The bishops who chair three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged Congress to fulfill the basic role of government and meet the challenges facing the United States at home and abroad.
In Sept. 30 letters to the House and Senate, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, cited issues including rampant domestic unemployment and the millions of people displaced by the conflict in Syria.
“In 2011, we welcomed bipartisan action which averted a federal government shutdown and the hardship that would have come with failure to reach agreement,” the bishops wrote. “The Catholic bishops of the United States stand ready to work with leaders of both parties for a budget that reduces future unsustainable deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people, advances the common good, and promotes human life and dignity.”
Archbishop Gomez chairs the USCCB Committee on Migration. Bishop Blaire chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Bishop Pates chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace.
The bishops noted that the Catechism of the Catholic Church says it is the proper role of government to “make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life,” including food, clothing, heath care, education and culture.
“In our country today, millions of Americans struggle to meet these basic needs, through no fault of their own, as a result of an economy that continues to fail to create sufficient economic opportunities,” the bishops wrote. “Last year, the poverty rate remained at a 20-year high, over 1 in 5 children lived in poverty, and 49 million Americans were food-insecure at some point.”
They added that 23 million Americans remain unemployed or underemployed.
The bishops also noted the challenges awaiting Congress on the international stage.
“Throughout the world, millions rely on the United States for lifesaving food, medicine, and support,” they wrote. “In Syria, violence seriously threatens the lives of two million refugees and four million internally displaced persons, half of them children. Over five million receive HIV/AIDS medication as a result of PEPFAR, and thousands of children receive vaccinations. This work must continue, and human needs must be met.”
Full text of the letters is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/letters-to-congress-shutdown-2013-09-30.pdf