“I want to answer this question: How does a Catholic public servant apply Catholic social teaching?” Paul Ryan told graduating seniors on Saturday (video here) at Benedictine College, where I work.
Outside, a MoveOn.org demonstration gathered a handful of demonstrators. Ryan acknowledged them and said he wanted to disagree with them.
“Now, Good Catholics can disagree. And we do. … I’m not going to stand here and vanquish some straw men erected for my position. I’m going to take on the straw men erected against my position.”
His commencement address was covered by the New York Post and the National Catholic Register — which also asked him about remarks he made about homosexual adoption at a town hall meeting a week and a half before commencement.
Here follow the best quotes from Ryan’s speech.
10. His joke about Ayn Rand:
“At a young age, I started a lengthy search for answers. I read everything I could get my hands on: from Freud to C.S. Lewis, from Hegel to Hayek, from Aristotle to Aquinas—to everything in between. In fact, you may have heard that I enjoyed the work of a certain female author, whose books were monuments to the idea that men and women should be true to their individual passions—even in the face of relentless social pressure to conform. Yes, it’s true. I was—and I remain—a huge fan of the Twilight saga.”
9. On Pope Benedict vs. the “dictatorship of relativism.”
“Just as his predecessor Pope John Paul freed Poland from fear, Pope Benedict taught us how to protect the world from falsehood.”
8. On Pope Francis
“I hope he will heal the divisions between the so-called Catholic ‘left’ and ‘right,’ so ‘that all may be one’ in Christ — because it’s the spiritually impoverished who need the most help.”
7. On service to the poor
“To truly help the poor, we have to help the whole person—not just the material needs, but the spiritual ones too. The fact is, government can’t give this help—because the law is blind. It treats everyone the same. And though we’re all equal, we’re not all the same. We have different needs.”
6. On “mediating institutions”
“Only people can meet these needs … people outside of government. And we will find them in our communities—in our churches and schools, in our nonprofits and neighborhoods, in our friends and families. Academics like to call these things ‘mediating institutions,’ But in the end, they’re just people—people working together.”
5. On the contributions of businesses
“They create jobs. They save lives. They feed people. They add to the store of knowledge. And most importantly, free enterprise gives us the resources to care for ourselves—and for others. It helps to ease human suffering.”
4. On greed
“Yes, we must guard against greed. … And there’s no greater opportunity for greed than government cronyism. Greed knows how to exploit the pages of regulations. It knows how to navigate the halls of power. So if we’re concerned about greed, we shouldn’t give it more opportunities to grow.”
3. The purpose of wealth
“Wealth is a means to an end. … The end is a good life—one lived in accordance with God. And to live a truly good life, we must go beyond ourselves. We must minister to the poor and the sick. We can’t outsource the job. Concern for the poor doesn’t demand faith in big government. It demands something more — from all of us.”
2. On happiness
“[W]e find happiness only in the thrill of accomplishment, in the comfort of community, and in communion with God. This is how solidarity and subsidiarity work together: They create a society that serves the poor.”
1. On Catholic social teaching
“That’s my take on Catholic social teaching. … In a culture that stresses the ‘I,’ the Church stresses the ‘We.’ In a culture that liberates the passions, the Church shows that discipline gives you freedom. And in a world where relativism threatens the weak, the Church works to protect the poor and the powerless. These are the truths that anchor Catholic social teaching.”