“As we end welfare for those who don’t need it, we strengthen welfare programs for those who do,” he explained.
Ryan said that he does his best to adhere to Catholic social doctrine in his role as a public office holder.
He explained that “there can be differences among faithful Catholics” on how to best apply Catholic principles to the problems facing the nation.
Today, the “defining challenge” facing America is “the exploding federal debt,” he said. How to best address this problem “is a question for prudential judgment, about which people of good will can differ.”
The impact of budget decisions on the poor and vulnerable was the subject of a recent series of letters from Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, who heads the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice committee, to members of Congress. The bishop voiced concerns about certain elements of the proposed budget and urged consideration of its impact on the most needy.
Ryan acknowledged a pressing need to consider the poor, who “would be hurt the first and the worst” by a debt crisis. However, he added, “I do not believe that the preferential option for the poor means a preferential option for big government.”
He explained that heavy reliance on the federal government to provide for the poor is ineffective and actually ends up hurting those whom it aims to help.
For example, he said, the “government-centered approach to the war on poverty” has resulted in the highest poverty rates in a generation, with one in six Americans currently living in poverty.
The Congressman argued that the federal government is not the only way for people to work together to aid those in need.
Instead, he said, there is a need to “empower state and local governments, communities, and individuals – those closest to the problem.”
These other charitable and civic groups play an important role in aiding the needy in society, he said.
Ryan noted that his budget tries to implement the “twin pillars” of solidarity and subsidiarity, two important principles of Catholic social teaching.
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He described solidarity as “the virtue that does not divide society into classes and groups but builds up the common good of all.”
Subsidiarity can be put into practice by relying upon “government and institutions closest to the people,” he added, explaining that this ensures real “human interaction.”
Rather than a distant federal bureaucrat providing aid, “it’s a human being that knows you, that knows your problems, that looks you in the eyes and sees the suffering that you’re experiencing,” he said.