Bishops Stephen Blaire and Richard Pates, the chairmen respectively of the Committee on Domestic Justice and the Committee on International Justice and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), have written members of the House of Representatives to “ to address the moral and human dimensions of the federal budget.”
“We join with other Christian leaders in calling for a ‘circle of protection’ around our brothers and sisters at home and abroad who are poor and vulnerable,” the prelates said in their March 6 letter.
“Our nation has an obligation to address the impact of future deficits on the health of the economy, to ensure stability and security for future generations, and to use limited resources efficiently and effectively,” they continued. “A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons; 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 added:
“We support proposals in the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget to strengthen programs that serve poor and vulnerable people, such as Pell Grants and improved workforce training and development. We also support proposals to restore cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as well as efforts to make permanent recent expansions of low-income tax credits.”
“Our Conference believes safe and affordable housing is essential for human dignity. We do not support the Administration’s proposal to increase the minimum amount of rent that can be charged to families receiving housing assistance.”
“The Conference does not support the entire foreign operations budget, but we strongly support poverty-focused international assistance … We ask Congress to increase support for poverty-focused assistance and to continue to reform international aid so it is even more effective for the poorest people in the poorest places on the planet.”
“We are also very concerned with proposals to eliminate the “firewall” that currently exists between defense and nondefense spending. Elimination of this firewall would mean that poverty-related domestic and international programs would compete with other more powerful interests and less essential priorities.”
Bishop Blaire and Bishop Pates also weighed in on health care and criticized the Obama administration’s opposition to vouchers for schoolchildren in the District of Columbia.
“We strongly oppose the Administration’s proposal to eliminate funding for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides vital assistance to poor families in the nation’s capital in seeking out high-quality education for their children,” they said. “Access to affordable, life-affirming health care that respects religious freedom remains an urgent national priority. Rising health care costs contribute in major ways to increased government spending. We warn against shifting rising health care costs to vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities, and those who are poor, without controlling these costs.”