Consider Catholic Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan here.
“The preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenets of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government,” he said in an April interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. He also cited, as a way to serve the common good, “the [Catholic] principle of subsidiarity, which is really federalism, meaning government closest to the people governs best.”
Until recently, Paul Ryan cited Ayn Rand as a large influence. “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, would be Ayn Rand,” Ryan said in 2005 speech to the Atlas Society. “The fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.” Rand’s objectivism, which emphasizes individual happiness and laissez-faire capitalism, is diametrically opposed to the Catholic social thought embedded in documents like Rerum Novarum and the writings of John Ryan, which emphasized the obligation of individuals to the community. More recently, Ryan has distanced himself from the controversial thinker. “I reject her philosophy. It’s an atheist philosophy,” he told Robert Costa at the National Review. “It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview.” He said he preferred Thomas Aquinas to Rand.
Now consider what Monsignor John Ryan (1869-1945), one of America’s most prominent theologians of the 20th century, did.
John Ryan never forgot his first reading of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (“Of New Things”), the 1891 encyclical that would transform the landscape of Catholic social doctrine for decades to come. When he read those words, Ryan was a seminarian studying for the priesthood in St. Paul, Minnesota. “The doctrine of state intervention which I had come to accept and which was sometimes denounced as ‘socialistic’ in those benighted days,” he wrote in his journal in 1894, “I now read in a papal encyclical.” The encyclical emphasized government’s obligation to ensure the dignity of the worker in the industrial world. Its message has been reiterated in papal teachings ever since (most recently in Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 Caritas in Veritate). The pope’s letter gave Ryan the tools he needed to bring his Catholicism to bear on his ideas about the economy.
John Ryan’s exacting and pivotal work, A Living Wage (1906), sought to quantify how much an average family needed to survive. Ryan advocated a legal minimum wage when there was none; indeed, he drafted the legislation for Minnesota which, though slightly modified from his original version, became law in 1914. He pushed for federal legislation on a range of basic employee rights, from the right to unionize to unemployment insurance. In 1919, he authored the Bishops’ Program for Social Reconstruction, which advocated for these measures as well as for public housing, a national employment service, and regulation of public utility rates and monopolies. Although the 1919 Bishops’ Program was largely forgotten in the economically uninhibited 1920s, once the Depression began, Roosevelt’s administration was much more receptive to Ryan’s ideas than Hoover or Coolidge had been. The priest-scholar served on various committees within the White House, advising the president on labor and social security legislation. Ryan was delighted with much of the New Deal agenda and publicly advocated for its provisions. When he died in 1945, many of the measures he had championed 40 years earlier had become policy.