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. Earthling

    When will this religion nonsense go away? What is wrong with people that they are so easily brainwashed?

    August 11, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • gin

      Agreed, but with people getting dumber by the day, doesn't that mean it will only get worse?

      August 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      the tools religion use to keep the flock docile and unquestioning: guilt, fear and ignorance.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • BuddyLee


      August 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      all religions are cults. all cults eventually go away. just ask the thousands of other gods that came before Yahweh.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Henderson

      @gin, America and the world is becoming both more intelligent and also less religious. All studies verify this is true.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Equivoco

      I am catholic, veteran, middle class, blue collar and of mexican origin, he doesn't impress me. Just another republican "bean counter".

      August 11, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • BuddyLee

      As America becomes less religious and more PAGANISH, there goes the whole ball of wax.
      Remember the story of Noah and the Ark. Everybody laughed until it started to rain. TOO LATE!

      August 11, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  2. Ryan Cameron

    Ayn Rand hates the elderly and the handicapped, she wanted them all rounded up and exterminated because they cant contribute to a capitalistic society. I dont understand why they say Paul gives a crap about anyone but very successful and rich people. In his world, everyone is a slave worker for a highly elite tiny minority who, like Atlas, the world entirely depends on.

    August 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      you just described the entire republican party. how do they keep the poor idiots in the south voting for them - they shout "guns" and "abortion" over and over.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Henderson

      You do not understand Ayn Rand.

      Read one of her books or at least watch one of the movies before making such an ignorant comment.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Henderson

      @Bootyfunk smarty pants, do you think Ayn Rand was po-choice or pro-life? Think fast.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      i've read 2 books of hers. you assume much but know little.

      "everyone is a slave worker for a highly elite tiny minority who"
      the poor are slaves and the wealth elites, yep, sounds republican

      " I dont understand why they say Paul gives a crap about anyone but very successful and rich people"
      not giving a cr@p about the poor, yep, sounds republican.

      what part of that doesn't sound republican, smarty pants?

      August 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Henderson

      Bootyfunk, the correct answer is that Ayn Rand was po-choice, moron.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Henderson

      i know the correct answer is you're an idiot.

      you seem to think libertarians and republicans have nothing in common. because rand/libertarians are pro-choice means they have nothing in common? why are you so stuck on that issue? like a retarded broken record...

      August 11, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  3. oralisM

    Henderson says that Romney (once a sort of "bishop" in the Mormon Church) is not very religious. Should we be more comfortable with someone who does not suffer from strong religious convictions or someone who tries to divert attention from the fact that he has them?

    August 11, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  4. Dave

    If Ryan boasts religion will he say that according to his holy book Romney is a blasphemer and should be killed?

    August 11, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • TXJew

      Ryan may profess to being Catholic, but he's more Randian in his thought and deed.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  5. BuddyLee

    A CATHOLIC?? What the difference between MORMANISM & CATHOLISM.
    Both are sun worshippers

    August 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      what is the big difference between any christian religion - mormon, catholic, protestant, baptist, etc.?

      very little. all cults that teach members to turn off their frontal lobe.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • BuddyLee

      There's only one TRUE religion. It used to be the PROTESTANTS. Not any more. They dont PROTEST anymore. They've joined hand with all the other FALSE RELIGIONS.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Rich

      And you apparently believe in "Moronism"!

      August 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      all religions are worthless.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • BuddyLee

      Moronism is an occult religion also. Ive been told they have all kinds of occult symbols in the churches.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Equivoco

      "A CATHOLIC?? What the difference between MORMANISM & CATHOLISM.
      Both are sun worshippers"

      BuddyLee? Yeah bubba, first get your spelling and gammar correct and then your facts. It's "mormonism" and "catholicism" and no they are not "sun worshippers". Catholicism sprang from judaism, they were the early christians (you know,the ones who got thrown to the lions?) Protestants came about during the reformation (Martin Luther) and split from catholicism. Mormonism sprang from the mind of Joseph Smith, is a cult and is not considered christian. Nuff said, your turn.

      August 11, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • BuddyLee

      What day do most religions worship their god?

      August 11, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  6. Bootyfunk

    a catholic and a mormon walk into a bar...
    and lose the election.

    LOL. bad choice!

    August 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • BuddyLee

      YOU WISH !!!
      I WISH !!!

      August 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  7. Not JFK

    This Ohio Catholic wasn't thinking about voting for Romney before, now I'm 100% certain I'm not voting for him.

    August 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Rich

      Naw you'd rather have an anti religious in office as that's what you have now!
      You're a Catholic my bucket.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • trying to sort it all out

      a cry of desperation from the land of the elusive beard-cutting sect. (Although they say it's neat to go there and see all the exotic animals running free – just stay in your car.)

      August 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Equivoco

      Well we all make mistakes, so go ahead.

      August 11, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  8. dreamer96

    It is so ironic the GOP has two very religious people for President..that believe in not pay taxes..for our military, our interstate, our bridges...and letting those rich pay only 15% on Capital Gains and Dividends...Both Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan believed that Capital Gains and Dividends should be taxed at the same rate as the working man's paycheck...but I guess religious people think they don't have to pay taxes..

    August 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Henderson

      If you think Romney and Ryan are very religious, you have not been paying attention.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Rich

      Wheeeeeee! And you don't think our bills need to be paid.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • dyannne

      The god Romney and Ryan believe in is Money.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  9. Candice

    I want my president to give me free candy .
    Thats the one ill vote for , and the Chuck-E-Cheese stimulus .

    August 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  10. bonkin

    It I wanted to live in a Theocracy I'd move to IRAN! I guess the American people haven't suffered enough yet with the banksters and 8 years of Bush and 4 years of a Republicon treason congress refusing to do anything because it might reflect well on Obama. Let's all get our Burkas ready girls! Here comes the American Taliban!

    August 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Henderson

      The American Taliban has been in full force for decades, no thanks to the Democrats.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Giselle

      You said it well, with Romney in an Ryan we women can see the goodbye to ALL forms of birth control and abortion–just think more welfare babies–nah not so say the religious right–it is after all a womens calling to spread and breed! I think NOT.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Rich

      Please move to Iran. Please.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Paul

      That would be, at the most, a year and a half of Republicans holding one branch of the three. No budget, no plan to end run-away spending. Greece here we come!

      August 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  11. LiberalVomit

    Analogies are important here...

    If Paul Ryan and Joe Biden were actors, Ryan would be Dustin Hoffman. Biden would be Pee-Wee Herman.

    If they were athletes, Ryan would be Michael Jordan. Biden would be Bob Uecker.

    If they were in the circus, Ryan would be ringleader. Biden would clean up after the elephants.

    August 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Bob

      Ryan snuggles up to a cultist and is right at home. Doesn't that both you Vomit?

      August 11, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • LiberalVomit

      Yes, I suppose that does both me, you illiterate troll...

      August 11, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • David Gabriel

      Seriously? How is the third grade this time around?

      August 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • BlatantAtheist

      Yeah, maybe their caricatures are like that, but I don't care for either of them.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • tallulah13

      And if they were politicians, Ryan would protecting the super-rich, while Biden would be protecting the poor.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  12. The VP

    debate would be truely cool if the could get Ratzinger as the moderator.

    August 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • When

      I was under the influence at school and I forgot or got the catechism wrong, the nun would swoop down and with righteous indignation smack me up the side of the head. I like the idea of having king Ratzinger and some of his minions moderating the VP debate for Ryan and Biden, just like the old days; if they get too far from the catholic dogma, they get smacked with a ruler from some big burly nun.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  13. oralisM

    This choice by the Romney campaign is not at all surprising. Fearing that his pose as a Christian may fail under close examination by Christians, Mitt feels that he must exploit the gap he imagines Obama has opened with the Catholic church. I think he will fail. The only rift Obama has opened with the Church is between him and its most extreme elements. Mitt is in good company with the relgious right and the strange old men who are trying to drag the Church backwards. He can be discarded with them.

    August 11, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Cee

      1000% all the way, not only good chemistry but their brains do seem to be at sync with the rest of middle and the poor.
      Ta-Ta- the blk POTUS

      August 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Henderson

      If Romney was concerned about religion as an issue he would have picked a protestant. Picking Paul Ryan shows he is putting all his marbles on the economy. Ryan is not known for social issues but for budgetary and fiscal issues. Logic is not your strong suit is it?

      August 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • oralisM

      Henderson, you recognize logic where I see expediency. You may be right about Ryan though. Romney, isolated from people who actually feel the economic problems brought on by Bush-era policies, needs protective coloration on economic issues.

      August 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  14. Tony, Boise ID

    Since his budget plan has been soundly condemned by Catholic Bishops for budget cuts affecting the poor, the eldrly and the unemployed, I wonder how Ryan can stand with a straight face and claim to follow the teachings of Jesus or his own religion?

    August 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  15. Reality

    Saving Christians like Mr. Ryan from the Big Resurrection Con/:

    From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

    Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

    To wit;

    From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

    "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
    Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

    Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

    Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

    The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

    Only Luke's Gospel records it. The Assumption ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

    "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

    The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

    Of course, we all know that angels are really mythical "pretty wingie talking thingies".

    With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

    o An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,
    o "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

    o p.168. by Ted Peters:
    Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

    o So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

    August 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  16. Your Religion Might Be Bullshіt If...


    August 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Henderson

      Awesome video!

      August 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Rich

      You find nuts anywhere and also thoes who follow him. Yes you!

      August 11, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  17. spockmonster


    August 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Rich

      Apparently you like to demonize and generalize. I paint you pink!

      August 11, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • dyannne

      The religious nuts won't agree with you, but all the sane people will.

      August 11, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  18. Aaron

    Separation of church and state, what a joke.
    A VP is picked and one of the first things the media zeroes in on is Religion

    August 11, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Henderson

      That is because American culture has a high level of religiosity. It is pathetic but it is true.

      August 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • dyannne

      Romney brought it up in the announcement speech, calling Ryan a good Catholic. So don't get your panties in a twist over what the media latches onto.

      August 11, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  19. fritz

    I don't think it matters in the end. Life will move right along as before. Who gets elected president depends on how many voters vote for the 99% folks versus those who vote for the 1% folks. Assuming a fair election of course. Meaning 'no vote stuffing' or other types of voter descrimination. I believe the weather will determine who is president. Bad weather means more 99% folks mad at the 1% folks because droughts and floods are starving and killing them while the rich lounge unconcerned in their AC. Democrats win. Obama is in. But if the weather is good then everything is hunky dory. Everyone's well fed, gas is cheap plus we got time for dat ole' time religion! So give the rich a break and vote Repub! Rupubs win! Romney is in! You want your guy to be prez? Then vote and hope for the right weather! ;op

    August 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  20. whatever

    whoever does not vote for him and mittens will go to heeellllll

    August 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • hinduism, denial of truth

      hind, hell is for hindu's, deniers of truth absolute, and Christians are none other than hindu's, deniers of truth absolute, by dividing of truth absolute in three, violator of American con--sti--tution and truth absolute.

      August 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
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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.