By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Washington (CNN) - When House Speaker John Boehner steps up to the podium at the Catholic University of America's commencement on Saturday, he'll be tap dancing around the line between faith and politics.
On Wednesday, a group of 70 professors, priests, nuns and others from the Washington university and other Catholic colleges around the country fired off a letter calling Boehner on the carpet for what they say is his lack of support of legislation for 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 letter reads.
Boehner, Catholic by faith and Republican by party, was able to garner enough votes in the House for the passage of HR 1, the House budget proposal that has drawn the ire of many religious leaders.
The group of professors said the proposed cuts in the budget to Medicare, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program and food stamps "guts long-established protections for the most vulnerable members of society."
Along with their letter they sent the speaker the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, a Vatican document on the teachings of the Catholic prepared in 2004 by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
The compendium cites specific guidance for lawmakers: "Those who exercise political authority must see to it that the energies of all citizens are directed towards the common good; and they are to do so not in an authoritarian style but by making use of moral power sustained in freedom."
Stephen F. Schneck is a professor at the Catholic University of America and director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies. He is one of the signers of the letter and said the impetuous for it took root early in the budget debate.
"It was probably the contrast between what the bishops were telling us about paying attention to the needs of the poor and the actual budget that passed through the House of Representatives," Schneck said.
"One of the most ancient teachings of Christianity is preferential treatment of the poor, and it seemed that in the way in which the ... budget tried to address the deficit and the debt, it was particularly targeting programs that serve the poor," Schneck said.
"We thought that was an inappropriate balancing of the various interests of society. It seems to us these examples that we gave were illustrations of what were really egregious targeting of really valuable programs to the poorest and most vulnerable people in America."
Schneck and the other signatories on the letter are urging Boehner to join with a group of religious leaders who have been calling for a "Circle of Protection" to be formed around federal programs for the poor. That group grew out of what some have said are liberal Christian activist groups but in recent weeks has grown to include a broad scope of Protestant, Catholic and evangelical leaders.
“Lawmakers need to understand what a circle of protection means," Jim Wallis, the head of Sojourners, said on a conference call with reporters last week about the effort. "It means if you come after the poor, you will have to come and go through us first."
The coalition of religious leaders behind the "Circle of Protection" also has drawn the ire of conservative media outlets.
Rush Limbaugh said on his radio program last month, "A favorite tactic of the left, you know, when it suits them they'll talk about Jesus Christ. When they can convince or try to convince everybody Jesus Christ was the patron saint of liberalism, then they will herald Jesus Christ."
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said the commencement address won't wade into the political battle over the budget. "The speaker will be delivering a personal, non-political message at the Catholic University of America that he hopes will speak to all members of the graduating class, regardless of their backgrounds or affiliations," he said in a statement to CNN.
"He is deeply honored to have been invited by CUA to address the school's graduating class and is looking forward to receiving an honorary degree from the only Catholic college in our country that is chartered by Catholic bishops,” the statement continued.
Steel also noted that an editorial in the student newspaper heralded the school's choice of commencement speaker.
Boehner is not the first Catholic politician to face criticism over how his politics and prayers mesh. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, was denied communion over his support for abortion rights, which some bishops said was in direct violation of the church's teachings. Then-Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a Rhode Island Democrat, found himself in a similar row with his bishop in 2009 over abortion and was barred from receiving communion.
Schneck said any notion of whether Boehner's support for budget cuts would merit a withholding of communion is an "issue above my pay grade" and better left for a pastor, not a professor, to decide.
"I think the issue of a violation is one between him and God, but it seems the budget that has gone through the House of Representatives seems to be at odds with what should be the approach congruent with Catholic social teachings," Schneck said.
He also said the professors will not be disrupting the speech in any way and that their efforts were merely educational.
"Our efforts are to reach out to the speaker and hope to persuade him to think about endorsing the circle of protection."
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I like the way you described the topic with such clarity. This is something I have been thinking about for a long time and you really captured the essence of the subject.
let the catholic church take care of the poor. They pass the basket so many times for so many things I thought I was in basket weaving class. People will give when they want to. Stop expanding and building schools and churches when the ones that exist will do just fine. enough asking for other peoples money.
to CNN EDITORS: YOU SANCTIONED ME BECAUSE MY POST "LOOKED LIKE" , YOU WROTE, "I HAD WRITTEN THAT ALREADY?
TALK ABOUT ARBITRARINESS! WHAT IS HAPPENING TO YOUR JUDGMENT? WANT REAL OPINIONS, OR LIES?
they don't care. CNN is a ultra liberal entertainment center. the only real news they see is from the newspaper they use to wipe their butt
We are broke, shut er down.....
HELPING DISENFRANCHISED PEOPLE IS HUMAN NATURAL COMPASSION AND MORAL DUTY. RELIGION STOLE THOSE HUMAN
NATURAL FEELINGS AND USED THEM TO SEIZE POWER AND INVADE THE SEPARATION OF STATE POWER. WALKER BUSH ESTABLISHED RELIGIOUS TYRANNY HERE IN AMERICA :( IT IS TIME TO UNSHACKLE THE DOGMATIC CHAINS THE GOP PUT ON THE CHRISTIANS WRISTS BUT PUT THE CHRISTIANS IN A SEPARATE CATEGORY OUTSIDE GOVERNMENT.
HOW WOULD YOU CHRISTIANS FEEL FREE OF GUILT, HATRED, REVENGE AND SEMI-SLAVERY?
Sure let's cut the poor the young the elderly citizens an any one else who needs help. If you don't fit this kind of a person then your lucky so you say it's OK to with hold help for the needy, I got mine an I want yours to.
I have been saying that the leaders on conservative right who espouse their religious credentials tend to do the exact opposite of the teachings of Jesus. They tend to cherry pick their religious traditions to only mention those that sow hate and discord among the population while doing everything they can to divide this great nation. It is they who will eventually be called to answer, either by the truely religious or their God and I will be laughing that day when they relize the mistake they made.
Who cares what the catholics do? When I see priests in NYC driving BMW's there is a good chance they are.not helping the poor quote as well as they could. If there are two groups that would help this country if they simply disappeared it would be all you religious nut bags, and republicans. The world would be a far less corrupt and war mongering without you.
It's a little unfair to generalize, don't you think? Maybe priests in NYC drive BMW s but mine doesn't even own a car. He walks or rides a bike to wherever he needs to go. He's taken a vow of poverty so while a small portion of church donations are used to take care of his basic needs (a small price to pay for all the wonderful charity work he does for our community), he owns no property. He lives inside the church so that he may be available 24 hours a day and never charges any type of fee for services rendered such as baptisms, funeral services, or to preside over a wedding. You may make a donation in his name to a charity in his name but it's not expected.. Not all priests are corrupt perverts. The ones that devote their lives to God and helping all who are in need provide invaluable services to their community and expect nothing in return.
I'll just say this: For 2 years these idiots screamed jobs. Then they held the country hostage to keep their wealthy tax cuts because they create jobs. Now we've had several years of this nonsense, and here they go again yelling 'jobs'. Face it, when it comes to fixing this country, they are clueless. EVERY GOP argument you hear is a Fox News clip. Let me help you Republicans understand this issue another way. Your idea's are to cut off everyone and let them starve. What do you think people will do at that point? Do you think it will magically get better, and all these working poor will suddenly have more income? No. You are going to push people to the brink, and then you are going to discover how messed up your gun laws are as well. As a country, we can either work towards systems that other countries are doing right...Or we can follow this train wreck of contradictions straight to hell.
i AGREE. RELIGION AND ANY DOGMA ARE BROMAIDS TO LESSEN THE ELITE' GUILT FOR NOT HELPING THE POOR AND WORKING CLASSES PLUS THE MIDDLE CLASS.
BUT BY CUTTING TAXES FOR MULTI-MILLIONAIRES, THE GUILT OF THE GOP INCREASES, SINCE AMBITION OVERPOWERS THE RICH, THE GUILT CHRISTIAN MEDICINE NO LONGER WORKS. THEN GOP ANGER RISES, AND SO DOES THEIR ATTACKS ON OTHER RELIGIONS.
Seconded. The let them eat cake ploy has been tried in the past, and it didn't work out so well for those in power.
The church and our government would do well to heed the words of Paul, Silas, and Timothy in 2 Thessalonians 3:10. "For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat."
This so called church is always telling us to give, well how about the 600 million they wasted defending priest. Religion heal thy self and say out of politics
re Rush L's comment-anybody who doesn't share the exact same ideology as you has to be slammed and sneered at. The Catholic Church is very conservative and traditionalist. If they feel the need to form a circle of protection around the poor I would think that is their right. They are acting out of their faith in Jesus' teachings.
That doesn't make them 'libturds'-your favorite name for any with an opposing viewpoint.
Conservative??? Are you talking about social justice errr communism as being Conservative, get a life.
It's impetus not impetuous. And even the people in funny hats know you can't just take all the money from the poor and give it to the rich, duh. The religious right in America vote against their own values and liberties, so they hold the hand that holds them down. Corporatism will catch up with you all, too. It already has for the poor and disillusioned voters living in the floodplains of the Mississippi and the bayous of Louisiana.
He is one of the worst and weakest Speakers of the House. He has proven with his support for the oil industries subsides and asking the Pentagon to remove Ohio from the closure list (as he has done ever since he was in office) that he has no real interest in cutting the budget just getting re-elected. He wasn't even able to get all those Republican Congressmen to give up the subsides that they were receiving from the government and did not need. Yeah, you bet they care so much about saving money.
I am not inside Bohener's head, yet, his body language and speeches indicate the guy is obsessed with guilt and blame. Also he focuses on damaging Americans, middle, working class or poor :( I believe he is not qualified nor competent to head the post he got. He should be impeached.
Ahhhh...the consistency of inconsistency. Are we to govern and be governed by ones religious beliefs or not? Simple question. Abortion should be tackled next with this same group setting the bar. Fair is fair.
IF SO, YOUR TYPE RUNS OVER THE BODIES OF DEAD WOMEN WHO ONCE WERE FETUSESl!
So some people went to a church college and became Catholic professors. What makes them so all mighty. John is doing what he can to remove our national debt today. I don't think there should be any Catholic schools or Catholic professors. Why? The Catholic Church is linked with the Italian mafia for one. Two, the entire religion is nuts. The stories of Jesus were told over and over again my drunks at campfires. They were so messed up they were telling stories about the Egyptian myth Horus and got mixed up and said these things were done by Jesus. Do the research. Both were crucified and were resurrected. They had 12 desiples, there important speech was the sermon on the mount, they brought people back from the dead, and the list goes on and on. Then the Catholic Church rewrote the stories for the Pope to give as sermons. This became the New Testament. This rewrite was pure Hollywood magic. They made up the story about Jesus being born in Bethleham so he could be thought of as the Messiah. What a work of fiction. Literature not fact.
YEP! RIGHT ON!
Politians that say they believe in God , take from the poor and give to the rich, give religon a bad name.
So you evangelists and protestants realize too late, the grave mistake you did when you supported the tea party and the gop?
It figures. But the damage is done. Your trying to reverse what you did by blaming the Democrats OF WHAT YOU DID, IS ANOTHER HUGE MISTAKE. NOW WE AMERICANS KNOW WHAT YOU ARE: HYENAS. LIKE THOSE BEASTS YOU EAT EACH OTHER ALIVE!
what? take from the poor and give to the rich? I don't know who you are talking about, but I worked my entire life to get to where I am and I am middle class. I have always paid taxes to take care of the poor and all it's done is make me live pay check to pay check.
"Christian" conservatives ought to know that Jesus was a liberal (and a socialist). Now before you label me a heretic, read your own Bible.
I am doing my best not to call you a name.
Where was the hate towards all of the liberals whan they went against what the church stands for?
Actually I think he was much more than a simple human label.
Y o8 are right :) Erick Fromme wrote the early Jewish Christiians were communist revolutionaries who hated the Jewish Pharisees. The Pharisees were the ones who accussed Jesus Christ and got him crucified.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.