Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), when faced with a letter of condemnation by 90 Catholic faculty members at Georgetown University, has abruptly decided to back away from his famous endorsement of the works of controversial author Ayn Rand and her philosophy of "Objectivism."  The congressman, who is scheduled to speak at the Catholic university today, is now emphasizing Christian philosophers and the writings of Pope Benedict XVI as the true exemplars of his world view over Russian émigré and atheist Rand.

National Review profile from early Thursday said, "'I reject her philosophy,' Ryan says firmly. '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,' who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. 'Don’t give me Ayn Rand,' he says."

Ryan, said the Review, is actually "a practicing Roman Catholic" and that "his faith and moral values shape his politics as much as his belief in freedom and capitalism does."

Ryan went so far as to decry his affinity for the book Atlas Shrugged and its author as an "urban legend," and cites it as proof that he's "arrived in politics" that a false story is out there circulating about him.  He says the association of his name to Rand and her brand of capitalism-as-religion is "inaccurate" and "part of an effort on the left to paint him as a cold-hearted Objectivist."

“I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young. I enjoyed them,” he said, attempting to dismiss his interest in Objectivism as mere juvenilia.  "They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman," he said, but he called it a "big stretch" that he would therefore be an Objectivist.

Ryan did tell The Weekly Standard in 2003 that he requires all of his staff members to read Rand's magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged.  He conceded, though, that most of them don't finish it.

Think Progress points to a quote from an article in The New Republic, which has Ryan saying to a group of attendees at a banquet to honor the author, "The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”

At the same dinner, Ryan also said that virtually every national struggle our society faces can be boiled down to the Randian binary, "Almost every fight we are involved in here on Capitol Hill ... is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict--individualism versus collectivism."

Ryan is considered a "budget guru" by many in Washington.  He has submitted an alternate budget to the president's 2012 budget plan, which presumptive Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) called "marvelous."  Many on the left have called Ryan's budget ideas absurd and draconian.  Even former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich famously dubbed Ryan's economic policies "right-wing social engineering."

Ryan has been mentioned by many as a possible running mate for Romney, from conservative Wisconsin blogger Ann Althouse to Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post.  Romney is expected to announce his running mate at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.