Top 10 Quotes from Paul Ryan’s Commencement Address

commencement“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 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.”


Categories:Culture Education

  • Allan McCord

    You do realize that the wealthy are wealthy because of how much we give. We don’t need you or any gov’t telling us to or trying to take it and then re-distribute it.
    As you have read in the New Testament, Jesus say’s there will always be the poor. …and I’m not talking about what they have, I’m talking about their talents, resourcefulness and initiative. That’s where we have problems with the poor.

  • Jerome Pikulinski

    I am glad to see Ryan’s top 10 quotes. Catholics need to speak out as he did. Much of our belief system can be supported by a secular moral philosophy. There was no mystery in what he said.

  • tj4God

    Paul Ryan’s speech is right on the mark! Thoses who believe in God’s infalliable Word understand completely what Ryan is trying to convey. The government is NOT the answer to our society’s ills, rather the cause.

  • Antoinette Auger

    Paul Ryan is the biggest fraud ever. While telling you what you want to hear with forked tongue, he pushes an agenda to further impoverish the poor and middle class. He cloaks all this with his anti-gay, anti-abortion positions, thereby causing people to vote against their best interests. There is no so-called free market or level playing field. Those who have allegedly made their own wealth did it with the help of the government they profess to abhor. Why don’t you confront Ryan with his desire to privatize Social Security and Medicare? Contrary to giving people a viable choice, his plan would give people the choice to pay exhorbitant premiums or simply go without services. Is this a Christian position regarding some of the most vulnerable in our society? The wealthy have been blessed and need to give back proportionately instead of continuing to be enriched with further tax breaks at the expense of the rest of us. That is the position of the “dirty liberals” (including President Obama) that you so readily criticize. And that is consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ as I was taught in parochial school.

    • Steve Aucoin

      How is gay and abortion in our best interest? What about the choice of the child. Murder is a sin.

    • Joe Hood

      What is the agenda that further impoverishes the poor and middle class (because the current administration is doing a good enough job at that already)?

      If your parochial school taught what you appear to believe, I’m sorry, please come back to the Church.

  • Greg Aitchison

    Ryan’s words about same-sex couples adopting children (via the NCR link) seemed a bit like a copout answer to me. It sounds like he’s just trying to distance himself from his words while not wanting to change his stance to be more of a Catholic one. What gives? Will CatholicVote please offer more of an explanation about this, please?

  • florin

    May 14th: I’ve always admired Paul Ryan – he is a faithful Catholic who seeks counsel from his Pastor. So I was surprised to hear that he approves homosexual adoptions. Perhaps he doesn’t understand that men who desire sex with other man want to adopt boys and I have worked with dysfunctional boys who were sexually abused by homosexual men. One boy was ‘adopted’ by a male couple – it was a disaster and the boy was returned traumatized and sodomized a boy younger than he was…it was sad all around. We have to protect the children…and men who have sexual desires for males…I hope Paul Ryan understands this. He is a good man and he just needs to understand this…

    • Skeeter

      To florin. That is the dumbest argument I believe I have ever read. You state that because a gay male likes to sleep with men it will make him a child molester. Get real I am straight and like to have sex with women. Does this mean that if I have a daughter I will turn into a child molester. I should also note I am born and raised catholic and am not really for or against gay adoption. Do not think it is a big deal but that was just a ridiculous statement.

      • Joe Hood

        Florin: He was speaking from actual experience. So it isn’t exactly a dumb argument.

        A gay lifestyle, for most, is one of experiments. The sense is one of personal fulfillment. What is there to keep someone who is already experimenting to push their boundaries to what are known as “twinks” in gay parlance? For Catholics, it is at a minimum, their faith that stops them from something so heinous.



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