Bishops to House: Protect poor, promote the common good
Congress should assess every budget decision by how it reflects the shared responsibility of the government and other institutions to protect human life and dignity, especially of the poor and vulnerable, said the bishop who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development in a May 8 letter to the House of Representatives.
“The Catholic bishops of the United States recognize the serious deficits our country faces, and we acknowledge that Congress must make difficult decisions about how to allocate burdens and sacrifices and balance resources and needs,” wrote Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, as the House prepared to vote on a reconciliation package for the 2013 budget.
“However,” he added, “deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility efforts must protect and not undermine the needs of poor and vulnerable people. The proposed cuts to programs in the budget reconciliation fail this basic moral test.”
Bishop Blaire singled out an “unfair” proposal to change the Child Tax Credit to exclude children of immigrant families, “the large majority of whom are American citizens,” proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) that would affect all poor families and be “a direct threat to their human dignity,” and the cutting of the Social Services Block Grant, “an important source of funding for programs throughout the country” that serve “the homeless, the elderly, people with disabilities, children living in poverty, and abuse victims.”
A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects the lives and dignity of “the least of these,” Bishop Blaire wrote, citing the Gospel of St. Matthew.
Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times.
“The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first,” he said. “Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times.”
Thus, a “just framework” for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons, said Bishop Blaire.
“It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly,” he said.
The bishop pointed out that the Catechism of the Catholic Church states it is the proper role of government to “make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on” (n. 1908).
“Poor and vulnerable people do not have powerful lobbyists to advocate their interests, but they have the most compelling needs,” Bishop Blaire said.
To see the full text of Bishop Blaire’s letter, visit: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/reconciliation-letter-to-house-2012-05-08.pdf.