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ZENIT: US Bishops Remind Congress of Moral Issues in Budget Debate

Say It's Not About Which Party Wins, But How the Poor Are Treated

WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 27, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops are reminding Congress that the debate on budget cuts has a moral dimension to consider.

In a letter Tuesday to the House of Representatives, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, California, and Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, New York, proposed three points for Congressmen to consider when debating the budget.

The bishops acknowledged the challenge facing Congress: "fulfilling the demands of justice and moral obligations to future generations; controlling future debt and deficits; and protecting the lives and dignity of those who are poor and vulnerable."

They noted that the Church "brings both moral principles and everyday experience to this discussion."

And they offered three moral criteria "to help guide difficult 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."

Shared sacrifice
The prelates denounced a budget that relies "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," they observed.

The two bishops expressed fear at the "human and social costs" of cuts that will affect families and areas as basic as food and housing.

They also emphasized the need for solidarity with developing nations. "Such assistance supports a wide range of life-saving programs, including: drugs to combat diseases; assistance to poor farmers and orphans; food aid for starving people; aid to victims of natural disasters; and help to refugees fleeing for their lives," they recalled. "The House proposal will require massive cuts in all these areas."

Bishops Blaire and Hubbard affirmed that 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," they said, "are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources."

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