+Blaire on Budget & Much Else

My colleague Joshua McElwee has called attention to an interview with Bishop Stephen Blaire over at the other NCR - the National Catholic Register.

A couple of thoughts come to mind. First, you can almost hear Blaire's calm, pastoral voice speaking through the computer page. Rightly, I believe, he does not indulge a jeremiad, he does not compare Cong. Ryan to Hitler or Stalin, his sense of the Church's role in politics and society appropriately careful and even modest. This is the kind of priest I like to go to confession to - calm, pastoral, gentle.

Second, the interviewer tries to goad Bp Blaire a couple of times - he asks, "Is 'balance' a principle of Catholic social teaching?" which is pretty snarky - but Blaire does not take the bait. Indeed, he goes further and insists that the Church's bishops must articulate the Church's teachings, and regrets when those teachings are turned to partisan advantage. Of course, I do not entirely share the bishop's regret and think it is interesting, at least to me, that if anyone really takes the Church's teachings seriously, they will find the need to criticize their own political party as well as the party opposite.

Finally, Blaire's fair-mindedness keeps him from raising the question that bugs me the most. Let us stipulate that Cong. Ryan is sincere, that he thinks government, especially federal programs do a bad job helping the poor. What is his plan? What is the alternative? What Bishop Blaire makes clear is that the Church will stand, as She must, with the poor and the vulnerable. The burden for Ryan and those who defend his plan is to say what will replace the "failed" programs for the poor they claim are creating a culture of dependency. In short, Bp Blaire avoids the consequentalism that I see in so much of both parties' defense of their political stances. Christians are called to be holy, not successful. We are called to help the poor period. Bp Blaire grasps this and speaks accordingly. Here's hoping the readers of the other NCR here his voice!

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