WASHINGTON (USCCB) — The federal budget should protect human life and dignity, make the poor a top priority and promote the common good of all during tough economic times, said the U.S. bishops who oversee foreign and domestic policy on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“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,” wrote Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York, and Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California in their April 13 letter.
Bishop Hubbard and Bishop Blaire chair the USCCB Committees on International Justice and Peace and Domestic Justice and Human Development, respectively.
“A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons,” the bishops wrote. “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.”
The bishops also expressed their gratitude that the FY 2011 budget, which is scheduled for a vote this week, expands funding for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Fund, restores the ban on congressionally appropriated funds for abortion in the District of Columbia, and that spending cuts to programs that serve the poor are significantly less than originally proposed.
The bishops also offered a framework of three moral criteria that could guide budgetary decisions: “1. Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity. 2. A central moral measure of any budget proposal is 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. 3. 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 bishops wrote, “In light of growing deficits, Congress faces difficult choices about how to balance needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices. We welcome the efforts of those who have offered serious plans and encourage other leaders to do the same. These choices are economic, political, and moral. This important national discussion requires wise bipartisan leadership, clear priorities, and moral clarity.”
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/sdwp/2012-Budget-Letter-to-House-04-13-11.pdf