The warmth with which elderly Catholic nuns have been greeted on their cross-country bus tour to protest Republican cuts to the federal budget is hugely encouraging. The sisters and I may disagree about certain things, particularly the budget plan of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan -- who is Catholic -- but what a blessed country we live in, where a major public argument centers on how to best care for the poor and unfortunate.
One reporter said the nuns were "greeted like heroes" outside Ryan's office. "For the sisters, the tour is about more than debating points," a Huffington Post dispatch said, citing the nuns' participation in various social welfare projects during their journey. A reminder that we have responsibilities to one another is exactly what you'd hope to see from women dedicated to God and His service.
Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis., gave Ryan a vote of confidence while affirming the work of so many religious orders in a recent interview, saying that the congressman's budget is "in accord with Catholic principles."
Ryan's done something very positive by taking Catholic social teaching seriously in his role as House Budget Committee chairman. He's engaged with bishops and laymen. No political party should own "social justice," and at a time when the very ability of Church organizations to freely carry out their mission to serve as Jesus did has been compromised by the federal government, it's a crucial moment for this sort of discussion.
The Rev. Robert Sirico, president of the Michigan-based Acton Institute, has a project called PovertyCure that is an important part of this advancing conversation. Its goal is "advancing entrepreneurial solutions to poverty." PovertyCure wonders if we've been asking the wrong questions about the causes of poverty and how to address them.
"PovertyCure is different because it places the focus on the human person, created in the image of God, with dignity and creative capacity as the source of wealth," Sirico tells me. "The dominant model among both secular and religious agencies has been one of aid or charity. PovertyCure shifts the focus to unleashing the entrepreneurial capacity that already fills the developing world. Long-term sustainable development does not come from aid or charity but from helping to foster the conditions where people create wealth and prosperity for themselves, their families and their communities."