Is Paul Ryan a faithful Catholic?

Melinda Henneberger, over at the Washington Post‘s Politics blogs, implies the answer is no. For one thing, Henneberger tells us, Ryan’s a devotee of Ayn Rand–or was, at least, until it began to look like he might have a shot at becoming VP. For another thing, his famous budget proposal was denounced as immoral by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for its cuts into safety-net programs for the poor.

Henneberger is pretty overt about accusing Catholic conservatives, like Ryan, of hypocrisy:

In case you’re wondering, the same conservative Catholics who so often admonish the doctrinal picking-and-choosing of liberal “cafeteria Catholics’’ answered their leaders just as progressive Catholics have responded to chiding they didn’t appreciate: “The bishops were wrong on the Ryan budget,” the National Catholic Register declared again on Saturday.

Curiously, even though Henneberger’s framing of this issue would seem to cast the Catholic bishops as the good guys in this story–i.e., they advocate for poor people–her piece was accompanied by this unflattering photo of Timothy Dolan, identified for us as the head of the USCCB.

Inspired by that photo choice, I’m going to go out on an interpretative limb here (as I’m wont to do), and suggest that Henneberger’s piece contains a yet more subtle subtext. Implicitly, I propose, she’s issuing the following challenge to American Catholic bishops:

Hey, guys–back in 2004, some of you made a big deal about denying communion to John Kerry because of his support for abortion rights. You did the same thing to Joe Biden in 2008. So: will you be calling Ryan to repentance?

If I’m over-reading Henneberger’s article–too bad, then, that she didn’t see her way to posing this question. Because it does hang in the air. Stay tuned.

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