As discussed in my post on abortion, many conservatives blithely dismiss church social teachings that inconveniently contradict the Republican agenda. They will tell you that while abortion is non-negotiable, a Catholic's response to matters of social and economic policy is one of prudential judgment around which honest people can differ. I argued that the time that this was often a convenient smokesceen to justify not only holding one's nose about Republican social and economic policies on the grounds that other issues were more important, but actively supporting them.
Take the simple example of poverty in the United States. Under Clinton, the poverty rate fell from 14.8 percent in 1992 to 11.3 percent in 2000. Under Bush, it bounced up to 12.7 percent again by 2004, increasing every single year. Now, it would be folly to give Clinton full credit for the economic boom (though he deserves a significant amount), and Bush, monumental failures notwithstanding, is not fully to blame for increasing poverty either. Still, there can be little doubt this his policies of tax cuts for the rich combined with cuts at the lower end played a major role.
The church, obviously, pays quite a lot of attention to poverty. From the Catechism: "God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them" (#2443); "Love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use" (#2445); "Hence, those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church..." (#2448).
How can we live up to these principles? Many, especially in the Christian Democratic tradition in Europe, favored the development of welfare states, which reduced the degree of poverty and inequality in society. But others have argued that an excessive welfare state leads to perverse incentives, culminating in high unemployment and a culture of dependency. Both positions are valid to hold in the Catholic tradition. What is not acceptable is simply to ignore the issue. So if one holds the second position, then one needs to propose solutions that would break the cycle of dependence, such as in-work benefits (such as an expansion of the earned income child credit), subsidized childcare, educational reform etc. I don't see many Republicans favoring these policies, or even having this debate. They will certainly talk loudly about the failures of the welfare state, but will not propose any viable solutions. Well, they might talk about the need for private charity to step up, and they might even quote some church teachings on subsidiarity. Fine, but this in no way the state a free pass to enact anti-poor policies. Oh yes, they might talk about how Republican policies actually help the poor. The problem with this is that the statistics speak for themselves. At the end of the day, "prudential judgment" entails fumbling with facts and experience, not embracing an ideology.