Paul Ryan Mum on Donald Trump at National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Focuses on Religious Liberty

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 24: Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony on Capitol Hill, February 24, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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Washington, DC

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan focused on religious liberty, speaking to more than 1,300 people at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. near Capitol Hill on Tuesday, predicting that religious liberty will make a comeback.

“These days religious liberty is under assault,” the Speaker, a devout Catholic, told the audience. “I actually think that religious liberty is going to make a comeback because there is a growing need for faith in this nation.”

During his roughly 13-minute speech, Ryan never mentioned presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Referencing Thomas Aquinas, Ryan said, “Our purpose is to know God, period. Whatever your circumstances in life — rich or poor, strong or weak, famous or obscure — it is not faith that inspires you to work hard or raise a family or to achieve your goals, although it very well might. Instead, faith is it’s own reward.”

“We have an obligation to advocate for our faith,” Ryan stressed. “We should defend religious liberty not just on material grounds — that is because people of faith do good things, they give to charity or they volunteer — we need to defend religious liberty on spiritual grounds, that is because living out our faith gives us joy.” He went on:

What people of faith understand is that there is more to life than what we can see and what we can hear and there is nothing more life changing than coming to know the Lord. Once you realize there is a God and he is good and he loves you, not just humanity as a whole, but you the person … you’re not alone.

“In life, it’s not just a tale of full sound and fury signifying nothing,” Ryan stated. “Life is full of meaning. That is why prayer is important. It’s the hotline to heaven.”

He explained this is why he believes it’s important to object when the government restricts religious liberty.

“Look no further than the Little Sisters of the Poor. I think we all agree they are doing some of the most noble work out there,” Ryan said, as the crowd applauded. “Yet, the administration has been tying to force them to offer benefits that violate their belief.”

Ryan says the Obama administration, after the Little Sisters of the Poor has attempted to negotiate, “has shown a total misunderstanding of faith.”

The administration seems to believe only in a material world where the only stuff that matters is dollars and cents. That’s a very cold, very unfeeling world to live in. That is not the kind of country that our Constitution envisions.

“Thankfully, we got some good news from the Supreme Court yesterday when it sent them packing and when it sent the case back to the lower courts,” Ryan said commenting on the court’s ruling on Monday. “Thank God that that has happened.”

“So clearly, the court does not believe the government has done a good enough job of protecting religious liberty, that much is clear and that is why we’re calling on the administration to eliminate this burden once and for all,” he said.

Ryan also spoke about the “sin of pride.”

It reminds me of Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis…Uncle Screwtape is a demon. He is teaching a young devil on how to turn a man to sin. At one point, Screwtape says, ‘Catch him at the moment he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, by jove, I’m being humble.’ If you ask me, Screwtape would make one heck of a political consultant these days.

The crowd laughed at Ryan’s joke, as he continued, “The point is, I believe it was my faith that brought me to this realization, we are all sinners, we all need jobs. So, it’s not enough to create more jobs or to raise peoples’ wages, though we should do that too. There is a spiritual void that needs to be filled.”

“Perhaps poverty is God’s way of leading us to contemplate something higher,” Ryan said in closing. “The way I see it, the fight against poverty and the need for religious liberty go hand in hand.”

EWTN, Global Catholic Television Network, will re-air the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on Saturday at 2 p.m. Eastern.