The Corner

Truly, You Have a Dizzying Intellect . . .


In today’s column, Dana Milbank sets out to attack Congressman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) for misrepresenting Catholic social teaching. Thing is, Milbank can’t seem to decide which way to go about it. So rather than choose one line of attack, he goes with “all of the above.” The result is enough to leave a reader’s head spinning.

First, Milbank needles Ryan for not being very Christian:

There is something un-Christian about the Gospel According to Paul Ryan.

Then Milbank insists that Ryan isn’t just un-Christian, he’s also an inflexible Christian fanatic with pseudo-theocratic ambitions:

However much Ryan may wish it, God does not take sides in politics. Ryan, transparently positioning himself to be Romney’s running mate, may well believe that he is on a mission from God. But in a democracy, such fanaticism makes people such as Ryan unable to make necessary compromises.

Ryan’s also unorthodox, a theological loose cannon:

The bishops, in opposing Ryan’s budget, called for “shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues.” But Ryan challenged the theologians’ theology.

Who quotes the pope from a pulpit:

“The holy father himself, Pope Benedict, has charged that governments, communities and individuals running up high debt levels are, quote, ‘living at the expense of future generations,’” [Ryan] said from the pulpit in Georgetown’s ornate Gaston Hall.

But mostly, Ryan’s just a budget wonk with an abacus where his heart should be:

The moderator asked the chairman about “the moral dimension” of a budget that gives tax cuts to the wealthy and cuts spending for the poor. Ryan’s answer included the phrase “subchapter S corporations.”

In the future, when it comes to using Catholic teaching to score partisan political points, Milbank would do well to leave such heavy lifting to those of his colleagues better suited to the task.

— Stephen P. White is a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and coordinator of the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society.


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