It's always interesting when an American Catholic bishop gives his colleagues the finger, so we would be remiss in not calling your attention to the full-throated defense of Paul Ryan that Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield Ill. offered up to the St. Thomas More Society of Green Bay after the Red Mass last week.
Paprocki's purpose was to defend the GOP vice-presidential nominee against persistent charges by progressive Catholic intellectuals that the free-market bludgeon he's been wielding at government programs for the needy is at odds with Catholic social teaching. Not at all, quoth Paprocki, for while the Church has certain timeless principles to which all must adhere (e.g. the need to care for the poor), it's a matter of prudential judgment how such principles are put into effect.
Bishops Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, and Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the Committee on International Justice and Peace, respectively, urging Congress to resist proposed cuts in hunger and nutrition programs. In their April 16, 2012 letter to the Chairmen of the Senate Appropriationsubcommittee for Agriculture, Rural Development Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, Bishops Blaire and Pates wrote, “A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects ‘the least of these’ (Matthew 25).” Here, quoting the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, the Bishops were stating a binding principle of the divine moral law as taught by Christ himself, that is, whether or not we fed the hungry during our lifetime will be one of the criteria by which we are judged at the Last Judgment. Later in the letter they say, “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps), received a $2 billion cut made to the reserve fund in the 2010 child nutrition bill. Restoration of funding is necessary as families continue to struggle with joblessness and poverty.” Here, they are not speaking of necessity in the sense that voting for this program would be necessary for salvation. They are simply making a prudential judgment that this program is a necessary practical means to feed the hungry. However, reasonable minds can come to different conclusions about more effective ways to alleviate hunger.
So, like, if it's not necessary for salvation, then go ahead and blow off what the bishops (not to mention the current redistributionist pope) have to say about it. It would be nice to hear Bishops Blaire and Pates (and their respective USCCB committees) respond to this undermining of what Bishop Paprocki calls the social magisterium.
If the magisterium were simply about enunciating timeless principles then why bother with it at all? To say that Paul Ryan's approach to government policy is at odds with Catholic teaching is not to condemn him to eternal damnation. It's to say that it's at odds with Catholic teaching. Bellini's allegory notwithstanding, prudence does not mean indifference.