May 14th, 2011
05:50 PM ET
By Larry Lazo, CNN
WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Speaker John Boehner emphasized "humility, patience and faith" in his commencement speech Saturday at the Catholic University of America, steering clear of addressing concerns raised by dozens at the college over his role in passing the 2012 budget.
Boehner, a Catholic and a Republican, made no mention of a letter that was sent to him this week by a group of 70 people from Catholic University as well as other Catholic colleges across the country, criticizing the 2012 budget that Boehner helped guide through the House. The signatories included faculty, priests and nuns, among others.
The legislation called for spending cuts that could adversely affect a number of programs that help the poor and elderly.
The letter said Boehner's actions go against the Catholic doctrine.
"It is your moral duty as a legislator to put the needs of the poor and most vulnerable foremost in your considerations," the letter stated.
Stephen Schneck, a professor at Catholic University, was one of the dozens who signed the letter.
"Catholic social teachings have always emphasized the importance of preferencing the poor in regards to governance and policy-making. And if you look over the speaker's record, it doesn't seem as if he's been fulfilling that part of the deal," Schneck told CNN.
A day after receiving the letter, Boehner did not directly comment on the proposed cuts listed in the budget, but he did express his satisfaction with the system that's currently in place.
"I think America has a strong safety net for those who live near the bottom of our economy," he said.
But it's that safety net that Schneck and his colleagues say Boehner is targeting.
"In the 2012 budget there are a number of items that just seem to be quite frankly at odds with Catholic social teachings in this regard - the cuts that he makes to WIC [women, infants and children] programs, the 20% cuts in food stamps, cuts to maternal and infant grants. ... What happens to Medicare and Medicaid?" Schneck said.
A number of Christian groups have since formed what they call a "Circle of Protection" in the hopes of doing just that - protecting groups that are in danger of being heavily impacted by cuts to various food and nutrition programs as well as to Medicare and Medicaid.
Schneck issued an invitation to Boehner to join them.
Boehner said Thursday that he feels like there are people in every religion who lean more liberal or conservative, but he said he feels good about his track record.
"I believe that the actions that I've taken during my years in Congress uphold the values of my faith," he said.
In his commencement address Saturday, Boehner emphasized doing the right thing for the right reasons: "... humility, patience and faith - the raw material of hard work and sacrifice. They will take you as far as you want to go."
CNN's Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report
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