The following comes from an August 14 essay on the website for the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

With Paul Ryan announced as Mitt Romney’s running mate for vice-president on Saturday, many are speculating about the role that Ryan’s Catholic faith will play out in the election. Ryan’s Catholicism could well be the necessary linchpin in consolidating the GOP’s social conservative segment, a constituency that has offered tepid endorsement of Governor Romney up to this point. Ryan possesses potent social conservative credentials with his strong pro-life record and his defense of traditional marriage

What could give social conservatives concern, however, is Ryan’s sanguine comments and lifelong fascination with the atheist philosopher Ayn Rand. Rand was a proponent of “Objectivism,” a philosophy accused of lacking compassion, being insensitive and condemnatory of the poor….

Ryan, a noted budget wonk, has publicly praised Rand on numerous occasions. In remarks he made before a meeting of the Atlas Society in 2005, a group dedicated to her philosophy, Ryan said, “I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff.”

Ryan, who chairs the powerful House Budget Committee, attends St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Janesville, Wisconsin and is the architect of the controversial  “Path to Prosperity” budget.  After the budget’s release, the cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs prompted Catholic officials to criticize Ryan’s budget as not in keeping with Catholic faith, intimating that Ryan’s devotion to Ayn Rand motivated the cuts in programs for the poor.

And pounce they did.

Father Thomas Reese, a priest at Georgetown University [and former editor of America magazine] was heavily critical of Ryan in an interview with the Huffington Post. “I am afraid that Chairman Ryan’s budget reflects the values of his favorite philosopher Ayn Rand rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Reese said. “Survival of the fittest may be okay for Social Darwinists but not for followers of the gospel of compassion and love.”

Ryan has disagreed with the assessment of these characterizations, telling National Review  “Liberals have accused me of not being a good Catholic,” Ryan said. “It’s important to try and elevate the tone of this dialogue to a more civil tone — discussing how we exercise prudential judgment as lay people in the Catholic Church in public life. I’m delighted to have the conversation.”

According to political commentator Robert Costa, “He [Ryan] is a strong believer in the power of civil society, not the federal government, to solve problems. Community leaders and churches, he says, can often do more for the poor than a federal bureaucrat who scribbles their names on a check, sustaining dependency.”

Ryan would later go on to deliver a speech at Georgetown amidst the controversy where he said that, “Simply put, I do not believe that the preferential option for the poor means a preferential option for big government.” He also remarked:

“Look at the results of the government-centered approach to the war on poverty. One in six Americans is in poverty today– the highest rate in a generation. In this war on poverty, poverty is winning. We need a better approach.

“To me, this approach should be based on the twin virtues of solidarity and subsidiarity–virtues that, when taken together, revitalize civil society instead of displacing it.”

In an interview with National Review, Ryan was offered an opportunity to clarify his position on Ayn Rand. “You know you’ve arrived in politics when you have an urban legend about you, and this one is mine,” Ryan said, referencing the claim that his political philosophy is entirely dependent on Rand.

He insists that his political views are shaped more so by his Catholic faith.

“I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young. I enjoyed them,” Ryan said.

“They [Rand’s novels] spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman, but it’s a big stretch to suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist.”

“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan told National Review. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas.”

To read entire story click here.

Click here to view August 12 interview with Father Jonathan Morris on FoxNews about the Ryan candidacy.

Click here for full text of Ryan speech at Georgetown.