Ryan as VP pick continues election year focus on Catholicism
Paul Ryan is better known for his outspoken fiscal conservatism than for leading on conservative Catholic social causes.
August 11th, 2012
09:20 AM ET

Ryan as VP pick continues election year focus on Catholicism

By Dan Gilgoff and Dan Merica

Washington (CNN) – Mitt Romney’s selection of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate promises to cast a spotlight on American Catholicism in an election year when the tradition has already been a major focus.

Ryan, a Catholic who chairs the House Budget Committee, is better known for his outspoken fiscal conservatism than for leading on conservative Catholic social causes like opposing abortion and gay marriage.

But Romney called attention to Ryan's religion Saturday in introducing him as his running mate: "A faithful Catholic, Paul believes in the worth and dignity of every human life," Romney said.

And socially conservative groups were quick to praise Ryan's selection, with the president of National Right to Life saying that "Ryan has a deep, abiding respect for all human life, including unborn children and their mothers, the disabled and the elderly."

Ryan’s advocacy for cutting taxes and trimming the deficit — he is the architect of the GOP’s proposed federal budget — married with his willingness to talk about fiscal belt-tightening in moral terms and his low-key social conservatism speak to a political moment in which the economic concerns of the Tea Party and the social focus of the Christian right have merged into a relatively cohesive anti-Obama movement.

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Ryan’s presence on the ticket also could increase Romney’s appeal among the millions of middle-of-the-road Catholic voters who populate key swing states, like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Catholics are considered the quintessential swing vote, and no presidential candidate has won the White House without winning Catholics since at least the early 1990s.

With Romney, a Mormon, selecting a Catholic, Obama is the only Protestant in the 2012 presidential race (Vice President Joe Biden is also Catholic).

"As a conservative Catholic, Ryan is likely to appeal to a number of Catholics in the Midwest,” said John Green, a professor of religion and politics at the University of Akron in Ohio. “Catholics who are concerned about religious liberty, he is certainly a positive there."

The Catholic Church has helped frame this year’s election by strenuously opposing a rule in President Obama’s health care law that requires insurance companies to provide free contraception coverage to nearly all American employees, including those at Catholic colleges and hospitals. The Democrats have said that Romney’s and the GOP’s support for the Church’s position constitutes a “war on women,” while Romney and his party say Obama’s rule represents a “war on religion.”

In an interview with CNN, former GOP hopeful Newt Gingrich, who is Catholic, said that Ryan would shore up support in a Catholic community that feels it is “under siege.”

Romney released an ad Thursday repeating the war on religion charge. Next week, Sandra Fluke — a Georgetown University law student who was thrust into the national spotlight after radio show host Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” for her role in supporting Obama’s contraception rule — will introduce the president at a stop in Denver.

Ryan’s own Catholicism became a major issue this year, with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops criticizing his proposed federal budget for what the bishops said would be its adverse impact on the poor.

The bishops cautioned against overreaching budget cuts that endanger “poor and vulnerable people.” The bishops’ message called on “Congress and the administration to protect essential help for poor families and vulnerable children and to put the poor first in budget priorities.”

This split between politically conservative and liberal Catholics has existed for decades in the Catholic Church. But with Ryan running for vice president, some experts expect this divide to be sharpened.

"What Ryan will highlight is a division within the Catholic community,” Green said. “More politically liberal Catholics are very critical of the Republican approach and the Ryan budget, but Ryan has taken them head on.”

In an April speech at Georgetown, a Catholic school, Ryan defended his budget in religious terms.

“The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it,” Ryan said. “What I have to say about the social doctrine of the Church is from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding of the problems of the day.”

Ryan’s $3.53 trillion budget doubles down on past proposals to overhaul Medicare and other government programs that are seen as politically sensitive. While the budget has little chance to become law, it draws a distinct contrast with Democratic views on spending.

That speech, along with other statements that put his budget into religious terms, led liberal Catholic groups to openly protest Ryan’s budget.

In particular, NETWORK, a group founded by 47 Catholic nuns that speaks out on social justice issues, went on a bus tour around the country to protest the Ryan budget.

In an interview with CNN, Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK, said Ryan has co-opted sacred Catholic teachings and twisted their meanings.

This line of attack will intensify in the coming months because of Ryan’s nomination, says Deal Hudson, a religion and politics expert who ran President George. W. Bush’s Catholic outreach in 2000 and 2004.

“I think the Catholic left will make this the drumbeat about Congressman Ryan,” Hudson said. “That is why it is so important for the campaign to effectively get out in front of this argument.”

According to Hudson, it is possible to defend the Ryan budget from Catholic attacks, it will just take a campaign that “realizes this is what they face."


Filed under: 2012 Election • Catholic Church • Politics

soundoff (1,690 Responses)
  1. giggity

    what happened to the separation of state and church?

    August 11, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Alice in Wonderland

      You hit the nail on the head!

      August 11, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  2. Mike

    Ironic how in 1960 the Republicans complained about JFK's Catholic faith in that it would distract him from making the right decisions. Now, they're promoting Ryan's Catholic faith as an asset. It's amazing how far backwards they've gone.

    August 11, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      yes it is quite ironic. It's too bad they can't recognize it themselves. The Republican surrogates will just pat themselves on the back and talk about the blessings of ecvmenicalism. It will be interesting to see what Pat Roberston says though. He has a hard time staying on message these days.

      Stipulating that he believes in God, he must be pretty worried about seeing him soon and answering for all the stupid hateful things he has said over the years.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      They have short memories. Among other "shortcomings", IYKWIMAITYD,

      August 11, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  3. collectivedementia

    At least it is better than the GOP VP pick in '08. Seemed like John McCain simply gave up when the Party made him name Sarah Palin to be his running mate in hopes of grabbing all those Hillary votes. Or are they just shouting "uncle" once again?
    Give Barry his four more years and be done with him.

    August 11, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      Hmmm, .... better than Ms. Lipstick on a pig? Not for the entertainment value surely?

      Saying Paul Ryan is a better choice than Sarah Palin is a bit like saying oxygen is nice to breathe.

      Does a bear sh't in the woods?
      Is the Pope Catholic?
      etc all come to mind.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  4. O.o

    I just wish we could all bake a cake out of rainbows and unicorns and everyone could be happy.

    August 11, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  5. gary

    god is pretend, just myth from the lands we are at war, lands that are still near stone age today ... still whacky. Ryan is a dolt.

    August 11, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  6. Ya'akov

    *GRIN* Moses led us out of the treasure city of Ramesses. See Exodus. Elvis led us out of Memphis (TN, that is)!

    August 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  7. Wholly Mary

    I'm still puking over so much religion in politics these days. ULGGGH, there it goes again.

    August 11, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • jesus saves

      hey wholly getcha sum D

      August 11, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  8. ED FL

    Romney selected Ryan a[ supposed ]solid catholic so that Romney can blame Ryan as the real SPONSOR of Catholic views on contraception. That isn't going to work the, GOP just pushed more women to vote against the GOP TICKET.This turkey from Wisconsin will be an additional burden that helps the DEMS winin November.

    August 11, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  9. Colin

    Anybody here ever been to a Catholic mass? IT's weird. they gather together every Sunday and believe they consume the actual flesh and blood of a dead prophet from the Middle East 2,000 years ago because a priest performs some hocus-pocus over grocery store bread and wine.

    I swear, they believe this garbage in the 21st century!! I am not making it up. They don't even think it's symbolic, but the real flesh and blood of Jesus.

    If you think I’m making this up, go to one of their masses. You’ll find grown adults there believing this cr.ap, it’s not just a fairytale for the little kids.

    August 11, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • ....


      August 11, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • vincent

      one of the few rights the american has is the right to worship as he/she fit.
      I am a lifelong catholic, and strongly resent your comments.
      you forget that the Catholic church has helped the less fortunate. Being out of work and still having bills to pay, I was offered food by a catholic priest in my parish.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • think again 42

      What is bull about that. It is a accurate picture of what Catholics do. What you you not happy with more, the fact that Catholics ritually perform cannibalism, or the fact that this person told the world?

      August 11, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Colin

      Vincent, that the RCC does charitable work does not detract from the deep inanity of their beliefs. They are basically Dark Ages superst.itions (like the one I mentioned) piled on top of Bronze Age Jewish mythology.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • fanny

      Dear Colin, it looks like you are obsessed with the fairytale itself,p.s. i'm not a catholic just in case you're wondering

      August 11, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • Colin

      Fanny, how do u figure?

      August 11, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • moe

      eh, thats pretty harsh. i was raised catholic and, though i don't follow it anymore, very much appreciate the tradition carried along with the **symbolism** of eating the bread and wine...it means we are all part of one.

      on another note, paul ryan's economic plan and his background philosophy (based off ayne rand) is absolutely the most anti-christian a politician can possible become. im scared he will create an even bigger clash in values than already exists, believing in "individualism" rather than "collectivism"– (in his words) screw the poor. every man for himself.
      please, God, don't let these kind of people take over our delicate nation.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • mige

      The Ryan budget won't the poor or middle class,that is until we take over the government and really show you how it's going to work.Be afraid! Be very,very afraid!

      August 11, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      I was born and raised a Catholic, Baptized, First Communion and the one ritual after that (I forget), this was back when all the masses were read in Latin. Remembering back it all sounded really, really spo*oky with this high priest of a person in front of this ornate alter wearing outrageous religious garments and speaking in tongue. Totally insane nuts!

      August 11, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Should be "altar" not alter.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Should be "altar" not "alter".

      August 11, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • billdeacons

      Yeah and should be Latin , not tongues

      August 12, 2012 at 1:19 am |
  10. mige

    Im not concerned about the poor or middleclass.I like to fire people.My wife drives two Cadillacs.My dog loves long trips tied to the roof of the car.I built an elevator just for my car.I can easily bet 10,000 dollars without blinking an eye. I believe in America but I prefer to keep my money in foreign bank accounts.I have nothing to hide but don'ask to see my tax returns. I don't believe in hand outs but of course I did receive millions from the federal government to help me save the Olympics.And of course dad left me a few bucks to get started.College helped out also, learned a lot from ganging up on other kids. All the positive credentials to make me your president.

    August 11, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Marcus

      Another jealous deadbeat who does nothing but complain.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Irene Done

      At least they're American luxury cars!

      August 11, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • mige

      Talking about Mitt I presume.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Alice in Wonderland

      This paragraph would make for an awesome campaign ad!

      August 11, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  11. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    Here we are, almost 1,000 posts into a topic on a Republican Morman choosing a Catholic running mate.

    This must be the Evangelical Protestants' second-worst nightmare. Even the Catholics won't know whether to sing hallelujah or grab their rosary beads and pray for deliverance. Ryan's political methods are totally orthogonal with Catholic teachings. The church establishment can't stand him.

    But seriously, why does this matter? Our Consi'tution, the one that begins with We the People (in case anyone has forgotten) is very clear on the matter. In Article VI. it says the following:

    "...but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

    Q. So what are 90% of the people posting here, and no doubt the Sunday morning pundits will hash and rehash first thing in the morning doing?
    A. Applying a religious test by proxy in the media.

    The Const'tion tells us that this is not required. Not only is it unnecessary, I would go so far as to say it is wrong. It really doesn't (or at least shouldn't) matter what church a candidate attends, if any. Thankfully the founders saw fit to create a government that encompasses the doctrine of separation. We need elected officials to do their job for the people.

    Whether or not someone is baptized into one Christian sect or another is not an indicator of their personal standards of behavior and only a fool would think it matters.

    Q. Who was by far the most truly "Christian" of modern Presidents, and how many would vote for him were he running today?

    August 11, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • billdeacons

      I thought Jimmy Carter was a fine Christian. His presidency only surpasses Obama's for disgrace because he was ineffective. Obama is nothing if not effective

      August 11, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      got it in one. The most Christian President we have seen in probably a century is Jimmy Carter. He is clearly a deeply religious man.

      So you agree with my premise that faithful religiousity should not be the litmus test for Presidential candidates?

      Their actions, not the religion they individually profess should be what we use to judge their suitability for the highest office in the land.

      When hiring people, I have often heard it said that 'past actions are the best indicator of future performance' – which is why accurate resumés are important.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • billdeacons

      I certainly agree that a man's faith should not be a litmus test. I just don't think you can sell that to the secular fundamentalists who see the "Christian boogie man" in any mention of divinity or the worship thereof.

      August 12, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  12. think again 42

    And the media propagates this constantly. The agenda of media is to make money! That is all! If they have to mislead, trump of non-issues, they will and do. To all media outlets, which is more important, providing the news, or making sure the advertisements get shown. It is a non-issue. It is too bad that most people don't have time to weed through the crap being thrown to see the real issues and the media is more than happen to serve up warm !@$@#$@#.

    August 11, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • Marcus

      CNN makes the news, they don't cover it. They went down the drain as soon as they conned Turner out of his ideals.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  13. CW

    Paul Ryan is what he is. He uses Catholicism as his drug of choice to justify what he his.

    August 11, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  14. Hillary

    This $800 Billion stimulus package will "create, or save, 3 million jobs," Ha ha ha ha!!!

    August 11, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • CW

      No, it didn't create 3,000,000 jobs. It created 4,600,000 jobs.

      August 11, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Hillary, do you have any evidence that shows how many jobs would have been created without the stimulus? Have any facts to show that the economic situation wouldn't have been worse without it?

      August 11, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • think again 42

      So where do you get your numbers? We are almost back in a recession and employment is about the same.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Do you bozos really think the President can fix a world-wide economic slow-down? Really? What kind of weed are you smoking?

      August 11, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • onehippypoet

      Tom Tom the Piper Son
      Stole a fat pig and
      Away Tom Tom run
      Right to a Doctors office
      where Tom Tom sat with the pig on its lap
      The pig looks at the Doctor and says
      Please Doc can you
      Remove this cancerous growth from my ass?

      August 11, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • think again 42

      No, I don't think he can fix the world economy. I was only hoping he would not screw our economy so bad that we are put in the same group as Greece, Italy, Spain, and all the other euro countries that are about to go belly up.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      So, you admit that many nations are suffering economic distress, but you believe Obama should be able to do better than the leaders of ALL these other nations? Why? This is not a simple problem and your imagining that some Superman exists who can boost the US out of a problem that is occurring WORLD-WIDE is simply wishful thinking and incredibly silly.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Ronald Regonzo

      Time to throw obama under the bus.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • Ronald Regonzo

      Time to throw obama under the bus !

      August 11, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      So, Ronny, are you convinced Romney is the answer to all our economic woes? Why? Seriously, why do you believe that?

      August 11, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • think again 42

      I am more convinced that Obama does NOT have any answers. Now it would be great if Romney gets elected and starts cutting government agencies and programs that are just a waste of money.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @think again 42,

      and all those government jobs will be replace by the job creators, right?

      This just in
      "P0rn star Jenna Jameson has endorsed Mitt Romney for President, well, she is a 'job creator'" – Stephen Colbert


      August 11, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  15. Hillary

    I did not inhale! I did not have s x with that woman, Miss Jewinsky, I never heard Reverend Wright say such things!

    August 11, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • mige

      The dog likes to be tied to the roof of the car.We don't know which Cadillac to tie him on.I bet you 10,000 dollars you don't know what your talking about.Of course you probably don' have 10,0000 dollars to throw around like me and Annie.You people have to save for healthcare.Well too bad I don't care about the poor.Too bad!

      August 11, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Marcus

      Stop throwing the Jews under the Illuminati bus.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 11, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • Keith

      Sure it does it changes the pray-er into a mindless, lame brained idiot who talks to a sky fairy that he believes will solve his problems.
      This sky fairy has never done anything in the history of mankind yet the lame brained pray-ers devoutly believe it wil. do something that is.
      Go figure.l

      August 11, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Prayer changes things

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things. Proof conclusively provided by Keith.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Michael

      @Keith, and who or what do you believe in? Everyone must believe in something or someone. We have what is called "faith" in Jesus. No, I have never seen him but one day I will. Everyone has the right to believe in a God the creator. If you don't that is your right also.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:35 pm |

    WORDS ARE SPIRIT !!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    August 11, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • hinduism, denial of truth

      No, words are a medium.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Having read some of yours, hinduism, I can't say you have much of a grasp on said medium.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • hinduism, denial of truth

      Their is not a third thing in this word, Truth absolute and hinduism, denial of it by hindu Judaism, filthy self center ism or secularism.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      OK, then. You're just plain crazy.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • hinduism, denial of truth

      word's are not the initiation point nor a destination but a medium to convey thoughts. nothing more nothing less.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Then hindu, honey, you should learn to use them correctly. Start with apostrophes. You're incompetent as a writer, at least in English. I have no time for your gibberish. And that is ALL you've posted anywhere on this forum.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • hinduism, denial of truth

      I have my own way of righting, hind, hell with English, hindu, corrupted Latin. language of hindu's, crooks.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  18. mige

    4 of the biggest lies in politics. 1. Read my lips,I won't raise taxes. 2. Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. 3. Tax cuts for the wealthy will create jobs. 4.The Ryan budget won't hurt seniors,social security, medicare or the middleclass.Fall for it again America. 4 strikes and your out.

    August 11, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Hillary

      Is that you, Chavez?

      August 11, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  19. kevininjc

    In a democracy like the US, it's pretty insane to even bring up someone's religion. At least that's what I think and people from just about every other democracy on the planet.

    August 11, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • think again 42

      Yea! A sane person. We ALREADY have freedom of religion. If you want government to be involved in religion, what are the chances that it will choose yours?

      August 11, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • billdeacons

      Religion is polarizing. It gives us something to fight over while our masters divide the country into segments for their own benefit. All part of the show. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain folks!

      August 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      yes, I agree, religion is indeed polarizing – as we see everyday here.

      Karl Rove understood this all too well and redrew the boundaries of political discourse along religious lines. It almost got G.W.Bush elected, and was sufficent to get him the Presidency.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  20. XP-slaughterer

    Yaakove – where did you go??? Are you out to kill more Christians?

    August 11, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Science

      Troll! Troll in the dungeon!

      Thought you'd like to know.

      August 11, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.