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Paul Ryan: now your new favorite Notre Dame lecturer

| Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Paul Ryan has officially been slated as a guest lecturer for the 2019-2020 academic term at Notre Dame. When asked for comment on being hired by Notre Dame as a guest lecturer, Paul Ryan said: “As an Irish Catholic from the Midwest, the University of Notre Dame has always held a special place in my heart. It is an honor to be part of the University where Catholic principles, robust debates, academic freedoms and diverse viewpoints are allowed to flourish.”

By beginning the statement above with invoking his religiosity, Ryan is explicitly drawing a comparison between his principles and those of the University (those of Catholic principles, robust debates, academic freedoms, and diverse viewpoints). Ryan’s tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, though, tells a very different story. If our University truly stands for ‘Catholic principles, robust debates, academic freedoms and diverse viewpoints,’ Ryan would never have been considered for this position.

Surely University President Fr. John Jenkins was reading an incredibly convincing revisionist work on Ryan’s tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives to internally justify this decision. I’d be interested to read such a history which reinvents the facts of each decision made by Ryan in his 20 years of political service. At any rate, the following are my favorite of Paul Ryan’s non-academic, non-Catholic decisions, gaffes, statements, etc.

First — we’ll talk about Catholic principles. Catholicism, as far as I know it, expressly forbids non-consensual, non-marital sexual encounters (though this could be debatable given recent Church scandals and the lackluster, at best, reaction from Church officials in light of such scandals). This is what Paul Ryan had to say after Donald Trump’s infamous “Access Hollywood” tape was released: “I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than he suggests.” This is not the statement you would hope from someone with true Catholic principles in his heart. It largely understates the issue at hand. The issue with the “Access Hollywood” debacle was not only that in the recording Donald Trump clearly vilifies women but that he also admits to sexual assault. This is all the congressman could muster? In the face of a presidential candidate admitting to sexual assault on tape, all we get out of this supposedly Catholic politician is hoping that the future president shows everyone his true respect for women? Simply incredible.

Catholicism seems pretty clear on racism as well. We are all God’s children, after all, are we not? So, when his reaction to Donald Trump’s statements defending white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, was “He’s learning, I know his heart is in the right place,” surely his anti-Catholic tendencies must have been exposed. Apparently not, though. It seems that his refusal to condemn Trump’s defense of white nationalists could be problematic for an appointment as lecturer at Notre Dame. Sure, maybe Ryan himself isn’t racist. Regardless, this gaffe shows that he doesn’t have an issue with racism more generally.

In the category of Ryan’s anti-Catholic statements and decisions, the list goes on and on. Most of these anti-Catholic statements and decisions, though, come in a blind defense of Donald Trump. Maybe he truly is Catholic and was intimidated and bullied to abandon his Catholicism by the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This is a possibility. But, I’m not convinced that someone with true faith in Catholicism and its tenets would abandon it so quickly in support for political experience.

Let’s move on to Ryan’s history with academic honesty, rigorous debate and the likes.

Does Fr. Jenkins seriously want me to believe that Ryan would be truthful in an academic setting? This man had no problems with habitually lying to the American public on matters of the utmost importance.

More on health care? His replacement to ObamaCare would ‘protect people with pre-existing conditions.’ A complete fabrication.

About the tax cut plan in November of 2017? “Every single person, every rate payer, every bracket person gets a rate cut.” A complete fabrication. It was really for the rich.

Even face-to-face with constituents, the man has no problem lying. In a 2017 town hall, he was confronted by an anxious “Dreamer” mom. He told her that he and Donald Trump would do everything in their power to make sure she could remain in the United States. A complete fabrication. He would later pigeonhole vote after vote on the DACA issue. 

Even on something as trivial as his exercise habits: claiming to have run a marathon in “two-hour, 50-something.” To be fair, he at least later corrected this “mistake” by admitting it was a lie

Is this seriously a man Fr. Jenkins trusts to teach a course on anything? This is a man that in the face of anti-democratic, racist, sexist attacks of the head of his party, decided to retire from politics altogether. This is a man whose defense of Donald Trump goes against everything I know to be true of Catholicism. This is a man with a history of compulsive lying. Do we really trust him in a classroom at Notre Dame? I certainly don’t.

It’s unfortunate to say, but I really believe that the administration overlooked Ryan’s problematic past as a gesture to certain Notre Dame student organizations who constantly bemoan a perceived lack of conservative professors on campus. I’m glad to see the University’s standards have risen so high as to hire who I consider to be one of the most problematic people to ever sit at the helm of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Drew is an award-winning alcohol evangelist, recovering coffee addict, finger drumming enthusiast and big-time social justice guy. He loves receiving both fan and hate mail — send it his way at [email protected] 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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