Vice President Joseph Biden and Representative Ryan went head to head last night on basic tenet as Roman Catholics. Both reflected on deeply personal moments in which their faith cam to the play. Both claim devout prayer and live solid Christian lives. It just so happens, that this presidential election happens to fall on a year that has already proven to be significant for American Catholics.
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) rejection of a Vatican takeover, and the Fortnight for Freedom campaign led by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are examples of the unsettling time for the Church in the United States. The Catholic spectrum has become oversimplified into black and white. Either you are for the nuns and are liberal, or you are in support of USCCB and are conservative.
Representative Ryan’s background from a heavily Catholic state has not automatically won him popularity among Catholics nationwide. Members of the LCWR, including Sister Simone Campbell, led the ‘Nuns on the Bus’ nine-state tour in protest of Rep. Ryan’s budget proposal. Ryan’s proposed budget would have major cuts on food stamps and other government sponsored assistance programs. The poor and the elderly would face the biggest repercussion. Vice President Joe Biden has made it clear that his social stance is to give to the poor so that they may survive. This is in line with the tenets of his sacramental confirmation. He is going on to be a good Christly soldier. According to the sacrament of confirmation, which both have received, the fruits of the holy spirit will give them counsel, understanding and wisdom. The gift of wisdom corresponds to the virtue of charity.The gifts of understanding and knowledge correspond to the virtue of faith.The gift of counsel (right judgment) corresponds to the virtue of prudence.
Ryan said “You can’t separate private beliefs from your public life”. That is of great concern as your life as a mature adult according to the catechism is sharply one sided. Representative Ryan must have forgotten the following from his study days. This is in the text from the catechism that we as Catholics believe and follow:
- · 1897 “Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all.
- · 1902 Authority does not derive its moral legitimacy from itself. It must not behave in a despotic manner, but must act for the common good as a “moral force based on freedom and a sense of responsibility”:Appointment of rulers are left to the free decision of the citizens.”work and care for the good of all.”
It all boils down simply into the monitoring of your mind and tongue. You cannot lead without charity and the understanding that there are situations in the world that are more nuanced and require a much more gentle hand than a slash and smash of the law. You can relegate people to being mere numbers on a sheet. Finally, you must know that you cannot bring the absolutes of God’s laws to push your agenda. God is not for government and never has been.
The “What Would Jesus Do” moment in all this, the New Testament pretty much spells it out: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God, the things that are God’s”.
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