WASHINGTON D.C. (WKOW) -- Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) had to explain himself to fellow Catholics at Georgetown University Thursday.
Close to 90 administrators there had criticized Rep. Ryan for what they call a misuse of Catholic doctrine to defend his budget plan.
"People are dying Lord," sang Catholic protestors outside the university, as Rep. Ryan spoke inside.
Ryan defended his citing of Catholic doctrine to justify a budget plan that cuts federal programs for the poor, such as Medicaid and food stamps.
"What I have to say about the social doctrine of the church is from a viewpoint of a Catholic in politics, applying my understanding to the problems of the day," Rep. Ryan said.
Ryan cites the Catholic concept of "subsidiarity" as the source of his reasoning.
It was introduced during the Great Depression by Pope Pius XI.
"He said government can't get so big that it crowds out local initiative, and so you should never take on at a bigger level, what you can do locally," explained John Huebscher, Executive Director of the Madison-based Wisconsin Catholic Conference.
Huebscher said he believes Ryan's belief in subsidiarity is sincere, but he understands why it offends some Catholics.
"If you think about the word 'subsidiarity,' there's a notion of subsidy, where you not only say the local level should be empowered, but you give them the means to do it," said Huebscher.
Huebscher said that means help from the federal government is a part of helping the poor.
Bishop Robert C. Morlino of the Madison Catholic Diocese is staying out of the controversy altogether, releasing only a statement that reads: "This is an issue where the Congressman speaks well for himself. He is very aware of the demands of lay mission in the church and he is free to carry that mission out as he does. There is no need for us, nor are we in a position, to enter into this discussion."
While Madison's Bishop is staying out of this fight, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is not.
That group also criticized Ryan in a letter to Congress, saying his budget plan makes "disproportionate cuts to essential services for the poor."
Rep. Ryan's budget was passed by the House of Representatives in late March, but stalled in the Senate.
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