October 26th, 2011
05:40 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Washington (CNN) - Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, waded into a bit of economic theology Wednesday. The staunch Catholic, who recently told CNN that he gave up fear for Lent, was asked about the collision of his faith in finance and his faith in the church.
The Vatican put out a new financial document Monday called "Towards reforming the international financial and monetary systems in the context of a global public authority." The document calls for a new global economic authority that could impose penalties on member states as a “way of ensuring that they possess efficient markets,” Roman Catholic Bishop Mario Toso said at a Monday news conference.
While speaking at an event at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., Ryan was asked about the document and the pope's latest encyclical, which also touched on economics and finance.
The questioner asked if the pope's fiscal philosophy amounted to class warfare. In his June 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI wrote to the faithful, "Today's international economic scene, marked by grave deviations and failures, requires a profoundly new way of understanding business enterprise."
"It's been awhile since I read that one. Um, I actually do read these. I'm a good Catholic, you know ... get in trouble if I don't," joked Ryan, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, said he had skimmed the Vatican's document released Monday but kept his comments mainly to the pope's encyclical.
"You could interpret these in different ways. If you read the totality of these encyclicals - that one in particular - I think you could derive different lessons from it. What I think he is probably getting at - and look, I am getting out on a limb here ... read 'Without Roots,' a book he wrote when he was then Cardinal Ratzinger with Marcello Pera, president of the Italian Senate at the time, a phenomenal piece going at the roots of moral relativism," Ryan said.
The pope, he continued, "is talking about the extreme edge of individualism predicated upon moral relativism - that produces bad results in society for people and families, and I think that's the kind of thing he is talking about."
"So, do I believe that we should have some kind of international system of dividing the pie? No, and I don't think that's what he is calling for," Ryan said.
"I believe that the social Magisterium - again, I am saying this as a Catholic - is very helpful and it does not pick which of the two philosophies between the left and the right are right or wrong. That is up to the prudential judgment of lay people who are practicing, practice as politicians."
CNN's Dan Gilgoff contributed to this report
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.