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WASHINGTON—Congress should base decisions on the federal budget on whether they protect or threaten human life and dignity, whether they put the needs of the hungry, the homeless and the unemployed first, and whether they reflect the shared responsibility of government and other institutions to promote the common good of all, especially “workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times,” said the two U.S. bishops who lead the justice and peace efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“In the past year, Congress and the Administration have taken significant action to reduce the federal deficit, while attempting to protect programs that serve poor and vulnerable people,” wrote Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, in a March 6 letter. “Congress will continue to face difficult choices about how to allocate burdens and sacrifices and balance resources and needs. We fear the pressure to cut vital programs that protect the lives and dignity of the poor and vulnerable will increase. As Catholic bishops, we have tried to remind Congress that these choices are economic, political, and moral.”
Bishop Blaire and Bishop Pates chair the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the Committee on International Justice and Peace, respectively.
The bishops voiced support for moves to strengthen programs that help the poor and vulnerable, such as Pell Grants and improved workforce training and development. They also opposed moves negatively impacting poor families such as increasing the minimum rent that can be charged to families receiving housing assistance and a proposal to eliminate funding for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. The bishops also made the case for protecting programs that help the poor internationally.
“As pastors, we see every day the human consequences of budget choices. Our Catholic community defends the unborn, feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, educates the young, and cares for the sick, both at home and abroad. We help poor families rise above crushing poverty, resettle refugees fleeing conflict and persecution, and reach out to communities devastated by wars, natural disasters and famines,” the bishops wrote. “The moral measure of this budget debate is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless or poor are treated. Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources.”
Full text of the bishops’ letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Letter-to-Congress-Federal-Budget-2012-03-06.pdf
Keywords: USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Richard Pates, Bishop Stephen Blaire, Domestic Justice and Human Development, International Justice and Peace, federal budget, Congress, Administration, cuts, funding, poor, vulnerable, hungry, unemployed, circle of protection, Pell Grants, DC Opportunity Scholarship, health care, housing
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