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. marie

    He claims every life should have dignity...that is if they can afford health insurance. LOL!!!! the ones who can't are just called lazy fools who suck off the government. Get a plan you guys.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  2. T J

    Isnt Biden a Catholic as well? But what is so interesting is that not only the nuns but the Bishops (who normally side with GOP) came out against Ryan and his 'Plan".

    August 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      Yes, Biden is Catholic.

      August 14, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  3. Marie MD

    What catholic vote? The 90% of Catholics shoo use contraceptives? The majority of Catholics who are retired, soon to be retired or want to retire.
    The catholic church is losing more and more of their flock because they are living in the year 1 AD!!!
    No contraceptives so keep having those babies nobody wants. That's real care others!!

    August 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Nancy Larson

      You are so right! I'm a Catholic but not one of the sheep. I would never vote for a person who will throw the old and poor under the bus AND give the rich more tax breaks.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • FLIndpendent


      August 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  4. grotr

    this so figures about ryan and his catholic beliefs – he wants the govt so small that it can fit through the keyhole of our bedroom doors

    August 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  5. ScottCA

    The last thing we need in a leader is someone with delusional beliefs in things for which we have no evidence of existing.

    Belief in in the Christian god Yahweh Saboath (the hebrew god of war) is no better than belief in Thor, Zues, Vishnu, or The Flying Spaghetti Monster None of them exist.

    Faith requires one to believe even without evidence or in the presence of evidence to the contrary. This supression of the minds ability to logically reason, leads to belief in untruths, that send ripples of distortion into all areas of study and examination. This leads to social and political decsisions being made based on misinformation. the end resault being the unnecissary suffering of all people..

    August 13, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  6. JustaNormalPerson

    Blessed are the rich, for they shall inherit the earth...especially with the elimination of tax on capital gains.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • wobbles

      yeah, those darn rich people who hire people like you and me. Let's hate on them some more, while applying for jobs with their companies to pay our bills and support our families.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Capital gains tax (all corporate tax, for that matter) should be abolished, along with income tax.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:27 pm |

    Are you ready for Romney/Ryan Administration. I am and can not wait. Happy Days are coming. Out with the trash and in with Leadership.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      More like out with the trash and in with the garbage. Liberal/conservative- same crap just done differently.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • layla

      Better hope he doesn't have a butler.....

      August 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • ScottCA

      There is no freedom from the two-headed monster that is the American political system, until a multi-party system is put in place with proportional representation.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • mitchyj

      If this is an of great Republicans, this may be time to move to Canada. You'd think after the criminally negligent and thoroughly incompetent Bush/Cheney era, Republicans would realize you can win with these midguided neanderthals.
      Sorry pal, looks like four more years of Obama.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  8. open400

    Ryan's philosophical mentor was Ayn Rand – avowed atheist that felt there should be a complete separation of government from the economy; in other words, the capitalistic marketplace itself would ensure social justice. Under such thinking, how would we end things like slavery or child labor? Ryan encourgaed all his staff to read the works of Arn Rand.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  9. glades2

    Lest we forget – President Kennedy was Catholic...

    August 13, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • glades2

      ...and in fact Ryan looks a bit like Robert...

      August 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  10. Rational Libertarian

    Fiscal conservatism- Yay
    Social conservatism-Boo

    When will people understand.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  11. open400

    The Catholic Bishops and the Nuns travelling through America in a bus have already denounced Ryan's budget as increasing the misery for the sick, disabled, elderly and chronically unemployed. If we implement the Ryan plan, we will go back to 1968 in this country – a country filled with social unrest.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Chronically unemployed is code for lazy.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • k

      "Chronically unemployed is code for lazy." Now there is an insightful, sensitive, and thought provoking one liner. Well done. Your parents must be quite proud.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Yes they are.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      Have you not noticed that we are well on the way to social unrest already? Why do you think the GOP is being so draconian about "security"?

      August 14, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  12. JoJo

    Devout Catholic Paul Ryan is going to read the homily at next Sunday's Mass. He's choosing selections from his idol atheist Ayn Rand's best selling book "The Virtue of Selfishness"(1964). He wanted to read some selections of the teachings of Jesus endorsing unnecessary expensive warfare and torture, but couldn't find any. He only found teachings condemning religious hypocrisy.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  13. So he worships the Hitler Youth Pope?

    So we have a Mormon with special Magikkkal underwear, and a Catholic bigot who worships the Hitler Youth Pope.

    You Republiturds sure know how to pick 'em!

    August 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • k

      In making your uncreative caricature of Catholicism, you seem to forget the V.P. Biden is also a Catholic.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  14. JustaNormalPerson

    Jesus would puke at the idea of the Paul Ryan budget.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Allie

      He would also be ill that his Church is being forced to pay for pills that stop procreation and life which he is the creator of.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • k

      Catholics have a hard time with almost any politician out there. We oppose the killing of innocent children (sorry Dems) and actually believe that it's our job to help the poor and not start unjust wars (sorry Repubs). It's a quandary.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Chick-a-dee

      @ Allie: RE: He would also be ill that his Church is being forced to pay for pills that stop procreation and life which he is the creator of.

      From what my understanding is, He might not like starting a war in Iran that was deemed "unjust" by both John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (before he became pope). He might not like capital punishment. He might not like leaving people, including the elderly, the sick, the disabled, children and pregnant women without a means to receive medical care. He might not like leaving people without homes, or food, or clothing, or the means to obtain them.

      Where do you stand on those items?

      August 14, 2012 at 8:35 am |
  15. Bob

    When will we get a law prohibiting the use of tax money to defend child molesting priests?

    August 13, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Allie

      They use public defenders?

      August 13, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  16. JustaNormalPerson

    Who knew that Ayn Rand was catholic? Reading this article, it sure sounds like it.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  17. Coflyboy

    One thing that America does not understand:
    Separation of Church and State. Separation of Church and State. Separation of Church and State. Separation of Church and State. Separation of Church and State. Separation of Church and State. Separation of Church and State. Separation of Church and State.
    A public servant's religious beliefs should not matter. DO YOU GET THAT?

    August 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • jim

      A candidate's religion doesn't matter until they start craming their beliefs down my throat.

      The it DOES matter.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Allie

      It does matter when the federal government is going to shut down your hospitals and charities because you don't want to pay for something you fundamentally believe is immoral or telling you that you can only take care of Catholics that goes against the Gospels. Catholics aren't stopping anyone from purchasing it or asking for it to be banned they don't want to have to pay for it if they are in a self insured plan because it is immoral.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  18. Jill

    We are midwest voters and Catholic. We will NOT be voting for Romney or Ryan. Most definitely not.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Allie

      Who is your Bishop?

      August 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  19. trey

    catholic and american citizens all have an obligation to help the poor, help your neighbors – it should not be the job of govt. because then it becomes politicized and wasteful. get it. its our job as individuals/

    August 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Allie

      Thank you!

      August 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • jimbo913

      Right because that has always worked. The glorious dark ages. Known for the love and humanity, the feeding of the poor, the great strides in the human endeavor. One of the most religiously endorsed periods of human history coincides with the love thy neighbor period of human history. Coincidence?

      August 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • momofour1

      No – you don't get it. Not everyone subscribes to the values that you list. Even so – there would inconsistencies in who does what and when. Subscribing to something that is non definitive – how can you even defend that. The disparity in this country is widening and that comes with its own set of problems. America is one of the richest nation in the world – why can't it look out for its own – if devised in a good way! Not everyone is a loafer – nor everyone is poor and lazy. What about the mentally impaired persons out there. Gosh – you guys are so DUMB!

      August 13, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  20. The_Mick

    "Ryan’s presence on the ticket also could increase Romney’s appeal among the millions of middle-of-the-road Catholic voters..." That would be true if Ryan was a middle-of-the-road Catholic, which defines people that strongly support Social Security, Medicare, helping the homeless, and where 98% of adult women have used artificial birth control methods. From what I've heard from relatives, I wouldn't be surprised if the Catholic vote in Pennsylvania costs Romney that State after picking Ryan. Look how fast they through Santorum out of Congress -in a major landslide- after he went far-right.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • k

      I believe you meant "threw Santorum out of Congress". And, though I don't disagree with you re. Pennsylvania, I don't think middle of the road Catholics are the people Romney was playing to in his choice of Paul Ryan.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:43 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.