WASHINGTON—The two bishops who lead the justice and peace efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urged Congress to address the moral and human dimensions of the federal budget and protect the poor, in light of the budget resolutions under current consideration.
“We support the goal of reducing future unsustainable deficits, but insist that this worthy goal be pursued in ways that protect poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.
“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, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources. The bishops stand ready to work with leaders of both parties for a budget that reduces future deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people, advances the common good, and promotes human life and dignity,” wrote the bishops in a March 18 letter to Congress.
The bishops support preserving programs that help the poor and vulnerable, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “food stamps”), poverty-focused international assistance programs, and funding for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program.
The bishops also offered three moral criteria to guide budgetary decisions:
• Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.
• Every budget proposal should be measured by how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.
• 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.
“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.
In his Inauguration Mass, Pope Francis urged the protection of human dignity. “To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love is to open up a horizon of hope,” he said.
The full text of the bishops’ letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Budget_Resolutions_FY2014-2013-03-18.pdf