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. therealpeace2all

    Well, it looks like Governor Romney and the GOP made a wise choice strategically in their choice for the V.P. nomination, for a variety of reasons, IMO.

    They(Romney/Ryan) are definitely not for me, but... got to give them credit for a seemingly wise pick.


    August 11, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  2. W.G.

    Big deal he´s a catholic . I was a catholic till I started reading the Bible and found out how little catholics
    has to do with Christianity . Jesus said He was the only intercessor between God and Man . No one can
    come to the Father but through Him . None of the Apostles or Jesus ever said His Mother ever had miraculous
    powers . Mary was born with sin . It says in the Bible that she went to the temple and made a sin offering .
    She also had other children after Jesus . Catholics practise Idolitry and Necromancy ( talking to the dead ) .
    If Romney thought he could cancel out the mormon thing and get in good with Christian voters , he´s still
    got a long way to go . He´s also a tax cheat .

    August 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  3. paul p

    And where is foreign policy in all this?
    This is brainwashing to get everyone focused on this issue and
    away from the issues of their weaknesses and what the
    requirements are for the presidency......is this vp choice able
    to be the next president?????

    August 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  4. Mohamiss Shafik-Kaddir

    We cannot let this virrulent Islamophobe be in the White House , it will set back the Muslim Brotherhoods agenda to Islamatize America another 30 years . Inshallah America will be part of the World callifate , resit we much ! Ikwan forever ! Allahu Ackbar !

    August 11, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  5. mg

    Another attack dog without a responsible plan. Whatever.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  6. r00t4rd3d

    Great ! Just what the world needs, more organized religion.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  7. kate

    I agree with Jimmy J . Tax all religions, The man of faith cares about the poor, old, those in need, and social issues. Republicans forget about the issues facing society and sweep it under the rug and don't fund them. They only care about the rich. So who is a man of faith, It is the one that shows his faith....like the Bible said."You do it unto the least of these, you do it unto me."The republicans will start a war with Iran and countless live will be lost on both sides, including women and childre, how is this not murder? We don't have to start wars to be great. We don't have to protect the rich to be great. We don't have to take Medicare away from the ederly to be great. Folks wake up....the US is headed towarded greatness under Obama. I left the republican party because I saw how the middle class struggled under the republicans.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Martin

      Yes, the middle class is doing much better under Obama.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    August 11, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • kindless

      Actually, atheism is wonderful for children and all people! Prayer as it turn out, is just a time-sucker-upper. Who would've thought.

      Atheists help people be productive and spend more time contributing to society rather than wasting it on make-believe notions.

      Atheists encourage people to take responsibility for their actions within society instead of having their misdeeds excused and often hidden within their religion (comforting their weak minds, but simultaneously disserving society).

      Break the matrix of deception by all religions. Break the fallacy of revelation.

      If the thought leaving your imaginary friends behind is just too much, or makes you want to go p00py, then try Atheism Lite™ (agnosticism) for a period of time to ease your way into a much more rewarding, peaceful life.

      It is written. This is my experience. Thank you. RIF


      August 11, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • cleareye1

      Warping a child's mind before they are unable to make a sensible choice should be criminal, it is a form of emotional molestation that in time leads to much harm.
      If people were to choose a religion, or another belief system, freely as adults, how long would organized religion exist?

      August 11, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      I don't remember who said it, but it has been pointed out that if instead of saturating children with religious ideas from the start, we instead educated them in mundane science, history, and critical thinking during childhood and then introduced religious ideas when people are educated adults, then everyone would immediately recognize religious ideas as laughably absurd.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  9. Bishop Hairy Palms

    There is nothing remotely Christian about Paul Ryan's plan.

    It would slash education, raise taxes on the middle class, and destroy Medicaid’s promise to provide health care to the most vulnerable Americans to pay for billions more in tax cuts for the rich.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Howard

      Obama's irresponsible lack of leadership, resulting in no budget for the last 3 1/2 years, except for the loser proposal from Obama, voted down by democrats and republicans alike ... a 15+ Trillion dollar deficit ... 8.3 unemployment ... credit downgrades ... Trillions unaccounted for ... and a very bleak future.
      SAVE AMERICA – ROMNEY & RYAN 2012 !!!

      August 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Pat in IL

      That's because there is nothing remotely Christian about Paul Ryan. He might be a member of a Catholic Church, but that would, for him, only be for political and social reasons. He is a devotee of Ayn Rand philosophy and athiesim. You can tell that by his policies. Yuck.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  10. Peter Pearson

    I wish politicians, all politicians, would stop the manipulative BS with this religious thing. It's not about religion or values or even what it right-- it's all about power and money, Stop lying!

    August 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • cleareye1

      Religion is a powerful tool for exploiting the simple folks that still want to be comfortable for eternity. They have been successfully exploited by people in costumes for thousands of years and not likely to change soon, so all politicians will take advantage of it. They'd be fools not to.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  11. Alicia

    LOL... these articles never fail to bring out the best & worst in skeptics..... it's like "skeptic bait".

    August 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • cleareye1

      Any intelligent being is a permanent skeptic. The alternative is total ignorance.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Alicia

      Cleareye.... thank you for supporting my statement..xoxoxoxox. You rock!

      August 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  12. MaryAngeline

    There are many, many more liberal "cafeteria" Catholics today who won't be swayed to vote for Romney because he chose Ryan. I don't think Ryan's religion is an issue either way, not like Mitt's Mormonism. Deep down it's still a factor that folks just don't talk about.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  13. Dave

    The only places in the world that discuss religion in their politics are Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and the United States. Pretending to believe in nonsense with zero justification is still way too popular. It is 2012, make it stop.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Its 2012. Why are you extremist still around Dave. How about letting the rest of society live in co-existance. You, alqueda and the 700 club folks just let society go.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • ROFL

      extremist? you mean people with common sense?

      August 11, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • save the world and slap some sense into a christard today!

      You are right, Mark from MR. During this election time, people need to shine as much light as possible on the evils of religious extremism. And with two of the most extreme, judgmental forms of christianity represented on one ticket by these con artists, it should not be an impossible task. One of my recurring themes will be "hiding one's misdeeds to society within their religion".

      August 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Common Sence. I am sure in the back of minds such as Hitler, Bin Laden and others that the elimination of anyone who does not hold their same views is common sence.

      The only thing is that in the middle ground those of us who have come to find that common sence will always be to question what do you do when others do not share your views. The point to when all talking stops. Will you put them into camps, like the pastor suggested we do to Gays. Do you burn down their homes or gathering areas? This is America, so the options that folks will just "go away" is not an option.

      The common sence is to realise that others can believe differently and you can find ways to tolerate and coxist or you can re-commit World War II Germany.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  14. wrylyfox

    Some members of Congress govern for the benefit of their own wallets. Look at the chart. It is an average, so that some of the personal greed is covered over by those that govern for us peons:

    August 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  15. acts431

    How fitting! Two people who belong to cults posing as Christian religions are now teaming up to run for the two most important leadership positions in the USA.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Rc

      Yes, my thoughts exactly. Two cult members teaming up. Oh, God help America.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  16. Huh??????

    Janey Effin' Christmas!!! Who the bloody 'ell gives a rat's ptoohey what a candidate's faith is?

    August 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  17. Damocles

    I will jump for joy and do a little jig on the day we get a true choice for president. Seems we have exactly two choices, bad and very bad.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Alicia

      It really doesn't matter whom you vote for... the n w o has you covered.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Damocles


      If I ever think it doesn't matter then I have done their job for them and willingly put the chains around my neck.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  18. Sylar

    Well lets take out every shadow of a doubt with ab0rtion. If a woman miscarries, its murder since her body killed the baby. If a woman gets r&ped and can't get an ab0rtion, the republican party must pay child support for 18 years. I don't agree with ab0rtion in most cases but there are a few that need to stand or we need to get rid of the gray areas.

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

      Mmmm yeah, abortion is a tough issue for me. I absolutely understand that a woman has a right to choose, but I don't see where she has the right to use it as a form of birth control.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Damocles, that is a non-issue. Do you know even one woman who uses abortion as birth control? That canard is used by the fundies; it has no bearing on reality.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Tom Tom, are you sure that it is not for a notable segment of women who opt for abortion?

      August 11, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • Damocles

      @Tom tom

      Yes, I did know a woman who used it basically as a form of birth control. Like I said, I am all for woman's right to choose, but let's be brutally honest here, if a woman gets pregnant six times and aborts all six, questions have got to be raised.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Mark, are you sure it is?

      You know one, Damocles, fine.

      You guys who think abortion is a day in the park really crack me up.

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

      And Piddler, why do you even bother posting on the topic? You object to abortion under all, or nearly all, circ um stances. You yap about the "middle" incessantly, but where abortion is concerned, you're so far off center you're not even close to "the middle."

      August 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Damocles

      @tom tom

      I never, ever said it was a walk in the park, Tom, you know that. Hell we just started this conversation and I haven't had time to say it even if I wanted to. I completely understand what could lead a woman to want an abortion, but should a woman just be allowed to have multiple abortions just because she is unwilling or uneducated on the use of birth control?

      August 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Damocles, how are you going to enact laws to prevent morons from doing all sorts of dumb things? While I agree that multiple abortions would be a rather stupid, painful, expensive, and probably completely unnecessary form of birth control, the number of women who would do any such thing is likely miniscule.

      Are you going to infringe on the rights of all women to prevent a few from being stupid and ignorant? If not, how are you going to prevent someone from doing something stupid, when in fact, it isn't infringing on anyone else's rights? If you can think of a way, I'd be happy to know what it is.

      The trouble is that many who oppose abortion under most or all conditions use the "abortion-as-a-form-of-birth-control" to argue agains a woman's right to choose what she will do with her body and her pregnancy. I'm not saying you're doing that, but you can be sure that many of the fundies do.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Damocles

      @tom tom

      I didn't say enact laws. I'm certainly not a person who wants a new law enacted everytime someone does something stupid. Good grief, we would all choke to death on the paperwork. Its not an easy matter to solve by any means, I'd give anything for every child to be born into a loving family, but I'm not naive enough to think that's going to happen. If there were women who were abusing their abortion rights, would you say that some kind of punishment is warranted *in those instances only*?

      August 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Actually, no, I wouldn't. Because I wouldn't want anyone that stupid to have a child she doesn't want and can't care for.

      I can't see what sort of "punishment" we could enact to prevent such actions on the part of a few without infringing on the rights to privacy of the majority.

      Can you?

      August 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Since you've just had a little bout with the "Bowling Ball", aka Chad, you can see why women are concerned about the attempts by some to limit or completely outlaw abortion by chipping away at its accessibility in very sneaky, underhanded ways, like forcing women to have a 'waiting period' or an invasive va ginal ultrasound prior to obtaining what is a legal procedure.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      TomTom. The middle does not mean that one must adopt and accept another views as his or her own. That is not what being in the middle means. It means that if they vote on an abortion issue I will vote no, while at the same time I am not going to target a abortion doctor or destroy a clinic that performs abortions.

      That is tolerance my friend. That is coexistence.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Damocles

      @tom tom

      Yes, talking to chad is like having a root canal done by a blind, chainsaw weilding dentist minus the fun and excitement.

      I dont want the many punished for the actions of a few, but I don't want the few to feel like they have a free ticket either. I also realize that some people would use any excuse to limit the rights of any individual. Like I said, I often find myself at war with myself on this issue.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm not your 'friend', Piddles, and you're not in the middle when you abrogate my rights as outlined by the Const itution, especially since you will never be affected by that abrogation.

      I'm not in the slightest bit interested in you view of the "middle", since you are basically clueless about most of what you blather.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Damocles, I appreciate your thoughtful discussion of the issue, but if you wonder why I'm adamant about it, just read Mark's posts ( I know they're almost as much a form of torture as the Chard's, but you're tough and I know you can take it). Mark thinks the "middle" is where he gets to tell women what to do when they are pregnant and don't want to be.

      August 11, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Damocles

      @tom tom

      I think Ive talked to Mark, but I don't know.


      Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like you are saying you wouldn't bomb a clinic because in your world, they wouldn't exsist. Is that the gist or am I way off in left field?

      August 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      You do not need to call me friend TomTom. 🙂 In the grand scheme of debating on Blogs we both know that no matter how much we both type and type here... 95% of society does not care about news or social issues. Now talk about money and jobs, then you get most peoples attention. I think that they have even turned a deaf ear to military casualty reports.

      So, you are my friend TomTom in that while I disagree with you often that you do care enough to actually say something, is honorable. Think of it as a war, after a while enemies across a battlefield share more in common than the common man walking around the streets back home.

      Do I need to find the Spock and Kirk "friends" clip on Youtube 🙂

      August 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Mark, you must think I'm suffering from Alzheimer's. I've seen your video clips and I know just what sort of person you are in spite of all the smiley faces and "friend" and "middle" and "tolerance" you post here.

      August 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like you are saying you wouldn't bomb a clinic because in your world, they wouldn't exsist. Is that the gist or am I way off in left field?"

      In my perfect world they would not exist. But this is not my world. In my world capital punishment would not exist either. To bomb a clinic is pointless and to kill a doctor because you are pro-life and he or she kills babies is pointless as well. I would not bomb a clinic in the same reason I would hope that someone would not bomb a church a gay club or any structure. It is a act of someone that feels that dialogue and any attempts for co-existence is worthless. It is an act of someone who feels that since he or she can not convince with words for people to go away, that maybe torching a cross on someones front yard, they will then run in fear. These are acts of cowards.

      Open dialogue is tough and takes more effort and is not the easy path but saves more lives, which is more important.

      August 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      TomTom. I am just a person who is tired of those on the extremes firing at each other and catching us in the middle. You have seen my post and if I can have some fun showing humor and good nature, I will do it. .or I can post the Gladiator "Are you not entertained" video clip 🙂

      and my smiley faces ..... wait ..I need to sneeze... ahh ahh ....

      ACHOO 🙂 😀 🙂 :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) :D:) 😀

      Sorry... I sneezed smiley all over you TomTom. 🙂

      August 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Damocles


      So, by coexsist do you mean that if you were a woman you could choose to not have an abortion and another woman could have one? If not, then your supposed dialog seems to be an attempt to skew the middle slightly to your side.

      August 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Damocles. It would be the same as now. I do not believe that abortion should be legal. If they put it up for a vote I would vote against it. That is the extent to my Pro-Life belief. If the Pro-Life side loses referendum after referendum, is where co-existance takes place in that the days after the election I would be against any one doing something such as targeting a doctor or bombing a clinic. I have not changed my view on abortion to match the law, I just hold my view, vote my view and that is it.

      August 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Damocles


      I guess we have different definitions of coexsist.

      August 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  19. Jimmy J

    Tax All Religions and maybe I'll take the let's bring back America campaign seriously...

    August 11, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  20. steward

    Between Ryan as a VP nomination and those nuns who the Vatican hates for being pro-life for fetuses that have been born, I think we may just see a long-overdue US-based schism in the Roman Catholic Church.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:18 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.