Bishops: Poor Need More Help Now, Not Less

Say Budgets Are Also a Moral Issue

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WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 15, 2011 («> Budgets aren’t just an economic issue — they are a moral one, too, according to the bishops of the United States.

The heads of two U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) committees and the president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) sent letters to Congress on Monday affirming this fact.

«Decisions on how to allocate opportunities and burdens in setting budget priorities are more than economic policies — they are significant moral choices,» wrote the Church leaders.

Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services, emphasized the needs of the poor as a priority for budget decisions.

«Especially in a time of austerity and fiscal restraints, the poor have a special moral claim on limited financial resources,» they wrote. According to an analysis by USCCB and CRS, the proposed resolution makes more than 26% in cuts for poverty-focused international assistance, but only 2.6% in cuts overall.

«Shared sacrifice is one thing; it is another to make disproportionate cuts in programs that serve the most vulnerable,» said Bishop Hubbard and Hackett in the letter. «It is morally unacceptable for our nation to balance its budget on the backs of the poor at home and abroad.»

While welcoming the proposed restoration of the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits U.S. funding for abortions in other countries, the Church officials lamented that some of the other proposals are life-threatening.

Giving the message

In a separate letter, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called on Congress to place the needs of the poor first.

«In a time of economic crisis, the poor and vulnerable are in greater need of assistance, not less,» he wrote. «Preserving the national security of the country is without doubt imperative, but we cannot secure the nation while at the same time furthering the insecurity of the poor and vulnerable in our midst.»

Among the main concerns highlighted by Bishop Blaire are the proposed cuts to funding for Community Health Centers, affordable housing programs, job training programs, and refugee funding. The letter did welcome the bill’s retention of all appropriations riders against abortion funding, and its restoration of a consistent ban on such funding in the District of Columbia.

More than 300 Catholic leaders, in Washington for the 2011 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering, are taking the bishops’ message to Capitol Hill today during visits to their U.S. representatives and senators.

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