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.

CNN's Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the day's big stories

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. Will

    Its Catholics and the Mormons that are waging war on us and expecially women.shoving their beliefs down our throats as normal.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  2. MalcomR

    What the f***ity f*** is wrong with this country? I'm f***ing sick of having to deal with this stone-age religious b******t. Faith is just another word for stupidity. Could we hear from the candidates how they're going to design intelligent policies guided by human compassion to bring the greatest benefit to the people? Apparently not. But it's clearly important that we know the details of their particular brand of delusion. F*** it.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  3. TomGI

    Does Ryan want the Catholic church to pay taxes?

    August 11, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  4. tony

    Blessed are the self-righteous, for they shall deserve and steal the entire earth, before the meek get the chance to inherit any of it.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  5. Aezel

    Oooooohhhh. Romney chose a guy from the kiddie molester church. It should pair nicely with his magic underwear church. Good job!

    August 11, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  6. Marc L from NY

    A strongly believe that the Christian conservative stranglehold will be my Republican party's downfall.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  7. CarrotCakeMan

    The federal judge who revoked the 2008 California anti-gay H8te Vote that deprived LGBT Californians of existing marriage equality had in his possession a letter Catholic bishops wrote to Mormon leaders agreeing to hide from public scrutiny and refuse to report their illegal cash and in-kind contributions to the H8te Vote as required by California law. The letter serves as proof they knew by refusing to report these massive contributions they were violating campaign finance laws, as well as the letter itself being an act of criminal collusion.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • tony

      Our congress made corruption legal

      August 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  8. CarrotCakeMan

    Willard is just fooling himself if he thinks Ryan will sway American Catholics. Sure, a few right-wing Catholics will be pleased with the choice, but most American Catholics are NOT right-wingers.

    It's too bad Willard didn't choose Bachmann. However, I'm sure Ryan will be Willard's attack dog.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  9. marjee123

    Faith...so Ryan is supposed to be a MAN of faith? Then why did he propose a budget that will cut everything that helps the poor. Gives more tax cuts to the rich and takes away the one life line seniors have "Medicare". This guy is not more a man of real faith then a slimy rock.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      The rich never put their faith in god above their desire for power and cash.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  10. tony

    Mittie Antonette meets up with Fiscal Godzilla. Ready to destroy America in order to rebuild it God,s way. For the chosen few.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  11. jw

    yikes,,,,Catholicism is creepy...I grew up with it.................and escaped.....Mormonism sounds even creepier. WE are in deep doo doo if voters out there are as dumb as I think they may be.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  12. Moby Schtick

    The Catholic Church causes millions to suffer needlessly in the poorest parts of the world with their ban on contraception. Their policies on child abuse are appalling. I'd like to know how this adherent of the faith feels about the "evil" present in his religion.

    August 11, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • BADGUY

      Gee..GREAT... TWO representatives from TWO right wing religious groups. The Mormons and the Opus Dei Catholic Church. Get ready to FUND BOTH with your tax money!

      August 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  13. Ed

    two cult member , Romney and Ryan vs. Satan incarnate Obama. http://www.carm.org

    August 11, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Akira

      Carm.org? Seriously?

      August 11, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  14. Angelique

    "Ayn Rand taught me my values systems and my beliefs." -Paul Ryan

    "Faith in God is a sign of moral weakness." -Ayn Rand

    This is going to be fun.

    August 11, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • mdc

      Amen to that, Angelique. Ayn Rand and religion (of any kind) do not mix.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Ryan probably read Rand when he was a freshman in college. He forgot what she said, but thought saying her name would make people think he was edumacated.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  15. Martha

    Mormons and Catholic= babies,babies, babies and more babies.

    August 11, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • ziggy2

      Hmmm, and who actually has the most babies in the US? Certainly not the 'progressives' who already are procreating themselves into the minority, even into oblivion, happy now?

      August 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • magnum12

      Sounds like a great equation for prosperity.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • dnokc

      What did babies do to upset liberals anyway? Is it their ability to confuse liberals with logic? If babies could vote they might make abortion retroactive!

      August 11, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why would you think babies "upset liberals"?

      I see you approve of abortion as long as you get to choose.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • dnokc

      TomTom- Liberals become terribly upset about the birth of babies. I think they are terribly confused. Even though they are a tremendous RESPONSIBILITY, and can be terribly INCONVENIENT, they can bring great joy and happiness into ones life. In the '60's they liked to toss out the phrase "BABY KILLER" to our military. Now they have toned it down to a whisper and call it "abortion". You misread my statement, I am no longer a baby. My statement read "If babies could vote they might make abortion retroactive!"

      August 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I don't misread your statement at all. You are an idiot if you think liberals hate babies or think they're a huge inconvenience. I have had several of my own, and I'm as liberal as they get. Furthermore, my mother believed in the right of women to choose.

      Do you have anything intelligent to say?

      Again, you believe that abortion is fine, as long as the woman isn't the one who gets to choose it.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • dnokc

      TomTom- Indeed, I'm convinced you are liberal. When lacking in substance you will resort to the only defense you know...name calling.

      August 11, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Right back at you. You make an idiotic statement, then get offended when you're called on it. Knock off the stupid hyperbole. Liberals are no more offended or upset by babies than you are, you supercilious jerk. Accusing liberals of hating children is just plain dumb.

      August 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      dnokc, you stated that liberals are "terribly upset by babies." I'm guessing that you're so ignorant you honestly think that liberals think all women should avoid having children and that all who support a woman's right to choose have either had an abortion or have never had any children. That as sumption is simply ridiculous. I have never had nor sought an abortion; I AM pro-choice. It is my belief that a woman is the only person who is qualified to decide what to do about her pregnancy in the first two trimesters and it's not the business of the government or the church to take that choice out of her hands as if she were chattel.

      If she chooses to continue the pregnancy, great! I'm all for it, as long as no one else, including YOU, is interfering with her choice to do so.

      August 11, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  16. FarLeft

    First, I don't give one-whit about a candidates' 'faith'. They can believe in whatever they want, as-long-as they do the job competantly. Second, EXACTLY WHEN (and I will needs dates and specific examples here..) has the G O P EVER been concerned with the poor??!!! They SAY they are, but they never DO anything appreciable. More GOP BS, wrapped-up as 'faith'. If this rhetoric wasn't so laughable, it would be sad. But people STILL fall-for this crap. Stupid sheep.

    August 11, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • MalcomR

      It really is blatantly obvious, isn't it? Stupid sheep indeed.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  17. Pete Clarke

    If Romney / Ryan get elected we will truly have an American Theocracy. All politicians play the religion card and our country is full of people who believe their crap. Use your vote for what you believe and turn off that TV. If your rich and want to get richer Vote Romney / Ryan on the other hand if you want a benevolent government Vote Obama / Biden. What could be simpler...

    August 11, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  18. McMullet

    That guy looks like Data's evil counterpart.

    August 11, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Picard

      Lor had a bigger nose.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  19. Rainer Braendlein

    "The (Catholic) bishops cautioned against overreaching budget cuts that endanger 'poor and vulnerable people.'”

    When Judas Iscariot once critized Jesus Christ that a costly salve was not sold, and the money given to the poor, he, the hypocrite, was not concerned about the poor, but about the coffer of the disciples which he administrated, but wrongly, because he stole money out of the coffer.

    Certainly Judas Iscariot was the first pope or Catholic bishop. If you want to know, how Judas behaved, simply observe a Roman Catholic bishop for a while, and you will know it.

    An ordinary German Catholic priest earns 5000 Euro per month, a Catholic bishop even between 8000 and 11000 Euro per month. They shall not tell us that they are concerned about the poor.

    (it may be mentioned that Evangelic clergy earn the same like Catholic clergy in Germany).

    Hence, being a priest or bishop means to have an extremly easy job. You are well payed for telling harmful nonsense.

    Of course, God will judge these evil people more strictly than ordinary sinners. They had had the task to preach the releasing gospel of Jesus Christ, but in fact they tell the people lies.


    August 11, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Of course

      @Rainer der Feige
      god will judge these evil people more strictly than ordinary sinners. Really, I thought the whole lot just ended up in the christian mythical hell. Please explain, are there different degrees of hell, like mass murders end up in the 9th degree and liars and petty theives end up in the 2nd degree. A bigot like you ends up in the 4th or 5th, sounds about right.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Of course

      @Rainer der Feige
      god will judge these evil people more strictly than ordinary sin*ners. Really, I thought the whole lot just ended up in the christian mythical hell. Please explain, are there different degrees of hell, like mass murders end up in the 9th degree and liars and petty theives end up in the 2nd degree. A bigot like you ends up in the 4th or 5th, sounds about right.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  20. JM

    Wait wait wait. The WHOLE Catholic Church "strenuously" opposes contraception per se?? I had no idea, I mean I knew there were some extreme dummies still left out there but I thought the church as a whole was a little more reasonable. That is just enraging. How can you be so far in denial? Open your eyes a take just one tiny peak at the current state of the world you blithering idiots.

    August 11, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • CarmenSo

      yep the WHOLE Catholic church as an organization opposes contraception.

      August 11, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • BADGUY

      Hey..the fewer Catholics there are to show up on Sunday and fill the offering basket, the lower the Church revenues. No GREAT mystery why the Catholic Church wants abortions banned.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • magnum12

      If your mother had used contraceptives, you would not be able to make a post.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      magnum, my parents used contraception. So do over 90% of Catholics. Are you really this stupid? Most people use contraception at some point in their lives.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • JM

      Honestly, I have no problem with people taking a stance on something, with them consulting their souls and ending up on one side of the fence rather than the other. But if there's any truth to the assertion that those in charge of an organization of – what is it now? 2 billion? – do so strenuously, as if getting the message out is critical and equivalent to saving the world, I see that as batsht crazy. And I'm not one of those (ironically) holier-than-thou atheists who constantly self-aggrandize themselves at the expense of many of their fellow man (the religious). I actually still stick up for religion, even if I'm agnostic.

      But vehemently going after all forms of contraception is so insane in a modern context, you might as well be living in 17th century Salem MA.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
About this blog

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.