payroll tax  deduction know that the top 2% have income property and stuff  where they deduct depreciation even when the property is appreciating and then transfer the whole enchilada to the next generation thus avoiding the both depreciation and capital gains, and then have the nerve to call any accountability 'death taxes'??? yes, it seems you can fool a majority most of the time if you have well positioned PR and lobbyists.
[It may be OK taking advantage of these loop holes but let's have the Catholic decency  to keep  from wanting more juicy deals and allow ourselves to  see the screaming injustice of the tax laws. ] 
11 years 4 months ago

There are two issues. 

First is what is the best preferential option for the poor.  Is it better to have lower taxes in order to promote job growth.  Is it better to raise taxes further on the upper 10%?  Is it better to have a social program for every possible misfortune?  It sounds like there is much debate and opinion about this.

Second is whether we know the prefered option?  Is there moral certitude concerning the best way to help the poor?

These professors seem to be of the opinion that there is moral certitude about the best way for government to help the poor.  Therefore if you disagree then you are sinful.
11 years 4 months ago
I was about to leave this rest but when someone starts making things up about you, one has to respond.

''Mr. Cosgrove #36 cites Clinton higher tax rates and Clinton  balanced budget in 1999 2000 as evidence that we should not be taxing the top 2% at Clinton tax rates. The lower BUSH  tax rates, Cosgrove says,  brings in more taxes. This  didn't happen and Bush ran up the debt  with a no pay Medicare prescription law and two no pay wars. . Even Bush #1 called that kind of stuff, voodoo economics. '' 

First of all, I cited Clinton's lower tax rates on capital gains in the late 1990's.  It was part of tax act of 1997.  My point was that lower taxes brought in more tax revenue to help produce the budget surpluses in late 1990's.  Bush did lower tax rates in 2001 and 2003 and tax revenue did increase afterwards and in 2007 the deficit was down to $160 billion.  Here is a quote from a Wall Street Journal article in October 2007 about Bush era tax cuts.

''The Congressional Budget Office estimated Friday that the U.S. federal budget deficit for fiscal year 2007, which ended Sunday, was about $161 billion, or 1.2% of gross domestic product. That’s down from the $248 billion shortfall recorded in fiscal 2006, which translated into 1.9% of GDP. The Treasury Department will report the official tally later this month.
Much of the improvement in the nation’s fiscal outlook in the last year has come from continued rapid growth in federal revenue. CBO estimates that 18.8% of GDP in fiscal 2007, up from 18.4% 2006 and 16.3% in 2004 and 18.4% in 2000. Outlays came to an estimated 20% of GDP, about equal to the average over the previous five years.
While annual federal spending grew 2.8% in fiscal 2007 over fiscal 2006, year to year, revenue grew 6.7%. Individual income-tax receipts are estimated to be 11.3% higher than last year, and corporate income tax receipts are estimated to be 5% higher. Revenue growth has cooled substantially from the 11.8% fiscal year-to-year increase from 2005 to 2006. Spending growth also slowed.'' 


In other words the economy was headed for a balanced budget in 2008 and would have come close except for the sub prime mess which reduced tax revenues.  A good article and set of charts to look at government expenditures by category comparing 2010 to 2000 is at


Two things about the last two years of Bush.  First some of the growth in the 2004-2007 period can be attributed to lenient lending policies in housing which led to increased government tax revenues because of this housing stimulus.  Second the last two years of Bush were under a Democratic Congress and Democrats issued the budget.  Bush signed it but the Democrats wrote it and passed it including our current president who voted for everything.

I am willing to back up anything I say but if someone is going to point to someone by name then they should be correct in what they say and should have some evidence to back up their statments.  That way we all can learn.
Tom Maher
11 years 4 months ago
The letter from the 79 academics to House Speaker Boehner was discussed on Fox News show "The Factor" with Bill O'Reilly revealing some more detail on this controversy. 

The conclusion from Bill O'Reilly : "A blatantly political statement that has little to do with religion."

Bill O'Reilly revealed he is a Catholic and had 16 years of Catholic education yet he never heard of "distributed justice" as part of the Catholic religion.  (Can you imagine the confussion of so many other Catholics who never went to Catholic school at all let alone taken exotic theology courses.)     

One gem revealed immeadiately by Laura Ingraham is that former America editor Thomas Reese SJ is one of the signatories of this lettter along with many Jesuit faculty members in theology and political science across the country.   All signatories were considered distinctly liberal politically and theology.  The Bishops and most other theologians do not support this letter.  

Thomas Reeves SJ the former editor of America magazine was forced to resign as editor in 2005 by the current pope for his repeated presentation in America magazine not in accordance with Catholic teaching. 

So apparently America magazine has an undisclosed interest in this controversy - aminataining the party line with their former boss and many others in the Jesuit order.  America magazine is less of an objective observer than it usually is.   Which may explains the thought police's dismay and disapproval of bloggers critical of this controversial political letter to Speaher of the House Boehner.  Hopefully the reader will get a potential conflict of interest disclosuer next time such as "For full disclosure to the reader, people involved with the America magazine organization are active participant and supporters on one side of this controvesy."  The reader should know the when the deck is stacked in favor of one side or another.
Daniel Horan
11 years 4 months ago
@Tom (#42) Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly and conservative radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham are not even close to qualified to make authoritative comments on this matter. While they are both self-described Roman Catholics, neither has any theological training. To say that being Catholic qualifies their opinions as worth considering on par with the theological assessment of scholars and clergy is as absurd as claiming that because I am United States citizen I am qualified to comment on matters reserved for professional historians or law professors. Their assessments must be considered for what they are: amateur.

The truth of the matter is that O'Reilly's comments about the Boehner letter being about politics and not religion are quite the opposite in fact. I believe that Karen Sue Smith does a fine job in this blog post highlighting precisely how this is entirely about Catholic theology, noting the text from the signatories is a hopeful admonition and not a partisan diatribe.

As for Fr. Tom Reese, SJ, he has a doctorate in political science and a terminal graduate degree in theology (MDiv). I think he is certainly more than qualified to assess an elected official's political actions from a Catholic standpoint.  

Without belaboring my comments further, I just want to echo the sentiment that some have expressed above that the vitriol that is found in the comments posted by those defending an unattacked politician are disheartening. What is the real motivation for this sort of attitude and tone? It strikes me as having little or nothing to do with theology and a lot to do with partisanship, which jeopardizes the legitimacy of the concerns such commenters raise in other areas ostensibly related to politics and morals.

Dan Horan, OFM
Tom Maher
11 years 4 months ago
The letter to Boehner was widely publizined by intent of the authors .  The authors by designthe authors were seeking to make the letter a publc news event.  They succeeded.  In the public realm the public and news analyst universally and correctly interprete the letter by the academics critical of Speaker of the House Boehner and making controversial and harsh moral judgement on the the Speakers voting record is inherentlfy.designed to attack Boehner politically and influence politcal decisions currently being made about the budget. 

In an open and free society people who make open political criticisms must reasonhalby expect their ideas to be widely  and intensly refuted and criticized as they are. 

This letter disrespectfu and hostile indicting Boehner voting record remains highly controversial in its tone, politics and content and validity. 
11 years 4 months ago
I too like Bill O'Reilly had 16 years of Catholic education with nuns, Christian Brothers and Jesuits nad never heard the term, distributive justice.  I first heard it while in graduate school at Stanford University in a business program when some professor pointed to a book by that title.  But I didn't see it in the letter.  What I did see is

''Catholic social doctrine is not merely a set of goals to be achieved by whatever means one chooses. It is also a way of proceeding, a set of principles that are derived from the truth of the human person. In Pope Benedict’s words: “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way... the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite''

If I am to follow this paragraph then I would do what Boehner is doing because his actions will probably lead to greater benefits for the poor in the long run then what is being done by his political opposition.  Second, the first sentence is saying the ends justify the means and do we want to go there.  In no way are the words of Benedict criticizing what Boehner is doing.
11 years 4 months ago
After reading the words attributed to Pope Benedict, I believe it is an indictment of liberal and progressive political thinking.

''Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way... the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite''

What are those programs that just throw money at something without considering the truth of human nature but just empty programs based on sentimentality.  I have asked for a discussion of just what is socially just and to me what is often described as social justice is nothing more than an implementation of one's own political beliefs, the poor be damned. 
11 years 4 months ago
Kevin -

With respect to your earlier post re: liberal Catholics' concerns, I recognize it is a perfectly legitimate point of view for a Roman Catholic to hold, although I think it misdiagnoses the fundamental nature of the fiscal situation, and consequently fundamentally misdignoses some of the required solutions.

BUT, why, from your view, is it illegitimate for a Roman Catholic to hold the view that the common good (and the poor) are best served by a dynamic free market economy that has (overall) lower marginal tax rates, lower government spending as a % of GDP, but that also makes basic welfare provisions to "smoothe out" market failures, etc.?  Seems to me one can disagree with this argument from a number of perspectives (philosophical, empirical, etc.) just as one can with your liberal POV, but to my understanding of Catholic Social Teaching (which I like to think is fairly informed), THAT one can hold this position and still be a Roman Catholic is unassailable.

I frame the question this way, because I don't find the way the bishops (and liberal Catholics) have framed this issue very helpful.  To me, its not a matter of whether we help the poor or the rich, but whether, as David Brooks has described it, America retains the basic entrepreneurial, economic dynamism that has characterized its history since at least WWII, and which has actually made the modern welfare state possible.  The question is not so much WHETHER we make provison for poor and the common good, but HOW and the particular STRUCTURE of those arrangements is what we're wrestling with.  I think when you structure how Brooks does, it opens up a number of different possible solutions, including spending cuts to defense as well as certain basic structural adjustments to programs like Medicare and Social Security.  But to rush to the ramparts and portray the fight as rich vs. poor, again, to me is to misunderstand the issues, or at least obfuscate some of the possible solutions.  I think the American welfare state faces a critical juncture (for a number of reasons) and I think the solutions we find in order to SAVE the welfare state require more than just tax hikes and defense cuts; we need to re-think the structure of some programs because the structure is the problem itself.  Can a Catholic, from the POV of CST, not hold this view?
Tom Maher
11 years 4 months ago
And meanwhile back in the real world ourtside of the insulated Catholic ghetto of the old neighborhood the nation was facing and economice catastrophe unknown to the moralizers of the Catholic ghetto.

Spending increases are so out of contriol that drastic efforts are being made to limit every part of the budget and then to cap spending so it does not go out of control agasin. t and then capped.  Widely circulted in the real world of jounalism are proposls for constitutional amendments and other measure to cap spending so it does not go out of control.  

But sSpending has numerous constituancies that do not want any reform every.  And it is so much easier and politically advantagous to do nothing.  The last Congress did not even create a 2011 budget they just allowed it to slide without any adjsutments to the hugh spending of the FY 2010 budget. Thosands of programs needed to be adjusted but were not.  

Government spending always needs to be adjusted the  way private c?o?m?p?a?n?i?e?s? ?a?r?e? ?a?l?w?a?y?s? are ??a?d?j?u?s?t?i?n?g???.  Medicare for example the Obama admisnistration estimates has half a trillion in waste fruad and abuse.  But any reform is impossible to stop th?i?s? ??w?a?s?t?e? ?f?r?a????ud and abuse becasue they would be demonized by moralizers who would falsely claim the poor will be hurt.   This is not theology this is pr?actical admisntration that not even ?a?t?t?e?m?p?t?e?d? ?u?n?t?i?l? ?n?o?w? ?w?h?e?n? ?t?h?e? ?e?n?t?i?r?e? ??d?e?b?t? ?l?o?a?d? ?i?s? ?a?b?o?u?t? ?t?o? ?g?o? ?o?f?f? ?t?h?e? ?c?l?i?f?f?.???????????????????????????

But the word "reform" or reoganmization which any business does at least once every year or so can not be done for governemnt programs ever no matter how wasteful.  There is no constituancy to stop waste fraud and abuse or make the taxpayers dollars more productively used.  So we ??no?w ?have ?the ?nation ?and states that have kept spending without limit to the present condition where the federal government and many stat?es are on the brink of default.

Th moralistic theat??er of the mean Republicans are out to harm poor peopl?e ?is a fiction that masks the real issue of serious national debt ?crisis at our doorstep.  We owe no thanks or allegence to who fsil to deal eal with the reality of our national debt crisis.
11 years 4 months ago
"But I don't think we will make much cultural headway on this issue, particularly, sad to say, when someone raises the horror that, yes, under such a proposition even Islamic schools would be eligible for public vouchers."

Is this one of those hypothetical things or have you actually come across someone making this argument?  I have followed this debate for years and I have not seen anyone make this statement other than when I heard Alan Keyes (running against Obama in Illinois) argue that this certainly would be an acceptable outcome of a voucher program.
11 years 4 months ago
I guess thats why I missed it.  I usually read the mainstream press like the WSJ, NYTimes, etc.
11 years 4 months ago

Thanks for your response.  I'd like to be clear, in light of some of the rancor surrounding this post/topic, that I am not intending to cast aspersions or impugn anyone's motives, etc. My intent is to try to understand another POV but also try to shed light on a POV which some who read America may not appreciate, although I admit sometime the "heat" of debate takes over. 

Furthermore, I think I'm i total agreement with much of what you wrote.  I do NOT think its wise/smart/just to try to solve our fiscal crisis by cutting the relatively paltry 18% of the discretionary budget that we have.  Some cutting is necessary, and that includes cuts to the defense budget (Ryan's budget accepts the proposed cuts from Sec. Gates).  Moreover, I agree that tax revenue MUST be increased, although as we say in the south, there's more than one way to skin that cat, i.e. I would advocate closing so-called "tax expenditures" rather than raising rates (although I am not necessarily against raising tax rates; Megan Mcardle at The Atlantic has a useful series of posts on the tax issue).

As I understand "the budget crisis", the problem arises primarily in the big 3 entitlement programs, most especially Medicare rather than the discretionary spending.  And the problem is demographic: the increasing number of baby boomers retiring, and their increased health costs.  There is, to my mind, no one to "blame" for this; its fiscal reality and it poses a fundamental problem.  So the question centers on how to solve this structural problem.  When I say that I don't see liberal Catholics addressing the budget problem, this is what I have in mind, and it is not intended primarily an "ideological" point.  We need, from my perspective, to re-think the structure of some of these entitlement programs, and I think Bowles-Simpson, and, yes, Ryan's Roadmap, are helpful.  I have not seen/read/heard a recognition of these demographically driven problems nor an analysis of some bipartisan solutions (which I mentioned above with respect to Ryan/Rivlin) to it.  I'm waiting for CST to come to bear on those issues, and I haven't seen it yet.  But, as you, perhaps a conversation for another day...
11 years 4 months ago
"A final point: you brought up school voucher programs a few times as if they were distasteful to lib-Caths such as moi, or to America magazine."

I did NOT suggest that such programs were distasteful to lib-Caths. I raised the issue as an example, to my mind, of Boehner showing a concern for the poor that was/is overlooked by his liberal critics.  THe point was about Boehner's record the assessment of that record in the letter.  I understand that many lib-Caths support vouchers, etc., I just wuold like to see some acknowledgment that it is conservatives who are leading that issue that directly affects poor kids when we're so often accused of not giving a you-know-what about poor people.

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