John Boehner’s Catholic Problem

Michael O’Hare’s blog post over at the Ten Miles Square blog brought this to my attention. A very interesting thing is going on in Washington.

This weekend John Boehner, a practicing Catholic and 1977 graduate of the Jesuit Xavier University, will give the commencement address at Catholic University of America.

In response, more than 75 American Catholic academics, including many from CUA, signed a letter calling attention to Boehner’s policies, which the letter says are at odds with Catholic teaching. The letter, according to an article in the National Catholic Reporter, states that:

Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings. From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress. This fundamental concern should have great urgency for Catholic policy makers. Yet, even now, you work in opposition to it.

The 2012 budget you shepherded to passage in the House of Representatives guts long-established protections for the most vulnerable members of society. It is particularly cruel to pregnant women and children, gutting Maternal and Child Health grants and slashing $500 million from the highly successful Women Infants and Children nutrition program. When they graduate from WIC at age 5, these children will face a 20% cut in food stamps. The House budget radically cuts Medicaid and effectively ends Medicare. It invokes the deficit to justify visiting such hardship upon the vulnerable, while it carves out $3 trillion in new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. In a letter speaking on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Stephen Blaire and Bishop Howard Hubbard detailed the anti-life implications of this budget in regard to its impact on poor and vulnerable American citizens.

Mr. Speaker, we urge you to use the occasion of this year’s commencement at The Catholic University of America to give fullest consideration to the teachings of your Church. We call upon you to join with your bishops and sign on to the “Circle of Protection.” It is your moral duty as a legislator to put the needs of the poor and most vulnerable foremost in your considerations. To assist you in this regard, we enclose a copy of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Published by the Vatican, this is the “catechism” for the Church’s ancient and growing teaching on a just society and Catholic obligations in public life.

Note that the professors do not object to Boehner’s presence at graduation ceremonies or call on CUA not to give out the precious honorary doctorate to congressman. No, all of that is fine, but if Boehner’s going to speak at a big prominent Catholic school, well, the Catholics are going to call him out.

We’re Catholics, the signatories point out. You’re Catholic. This is a Catholic institution. And your public behavior is not in line with Catholic teaching.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer