WASHINGTON, D.C., May 18, 2011 ( – A group of U.S. Catholic professors have issued a letter calling House Speaker John Boehner “at variance from one of the Church’s most ancient moral teachings” for cutting government programs for the poor. The cuts were part of the GOP’s efforts to reduce government spending in response to the country’s national deficit.


Boehner, a Catholic, has won a favorable reputation among pro-life leaders for driving a hard bargain with the Obama administration to secure legal gains in defense of unborn children. But in a polite, but firmly critical letter to the Speaker, who spoke at the commencement of the Catholic University of America (CUA) May 12, a group of academics and other Catholic leaders argued that Boehner contravened Church teaching by cutting government programs.

The letter, signed by several academics, many of them professors at CUA, specifically mentioned Boehner’s role in gutting benefits programs for indigent mothers, and for cutting Medicare and Medicaid. The letter pointed to the U.S. Bishops’ criticisms of Boehner’s budget plan, saying that the bishops had suggested that the budget cuts have “anti-life implications.”

Notable among the signatories to the letter is Sr. Mary Hughes, the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). LCWR’s support, under then-president Marlene Weisenbeck, for President Obama’s health care bill was a game-changing asset during the president’s campaign to sway conservative House Democrats to pass the law last year. The Catholic group broke with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who with other major pro-life groups strongly condemned the bill as a major threat to unborn children through increased abortion funding.

In a column for National Review last week, Fr. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute questioned the letter from the professors for placing a question of practical application of Catholic principles, namely what role government plays in offering social programs, on a par with issues of intrinsic evil such as abortion.

He pointed out that Boehner’s voting record on the “Church’s most ancient moral teachings” on issues like abortion and gay “marriage” are excellent, but that questions about how best to address poverty through government are up for legitimate debate.

“To jump so seamlessly from the Magisterium’s insistence on the fundamental and non-negotiable moral obligation to the poor to the specifics of contingent, prudential, and political legislation is wholly unjustified in Catholic social teaching,” wrote Sirico.

The priest and economist accuses the authors of the letter of making “the unfortunately common error of assuming that concern for the economically weak and marginalized must somehow translate into (yet another) government program.”

The priest suggested that the letter’s authors “do not understand the distinctions the Church herself makes between fundamental, non-negotiable dogmas and doctrines, and the prudential and debatable give and take when it comes to applying the principles of Catholic social teaching.”

Another writer at The National Review, Anne Hendershott, also called it “ironic” that some of the professors who signed the letter have a history of campaigning for pro-abortion politicians, including one who supported radically pro-abortion Kathleen Sebelius, who was appointed by Obama as the secretary of Health and Human Services.