If I understand Paul Ryan's budget plans, he is saying that the poor will have a better opportunity to be independent Americans (a wonderful vision) if we take away their food stamps and government medical care--not after the poor have the opportunity to move forward in their lives, but before they do. Our fellow Catholic believes that his view is morally justified. Let's see.
We make our moral judgments by combining three things: 1) our faith, 2) our best, ever-evolving understanding of science, human nature, and philosophy, especially ethics, and 3) everyday experience.
1. Our faith tells us to love one another to the point of sacrificing something of ourselves to others (which is Charity). Thus, Catholic Social Justice moves us to work for the common good, with a preferential option for the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast.
2. Our best understanding is that our government (along with private enterprise) should create policies that give everyone a realistic opportunity to take care of themselves in matters of shelter, food, education, work, health care, and safety. Ryan proposes that his political policy is the best way to help the poor.
3. Our experience shows us that many people, through no fault of their own, cannot provide adequately for themselves. For example, they are born into poor circumstances and miss the opportunity to move upward, or they attend schools that are academically inadequate, or they are trained for jobs that no longer exist.
It seems that by putting all three of these considerations together, we Americans should directly address the reasons why people are poor through no fault of their own, and work to alleviate those conditions. In the meantime, we are obliged by our faith, by our principles of social justice, and by just plain common sense, to extend help to them--even at some cost to ourselves, namely, even by paying taxes to provide that help.
In today's extreme political climate, some people shout that government aid is Socialism. It reminds me of Bishop Dom Helder Camara, of Recife, Brazil, who famously said, "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. But when I ask why the poor are poor, they call me a Communist." They should have called him a Catholic.
Ryan's plan is short-sighted if it means simply taking away what help the poor now have, before
we can provide the opportunities they need. And yes, it is up to us, who have the power to provide the opportunities, to provide them. The poor obviously cannot provide them for themselves.
In Christ, we are all spiritually empowered and obliged to put as much pressure on our government officials and private enterprises to create and provide the training and job opportunities that are now missing from our society. To start, we can tell Mr. Ryan to work with people of all views and come up with a plan that all can agree upon. In the meantime, the poor are suffering. In them, Christ is bleeding.