A group of prominent Catholic scholars and theologians is criticizing Speaker John A. Boehner for being "anti-life" because they say his policies hurt the poor and, therefore, violate the basic teachings of the Catholic Church. This is a noteworthy event for two reasons: first, because such criticism is typically leveled against Democrats (versus Republicans); and, second, because the Vatican is inserting itself into the political dialogue concerning topics other than abortion and gay rights.
A similar situation occurred back in 2009 with President Obama, who had been invited to receive an honorary degree at the University of Notre Dame. Many Catholics were outraged because of Obama's stance on abortion rights, and some bishops even demanded the university rescind the invitation.
In this case, Mr. Boehner, who grew up in a Roman Catholic family, is scheduled to give the commencement address Saturday at the Catholic University of America in Washington. Though several academics at the university are part of the group that wrote him the letter criticizing his policies, they're not asking the university to revoke the invitation. Rather, as Stephen F. Schneck, the director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at Catholic University, explained: "We are going out of our way to say, ‘Welcome to the Catholic University, but we don’t agree with you.'"
So exactly which policies don't they agree with? Essentially, they take issue with the Republican-supported 2012 budget he "shepherded" through the House because it cut financing for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program, thereby gutting "long-established protections for the most vulnerable members of society." In other words, it hurts poor people. And, they aren't so happy either about the $3 trillion in new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy either:
Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the church’s most ancient moral teachings ... From the apostles to the present, the magisterium of the church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress.
Of course, Boehner's primary duty as a politician is to his constituents -- not his church. Therefore, the Church's opinion should have no effect on his future policies if that's what the people who elect him to office intend. Still, it's nice to see the Church calling out policy makers who claim to be on the side of "life," yet work so hard to pull the safety net out from under the poor and disadvantaged.
No doubt the Speaker will downplay the letter as any politician regardless of party would do in the same instance; still, I'd be really interested in hearing his response to it.
Image via Medill DC/Flickr