Paul Ryan has been hired to teach at Notre Dame. He should think about studying there instead.

Paul Ryan, then the speaker of the U.S. House, attends a town hall meeting on April 27, 2016, at Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service, in Washington, D.C. (CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, Reuters)Paul Ryan, then the speaker of the U.S. House, attends a town hall meeting on April 27, 2016, at Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service, in Washington, D.C. (CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, Reuters)

The University of Notre Dame announced on April 15 that it has hired Paul Ryan, the former speaker of the U.S. House and the Republicans’ 2012 vice-presidential nominee, as a guest lecturer for politics and economics. This news puts me in mind of the 1986 comedy film “Back to School,” starring Rodney Dangerfield.

A better way?

Mr. Dangerfield’s character, Thornton Melon, is a successful businessman encouraging his son to move forward with college studies. The best way, Thornton thinks, is to enroll as a student with him. At first, Thornton tries to game the system by hiring famous authors to write papers for him, but eventually, he shapes up and passes his courses through hard work. We do not know what happens after that, but presumably he continues in his studies, graduates and perhaps even goes into politics.

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In this vein, Mr. Ryan, already successful in one sphere, should be offered a scholarship to study rather than teach at Notre Dame. This would send a strong message that universities can play a role in helping everyone, even the most famous, transition to new careers—or perhaps, in the case of individuals like Mr. Ryan, return to more effective public service.

If Mr. Ryan wishes to pursue a career in university life, he should take the proper steps and prepare himself well.

Being appointed to the faculty of any university should be more than a title, a mailing address and a place on the payroll. It is a signal that one has up-to-date expertise to teach and mentor students. If Mr. Ryan wishes to pursue a career in university life, he should take the proper steps and prepare himself well.

We know that Mr. Ryan is interested in Catholic social teaching but was also reportedly a fan of Ayn Rand, at least in his younger days. Maybe it is a good time for Mr. Ryan to delve into the latest scholarly debate on Catholic social teaching, especially the writings of Pope Francis, and to study the journal Economics and Philosophy. (There is more to this field than what Ms. Rand had to say!) After his failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Ryan could also study health care systems across the world. Maybe he has something to learn and can make an important contribution to national health care policy in the future.

Mr. Ryan could study health care systems across the world. Maybe he has something to learn and can make an important contribution in the future.

I have no idea what Mr. Ryan’s longer-term plans are. Given the large number of septuagenarians running for the White House, it is not inconceivable that Mr. Ryan, now less than 50, will run for national office again. If so, a good model can be found in the recent biography of John F. Kennedy, The Road to Camelot, by Thomas Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie. Five years ahead of the 1960 presidential election, J.F.K. knew what he did not know. So he recruited top-flight talent at major universities to be his tutors, meeting with them on a regular basis, on international relations, law and economics. Among them were McGeorge Bundy and Archibald Cox of Harvard, as well as Robert Solow of M.I.T. and James Tobin of Yale. (The latter two would go on to win Nobel Prizes in economics.) There was no precedent for a presidential candidate to start his run so early or to bring in leading academics for regular, often week-long tutorials.

Tutoring has its benefits, but the idea of political leaders, either on the rise or retired, joining the student body is not so far-fetched. Mary McAleese had been a law professor at both Trinity College, in Dublin, and Queen’s University, in Belfast, before becoming president of Ireland in 1997. When she left the presidency after 14 years, she enrolled at the Gregorian University in Rome as a student of canon law. She recently completed the doctorate in canon law (J.C.D. degree) and will be teaching at Glasgow University this year in the theology department.

After World War II, the federal government provided funds for returning soldiers to go to college, so there is a precedent for helping those in public service to transition to new roles in civilian life. Because of the G.I. Bill, many of my own relatives did not have to return to factory work or coal mining but were instead able to go to college and become teachers, doctors, lawyers and foreign service officers. Maybe we should have a similar fund for members of Congress, to help them in their transition to private sector endeavors or alternative forms of public service. (This may also gently encourage some of them to seek fewer terms in office.)

As a university teacher for more than 40 years, I say welcome to Mr. Ryan. I am happy to have you join us in the academy. I would say the same to your successor, Nancy Pelosi, when she decides to step down.

But first, come and join your fellow students. Learn from the real-life lessons of J.F.K. and Mary McAleese and the movie lesson of Thornton Melon (and of 1986’s “Educating Rita,” another back-to-school tale). Being a mature student, for a while, can be a transforming experience.

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Barry Fitzpatrick
7 months 1 week ago

This is a wise article by Fr. McNelis, and one can only hope Paul Ryan will take up McNelis' suggestion. In addition to the studies mentioned, it would be well for Ryan to have someone on the faculty point out the absolute affront that his fiscal policy (notably the latest tax cut) is to Catholic social teaching. Some wise Scripture scholar could point out to school boy Ryan that the Sermon in the Mount is not mere fluff but could have been used to help govern wisely. And lastly, Ryan could also study the career of one Fr. Hesburgh for hints of what causes to espouse and how NOT to leave your character at the door when faced with political expediency.

JR Cosgrove
7 months 1 week ago

You mean the tax cut that gave about 80% of the people a tax cut and a current economy that has record low unemployment. The economy may not last but currently it is doing well and employing blacks and Hispanics at record levels. So if that is against Catholic Social Teaching, one is arguing that Catholic Social Teaching is a bad idea.

Annette Magjuka
7 months 1 week ago

People are employed in low-paying jobs while all the worker benefits and supports are being chipped away if not removed altogether. The vast majority of Americans could not sustain an unexpected $400 expense. Most jobs now have a high deductible high co-pay health plan. Workers think they are doing ok until someone in the family gets sick and they owe $6,000-10,000 up front before insurance even kicks in, and then they owe thousands in co-pays. Public elementary schools could not be more unequal, yet we have DeVos pushing giving taxpayer $ to "charter schools," including many religious schools. There was a big expose that showed that big bucks went to charter schools that never even opened--ie, a scam. College is increasingly unaffordable to many Americans. Student loan debt is making it so young people delay having kids and buying homes. Basic human rights should include shelter, food, education and healthcare. Ryan does not believe this. He believes in dog eat dog Capitalism. Statistics about job growth may fool some ND students who, let's face it, are upper middle class. They may not actually understand life as a poor American. As an ND alum, I was shocked that they invited Ryan to teach. I am not opposed to a diversity of thought. This is what a university is all about. But I see the movement of the church to the far right, and it scares me. White women voted for Trump. Many Catholics voted for Trump at the behest of their parish priests and bishops. Does that mean that our Catholic universities should abandon Catholic social teaching and get on board with the power hungry institutional church? Please, ND, continue to teach social justice, which for me is at the root of my faith. Social justice is what Jesus taught through His words and example..

Robert Klahn
7 months 1 week ago

Well said Annette Magjuka.

Barry Fitzpatrick
6 months 4 weeks ago

The narrow minded approach of a white bemused spectator god, not at all soiled by the field hospital of life. Do your homework, please.

Jean Miller
7 months 1 week ago

Amen! to Barry Fitzpatrick

Baron Corvo
7 months 1 week ago

WHY would Notre Dame sully their already-spotty reputation by hiring - or even having on their campus - this buffoon that pretended to clean already-clean pans at a St. Vincent dePaul Center kitchen in an attempt to look like an honorable man ?

Joe McKenney
7 months 1 week ago

The “already-clean pans” story is not true. Please see the attached link from NBC News.
http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/16/14485409-ryan-did-wash-dirty-dishes-during-soup-kitchen-visit?lite
It’s sad to see such political vitriol in these comments. It is beneath America. Please be respectful.

Baron Corvo
7 months 1 week ago

National news media covered both the lie Paul Ryan attempted to foist on viewers AND the aftermath - and all the denials on YOUR pathetic part do nothing to erase what WAS...that Ryan and his wife acted as if they were cleaning up after assisting in the kitchen when none of their charade was true at all.

I am amazed at your brazen denial, which is in itself a godless lie, but I am truly sickened by your false piety as you call for "respectful" political commentary here when all you and your chosen party of pederasts do is LIE and try to give absolution for the original LIE with ANOTHER LIE.

Life doesn't work that way.

https://www.readingthepictures.org/2012/10/did-ryan-campaign-fake-photo-op-at-ohio-soup-kitchen-and-did-media-enable-it/

Richard Bell
7 months 1 week ago

"I have no idea what Mr. Ryan’s longer-term plans are."
You should admit also that you have no idea what Mr. Ryan's scholarly qualifications are.

Peter Schwimer
7 months 1 week ago

Actually, Mr. Ryan's academic qualifications are public information. He holds a bachelor's degree from Miami University (Indiana).

JOSEPH FAHEY
7 months 1 week ago

Thanks, Fr. McNelis for a thoughtful suggestion that Ryan learn something about Catholic teaching on economics before he teaches the subject at a Catholic University. But just maybe he will since I know many faculty members, if they had some intellectual humility, wisely asked colleagues for help or ideas that were different from their own. AND, I trust his students won't for a second put up with his "trickle down" nonsense or his defense of rabid capitalism. I hope ND knows what they are getting into here.

JR Cosgrove
7 months 1 week ago

You mean the "trickle down" nonsense that is eliminating poverty from the world. The best illustration of trickle down is the rapid elimination of poverty in the world.

ALLEN CORRIGAN
7 months 1 week ago

This was announced less than an hour before Notre Dame Paris caught fire. I saw it as karmic. Many people objected to my comment as being "over the top." However, having the reputation of the faculty of a revered, prestigious institution so dramatically sullied seems tantamount to a conflagration.

Gail Sockwell-Thompson
7 months 1 week ago

I hear you. As ‘over the top’ as the comment might be, a Catholic university hiring Paul Ryan to teach anything is worse. The man is a walking assault on Catholic social justice teaching. Notre Dame should be ashamed.

Tatiana Durbak
7 months 1 week ago

They should be ashamed, but I imagine that they're not. Power speaks and Notre Dame answers. It's really very sad.

JR Cosgrove
7 months 1 week ago

Can you illustrate where Catholic social justice teaching has done any good?

Tatiana Durbak
7 months 1 week ago

I agree with you, Allen Corrigan.

Stephen Shore
7 months 1 week ago

Don't forget about the most egregious thing about Paul Ryan - he is pro-life. I am sure that four years at Notre Dame could educate that out of him.

Peter Schwimer
7 months 1 week ago

Quite the contrary, Mr. Ryan is not prolife, he is anti abortion. There is a world of difference

Anthony Sahadi
7 months 1 week ago

This is why Notre Dame is one of the great Catholic Universities of the world! Fr. Hesburgh is proud.

“He should think about studying there instead?” Why the arrogance and sacratism?

Are we as Catholics becoming so weak that we cannot even listen to opposing view points? Are we becoming so specialized that it is either our way or the highway? Come on! I do not totally agree with Congressman Ryan. But, alittle class and dignity please!

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
7 months 1 week ago

Thank you, Mr. Sahadi! We will do well to remember that Mr. Ryan's vision of social justice is not anti-Catholic. It is, rather, that this nation should help people but not make them dependent on the government. Give someone a fish and he eats for a day; teach him how to fish and he eats everyday.

Joris Heise
7 months 1 week ago

Your comment does not tally well with the Gospel where fish was exactly what Jesus provided twice miraculously without teaching anybody how to fish. I do believe, with due respect, that Mr. Ryan has too deeply drunk of the Randian Spring and has imbibed the poison into his heart--said with both sadness and prayer--and that your remark suggests something of the same Randian principles--a roundabout way of saying that too many people are using the government teat--which is a generalization that is just wrong.

Stuart Meisenzahl
7 months 1 week ago

M Heise
Until the Federal Government is imbued with God like abilities to multiply loaves and fishes, Mr. Brandlin's comment remains accurate.
For now multiplication of dependency seems to be the major claim of Government social policies.

Tom Tomaszewski
7 months 1 week ago

Fool me once...as the saying goes. Mr Ryan's appointment to Notre Dame concerns me because while he says he has jettisoned his social Darwinist Ayn Rand infatuation, suggesting it was a flight of youthful fancy, his policies and budgets say different. In addition, when opposed by Church Officials and Theologians on the basis of a common good he accuses them of class warfare. He has deliberately characterized subsidiarity as an endorsement of small government Republicanism drawing on the work of political think tanks looking to co-opt Catholic Social Teaching in an effort to drive the knife of disunity through the social safety net and ripping it to shreds. His budgets were not thoughtful wonkish documents. They were filled with laughable predictions on the revenue side marked by numerous magic asterisks that balanced the sophomoric work he produced with financial flim flam. This appointment would not concern me if it were just to talk about the politics of division he has helped grow in this nation. Where finance is concerned however; he is demonstrably not qualified. Other pronouncements from the University have suggested he will also speak on the topic of religion as it relates to his politics and that would be truly a stain on the university's reputation. No, I see this as simply a resume' building project allowing Ryan to now claim his bastardization of Catholic Social Thought has been endorsed by a leading Catholic University where he taught as a member of the faculty. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on Notre Dame for buying into this.

KATHLEEN GARAST MS
7 months 1 week ago

While Mr. Ryan has expressed an interest in Catholic Social Teachings, perhaps the next step before he begins teaching would be to ask if his interest has led him to a belief in any of the teachings....

Nora Bolcon
7 months 1 week ago

Maybe it is a good time for Mr. Ryan to delve into the latest scholarly debate on Catholic social teaching, and to study the journal Economics and Philosophy. (There is more to this field than what Ms. Rand had to say!) After his failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Ryan could also study health care systems across the world. Maybe he has something to learn and can make an important contribution to national health care policy in the future.

Ha Ha Ha - This guy cares about number 1 and no one else but the one percent rich folks in this world. Sadly, any student of his will learn the fine art of greed and selfishness and how to spin these things like they are Christian Values .

JR Cosgrove
7 months 1 week ago

This article and most of the comments are self indictments of arrogance and ignorance. Why would anyone go to a university to learn politics from a professor. Also, can anybody point to anywhere Catholic Social Teaching has done any good?

FRAN ABBOTT
7 months 1 week ago

Actually, I can. Anytime we give food to the hungry, alms to the poor, visit the sick or incarcerated we are helping build God’s kingdom on earth. Also, It is not charitable to call others arrogant and ignorant. Please behave yourself.

JR Cosgrove
7 months 1 week ago

Actually, you didn’t. Thank you for demonstrating that my comment was accurate. Basic Christian charity is not Catholic Social Teaching. So you got it wrong. Can you illustrate where Catholic Social Teaching has done any good? I suggest you look it up. If we are building God’s kingdom on earth it is the non Catholic world that is doing it better than Catholics.

FRAN ABBOTT
7 months 1 week ago

I don’t have to look it up. It lives in my heart.

janetnagy@comcast.net
7 months 1 week ago

While more should have been done to reform Health care and immigration during Paul Ryan's 4 year term, he did have many successes in passing tax reforms in 2017, the ophoid crisis and bipartisan criminal justice reform. The later two are prolife in nature and supportive of Catholic concerns. I find this editorial cynical and unjustified. He will be a perfect Political Science Professor in an era of political polarization, in that he has real life experience in the political arena. Clearly the he will learn from his students as well. Isn't that always the way for a teacher. Plus he is prolife will be happy to spend some time with his family. This is a perfect job for him. Notre Dame is luck to have him and he is lucky to be there.

Kat Beaulieu
7 months 1 week ago

According to Paul Ryan, he will be team teaching with former Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly , ND class of 77 and Notre Dame Law School.Hopefully he will learn from him. And if not Mayor Pete of South Bend can give him help some help. Also the Hesburgh film could show him the true place of religion to create social change with gospel eyes.

THOMAS E BRANDLIN, MNA
7 months 1 week ago

Ms. Beaulieu, the work of the Church is not to create social change or to be socialist, which so many of the bishops, including the Pope, are. The work of the Church is the salvation of souls, no matter what their politics or economic or social circumstances are. The flaw in this article, and in so much that comes out of the Church, is that it assumes only socialists are worthy of salvation.

Joris Heise
7 months 1 week ago

Like so many, you do not seem to notice that Jesus came to heal sickness, feed people, and bring people back from the dead; as a knowledgeable person, of course, you probably know by now that Jesus did not believe in the Greek "soul" as our translators fail to indicate. A good Jewish man, he saved people, not souls.

Chuck Kotlarz
7 months 1 week ago

Mr. Brandlin, history's perhaps least known economist once spoke of a camel and the eye of a needle.

JR Cosgrove
7 months 1 week ago

true place of religion to create social change

You might want to point to Latin America to support your ideas, one of the most Catholic and most violent and poor areas of the world

Kat Beaulieu
7 months 1 week ago

According to Paul Ryan, he will be team teaching with former Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly , ND class of 77 and Notre Dame Law School.Hopefully he will learn from him. And if not Mayor Pete of South Bend can give him some help. Also the Hesburgh film could show him the true place of religion to create social change with gospel eyes.

James Schwarzwalder
7 months 1 week ago

Regarding Senator John F. Kennedy, Father McNelis states: "There was no precedent for a presidential candidate to start his run so early or to bring in leading academics for regular, often week-long tutorials". Franklin Delano Roosevelt brought numerous experts from many disciplines to Hyde Park for lengthy and intensive instruction, questioning and conversation prior to becoming President. As a registered Republican for 51 years, thanks to Roe versus Wade, I have to admit that I have been no fan of Speaker Paul Ryan. His philosophy seemed to me to be "When you were hungry, I sponsored legislation to give you a voucher." Neither did I identify with JFK's Camelot and today ponder JFK's portrait hanging on the school walls of Catholic institutions. The press corps in JFK's time was benign. Given that Obama and Biden have been honored by Notre Dame without matriculating, why draw the line at Paul Ryan? Do you have to spend time in the Acela Corridor to be a Jesuit?

Boreta Singleton
7 months 1 week ago

As a graduate of Notre Dame I appreciate the fact that Universities want to offer students diverse ways of thinking in order to give the students a well-rounded education. But I am deeply concerned about Mr. Ryan's lack of support of Catholic Social Teaching. I believe that people who have public profiles bring their entire selves to the public. Mr. Ryan's Catholicism also comes with him to his public profile. Notre Dame has always clearly defined themselves as a Catholic institution of higher learning by supporting Catholic Social Teaching. A reading of their Laetare Medal awardees demonstrates that fact. I am hoping that Mr. Ryan will take up Fr. McNelis's suggestion. Being a part of an institution means espousing, on some level, its values. My prayer, as a Catholic African American woman, is that the Holy Spirit will enlighten Mr. Ryan's heart and mind.

William McGovern
7 months 1 week ago

It is sad that America resorts to ridicule of someone who does not share its view of what a good person and Catholic should believe

Universities were created as places to learn. It is shameful when only one viewpoint is allowed. It destroys the purpose of the university and makes it not much more than a expensive purveyor of propaganda.

Those in the field of education will tell you they learn much from their students and I know the former Speaker Ryan, if he is allowed to actually be a lecturer, will be no different

I ask America to follow its own advice and be respectful. Also understand that actively seeking and listening to all viewpoints will result in a better outcome for all concerned

Stuart Meisenzahl
7 months 1 week ago

Father McNelis is an invaluable asset to comment on economics and economic policy,...an expertise that seems sadly lacking in the other Editors.
However, such expertise hardly qualifies him as an expert on Political Science which is Ryan's bailiwick. I am quite sure that Mr. Ryan could teach Fr. McNelis a thing or two about how to actually get economic iniatives passed in Congress where Father's economic theories are reduced to an all too messy series of practical compromises.
It is beneath the good Father to engage in snotty denigration of the skills and expertise of another in a field outside his own...see the article's headline. But actually it is not surprising since he lives and teaches in the East Coast milieu where the echo chamber of such commentary is not just ordinary but expected.

FRAN ABBOTT
7 months 1 week ago

C’mon folks — lighten up. I for one enjoy the tongue-in-cheekiness of this piece. And I have a suggestion— let’s chip in and give Mr. Ryan a gift subscription to America. How better for his real education to begin?

JR Cosgrove
7 months 1 week ago

Why? When the editors and authors of America cannot provide a reason why one should be a Catholic.

FRAN ABBOTT
7 months 1 week ago

I am truly perplexed. If you hate America-and the Jesuits so much, why do you spend so much time on this site? Are you just trying to bring it down?

JR Cosgrove
7 months 1 week ago

I don't hate anyone. Never have. I was Jesuit trained in college so that is why I am here. What passes for Catholicism on this site would have horrified the Jesuits who taught me. I am mainly looking for the thinking behind their positions but rarely get a rational answer from anything written here. That is what is truly perplexing. Occasionally some rational thought seeps through but it is mainly emotional with no substance behind it.

Stephen Shore
7 months 1 week ago

Remember that Paul Ryan is coming as a GUEST lecturer. It is not like he is coming to change the course of Notre Dame. He is coming to present another view on politics and economics. And no, I don't tend to agree with a lot of his positions on those issues and he is definitely not perfectly aligned with Catholic economic teachings on those issues.

However...would the same level of hysteria be brought out if Nancy Pelosi was brought on as a guest lecturer in the areas of reproductive issues or gender identity issues? She is certainly a "Catholic" politician who is diametrically opposed to official Catholic doctrine when it comes to those issues.

Mr. Ryan may not perfectly align with the Church when it comes to economic issues, but he certainly is more perfectly aligned with Catholic moral teaching than many of the "heroes" than the Catholic left would have you believe.

Neither major political party is aligned with the Catholic church. We Catholics just have to make a decision on what is more important - the murder of babies or government subsidies to the disadvantaged. Both are extremely important and I wish that we had a political party that would serve both of these issues equally. Our Church DOES. I happen to make the choice to put precedence on ending the murder of babies, but I pray that we can someday have a culture that saves both the unborn and the disadvantage.

Our politicians play us all like fools...

Chuck Kotlarz
7 months 1 week ago

Mr. Shore, please consider the prospects for the unborn without a living wage. Why punish the unborn to protect the greed of those with billion dollar incomes?

John Mack
7 months 1 week ago

Paul Ryan is not unaware of Catholic Social Teaching and its two fundamental priciples: solidarity and subsidiarity. He follows the doctrines of the Acton Society, founded by rich Catholics, which teaches a libertarian and fundamentalist Protestant interpretation of Catholic Social Teaching. Subsidiarity, the principle of power being extended as far down in human relations as is possible and the requirement that decisions be made at the lowest level possible, is interpreted to mean that all social problems be dealt with strictly at the local level, not at the federal level. This even favors getting rid of Social Security, never mind any kind of national health care. It adheres to the fundamentalist Protestant teaching that there are three spheres of power on earth: the family, the ecclesial, and the governmental. The family has the obligation to care for its members. If it fails, then the church has the obligation to care for those miscared for by their families. At no point does the government have any right to provide social and economic programms to benevfit the poor or anyone else. Government exist primarily for national defense and war, the facilitation of trade, and the proper policing and containment of criminals. It basically teaches Ayn Rand's laissez-faire capitalism without the histrionics. In this system private property rights (here referring to revenue producing property, not homes) are sacred and absolute and no government has any right to interfere with these property rights in favor of workers (unions, minimum wages, workers's comp, 8 hour days, overtime pay, parental leave, etc) or the poor. This is the same political/economic system that caused the mass starvation of the Irish people in the late 1840's. It was also used to justify slavery as made clear in the inaugural speech of Vice President Stevens of the Confederacy. The systematic reduction of the government to war, commerce, and policing is the policy of today's Republican party under the directions of America''s billionaire oligarchs (which, for some reason, are never called oligarchs). Paul Ryan is totally in favor of this extremist philosophy and the extremist policies it fosters. P.S. Lord Action was an extreme reactionary Catholic historian in the UK).

Chuck Kotlarz
7 months 1 week ago

Mr. Mack, would oligarchs perhaps define socialism as anything that interferes with the oligarchy?

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