Alumnus Responds to 'Ryan Letter'
Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 15:05
To the faculty members who signed the letter to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last week: Your note brings me sadness.
I expect more from each and all of you. When I studied under you or your predecessors in the 1970s, you were respectful, not condescending, to responsible points of view — even if they were at odds with your own. It is certainly what we were taught.
In the past, Georgetown has played host to a variety of controversial figures, but the school’s administrators would never institutionally support the cursory, opportunistic and base political denunciations these events provoked. Your reaction to Rep. Ryan’s speech strikes notes today that, as past presidents taught, are countenanced neither by Christian hospitality nor by Jesuit praxis.
Your letter’s thin welcome leaps to an assertion, with neither evidence nor references, that Ryan “misuses” Catholic teaching by occasionally applying its terms to describe his plan for our unsustainable federal spending and $15 trillion national debt.
What’s more, it does so in the terms of a press release. Are your descriptive powers those of a campaign press secretary? Are you ashamed to crib their copy? Frankly, it is embarrassing that your characterization is indistinguishable from those repeated constantly by a national political party that appears primarily focused on attacking Ryan’s plan.
I know several of you, and I know the grades we would have earned, or forsaken, for originality or its absence. I leave to your own honest personal assessment how you would grade yourselves, or your students, for such work.
Please state — unlike the U.S. Senate, which has not adopted a budget resolution for 1100 days, or the president, whose budget received zero votes in the House of Representatives several weeks ago — your better plan to avoid it.
Whether or not you agree with Ryan, citizenship’s requisite rationality demands that we listen to those with whom we disagree. Of course, it is easier to disqualify than to learn an opponent’s position better than he knows it himself. Your preemptive snit over interpretive nuances of subsidiarity, coupled with your insulting stunt of enclosing “Rerem Novarum,” teaches your students to disqualify, rather than to listen. We were taught to listen above the din, but now the din comes from within.
I hope — pray, actually — to see better from each and all of you, as well as from Georgetown University, institutionally, itself.
Chris Robling (COL ’80) studied philosophy and economics at Georgetown. He is now a principal at the communications firm Jayne Thompson & Associates in Chicago.