“I am a Catholic, not because anyone has ordered me to accept a creed, but because of the grace and truth revealed in my faith,” said the Wisconsin congressman.
Ryan spoke openly about his Catholic faith at the 2012 Values Voter Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 14.
In his address, he defended his economic views, which have drawn criticism for their proposed cuts in federal spending on some programs that aid the poor.
However, Ryan has asserted that “big government” approaches have not worked to reduce levels of poverty and says that his plan would help the poor by reducing the federal debt, growing the economy and creating jobs.
“Here we are, four years of economic stewardship under these self-proclaimed advocates of the poor, and what do they have to show for it?” he asked. “More people in poverty, and less upward mobility wherever you look.”
Pointing to a struggling economy and high levels of unemployment under President Obama, the vice presidential contender argued that he is not lacking in compassion for the poor, but instead has a different approach to addressing the problem of poverty.
This approach includes not only federal and local government, but also “civil society,” which Ryan described as good acts taking place through the work of families and communities.
He explained that for people of faith, “our hearts and conscience have called us to work that needs doing, to fill a place that sometimes no one else can fill.”
This unique and important role of faith-filled individuals and institutions is threatened, however, by the mandates issued under the Affordable Care Act, he said.
Among the most controversial of these mandates is a new federal requirement that forces employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and early abortion drugs even if they hold strong moral objections to doing so.
Under these mandates, Ryan explained, organizations such as Catholic Charities are told that they must violate their consciences, despite the fact that they already excel at their job of serving needy Americans.
Ryan said that he and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will repeal the mandate if elected and “are honored to stand with you, people of faith and concerned citizens, in defense of our religious liberty.”
The congressman also highlighted the distinction between his own pro-life views and the extreme support for abortion expressed by the current administration.
“Giving up any further pretense of moderation on this issue, and in complete disregard for millions of pro-life Democrats, President Obama has chosen to pander to the most extreme elements of his party,” he said.
He observed that in “the Clinton years, the stated goal was to make abortion safe, legal and rare.”
In contrast, he said, the Obama-Biden ticket apparently now “stands for an absolute, unqualified right to abortion at any time, under any circumstance, and even at taxpayer expense.”
Ryan criticized this shift, arguing that “in this good-hearted country, we believe in showing compassion for mother and child alike.”
“We don’t write anyone off in America, especially those without a voice,” he said. “Every child has a place and purpose in this world.”
“Everyone counts, and in a just society, the law should stand on the side of life,” he stressed.
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan defended his Catholic faith, pro-life views and economic policies at a conservative gathering in the nation's capital.