A series of recent developments are renewing questions about the Catholic bishops' alignment with the Republican Party, with much of the attention focusing on comments by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who said he "certainly can't vote for somebody who's either pro-choice or pro-abortion."
In a wide-ranging interview published last week (Sept. 14), Chaput also echoed the views of a number of prominent bishops when he praised Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan for trying to address the "immoral" practice of deficit spending through his libertarian-inflected budget proposals.
"Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don't help the poor, we're going to go to hell. Period. There's just no doubt about it," Chaput told National Catholic Reporter.
"But Jesus didn't say the government has to take care of them, or that we have to pay taxes to take care of them. Those are prudential judgments. Anybody who would condemn someone because of their position on taxes is making a leap that I can't make as a Catholic."
I wonder if he agrees that the poor are people who can't be convinced to "they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives" and "believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it." Why do I have a feeling he does?
Many church experts say Ryan's views stand in contrast to traditional Catholic teaching on social justice, and Ryan's policies have been the target of sharply critical statements from politically active nuns and the hierarchy's own committee that deals with poverty and domestic issues.
But the dynamic within the USCCB appeared to shift even further to the right on Monday with the announcement that bishops had hired the head of Catholic Charities in Denver, Jonathan Reyes, as the new head of the bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development -- in effect their chief lobbyist on domestic and international social justice issues.
The appointment was being closely watched because it is a critical post in trying to influence Congress on anti-poverty legislation.
The previous head of that office was John Carr, a widely respected social justice advocate who left the job last month after almost 25 years. Carr had come under increasingly sharp attack by the Catholic right for pushing church positions that did not always line up with conservative policies.
The Catholic hierarchy has been in partnership with the GOP for some time. But I haven't seen them endorse Randian philosophy before. It looks like Paul Ryan has done his magic on them too. At what point do these priests cease to have influence over the decent people in the Catholic Church?