Register Radio: Paul Ryan and Catholic Doctors

Columnists Benjamin Wiker John Brehany

Today on Register Radio, I interviewed author and speaker Benjamin Wiker about his recent column for the Register on Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan and his professed admiration for the ideas of novelist Ayn Rand.

"Paul Ryan has affirmed his great appreciation of Ayn Rand. That is something that needs to be explained," said Wiker. "She was a devout atheist and her understanding of capitalism was based entirely on selfishness. Her own personal life manifested that. Paul Ryan has some explaining to do."

Wiker put that question to Ryan when he interviewed him a couple of years ago.

"I pointed out Rand's dark aspects are exceedingly dark," said Wiker. "He said that he rejects them, but does affirm Catholic social teaching as the foundation of what he's put out there economically."

Asked whether he was convinced by Ryan's answer, Wiker had this to say.

"I came away saying that I would need to hear a lot more," said Wiker. "I haven't seen him explain himself much more clearly since I spoke with him."

"Rand has some good things to say - she rejected moral subjectivity, Communism, and intellectual relativity. She affirmed the necessity of virtues as part of economic life. She believed that when we provide for ourselves, we transform nature to do that. That provision takes our intelligence, our prudence, and our justice in how we trade things. Money is a symbol of how we trade things."

Comparing that to Catholic teaching, Wiker said, "That affirmation of individual effort is something the Catholic Church affirms. We believe that there is a moral responsibility to provide for one's family. That is not the state's responsibility. We also have a responsibility to our community. That's the principal of subsidiarity. The Catholic Church rejects that the government should do everything. We do not affirm collectivism, statism, or the welfare state. The government should not become the sole organ of charity.The Church is about charity."

"Do I think that Ryan has this all lined up?" asked Wiker. "I don't think he does, but I'm open to finding out if he does. I'm not sure he's connected all the dots. He's more recently said that St. Thomas Aquinas is where he goes. He said he rejects Rand's objectivism, but affirms her moral account of the foundations of capitalism. Well, her moral foundation is objectivism. He might be able to pull them apart, but she didn't. Why does both Ayn Rand and the Catholic Church reject collectivism? Why did both reject Communism? He needs to make the differences clear."

Comparing Ryan with Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, Wiker said, "There's no polite way to say this. Biden is the kind of Catholic for whom the faith doesn't seem to matter at all. He has the face for the social justice aspect of Catholic doctrine, but that's not good enough because it yields adamant support of abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage, and the like. The left should attack Biden with the same level of fervency with which they attack Ryan. They should make both of them have to give an account. That would be the fair thing to do."

Catholic Doctors

In our second half, I spoke with John Brehany, executive director of the Catholic Medical Association, about his recent National Catholic Register article which asks if there is a future for Catholic doctors.

John explained that there are currently just over 700,000 practicing physicians in the US currently, with a shortage of more than 20,000. The shortage, he indicated is projected to get worse for a variety of reasons.

"Our population has grown faster than the physician supply," said Brehany. "The population has grown between 24-28 percent, but our physician supply has only grown at about 8 percent. Secondly, many of our physicians are members of the Baby Boom generation, and in the next five to six years, one-third of them will retire."

Asked why physicians are leaving the field, Brehany said that, "Reimbursement rates have been steadily cut and squeezed. Doctors make up for it by working harder and seeing more patients. The amount of time they spend dealing with government bureaucracy, regulations, and insurance companies has gone way up, and that is profoundly dissatisfying. Obamacare is only making all of this much worse. Physicians feel that the quality of care and their ability to practice medicine will only get worse."

The threats, however, impact doctors of faith even more profoundly.

"At the same time that we have population pressures, government and reimbursement pressues, we've seen the US government become increasingly hostile to people of faith and conscience rights in medicine since this administration has taken power," said Brehany. "In our surveys we've found that 46 percent of participants said that they had experienced pressure because of their moral or religious beliefs; 44 percent considered not pursuing a career in a particular speciality because of such pressure; and 27 percent said they experienced discrimination because of their ethical or religious beliefs."

"The US is increasingly a pro-life nation," said Brehany, "and people want their medical system to share their values. Because of intolerance, good pro-life people feel they cannot go into fields such as obstetrics and gynecology. The impact is not only on those physicians, but on the patients who will not have good pro-life physicians to care for them."

As always, to hear the full interviews listen to today's show at 2 p.m. EASTERN Friday on any EWTN Radio affiliate or Sirius/XM Satellite Radio. The program re-airs at 7 p.m. EASTERN on Saturday and 11 a.m. EASTERN on Sunday, and is also available on the Register Radio web page, and via podcast.