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USCCB laments effects of potential federal budget cuts; ‘we can do better’ on foreign aid

Catholic World News - November 19, 2013

In a letter to the leaders of a House-Senate conference committee on the federal budget, Bishop Stephen Blaire and Bishop Richard Pates lamented the effects of potential decreases in spending on domestic and foreign anti-poverty programs.

Throughout their letter, the bishops, who chair the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace respectively, criticized sequestration, or mandated cuts to certain areas of the budget.

“Our nation has a proud history of saving lives by providing international assistance in times of disaster and helping people overseas to work their way out of poverty,” the bishops stated. “However, our international assistance ranks near the bottom of donor countries as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). Donor countries give on average 0.45 percent of GDP; the U.S. only 0.2 percent. We can do better.”

“Last year the Office of Management and Budget estimated that fiscal year 2013 sequestration cuts alone could deprive 3.33 million people of life-saving food assistance and 276,500 of HIV/AIDS treatment, leading to about 63,000 more deaths and 124,000 more orphans,” they continued. “Since FY 2010 international assistance has been cut by almost 20 percent, and further cuts to these essential programs would erode our ability to reduce poverty and build a more prosperous, peaceful and secure world.”

“Domestically … as many as 125,000 families have potentially lost housing assistance already as a result of sequestration, and thousands more have been affected through cuts to programs serving the elderly, people with disabilities, people with AIDS, and those experiencing homelessness,” they stated. Young children would also suffer. Sequestration has already claimed 57,000 slots from Head Start programs, and imminent cuts will only lead to more children losing out on early education.”

Bishop Blaire and Bishop Pates added:

According to the Department of Labor, the average length of unemployment remains over nine months, and there are still about three job seekers for every available opening. In light of this prolonged economic pain, extending emergency unemployment benefits for those out of work the longest is the just and decent thing to do.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church unambiguously states it is the proper role of government to “make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on” (no. 1908). In many instances, the government is a partner with the Church and its ministries in accomplishing this work. Relieving sequestration in a balanced manner will allow the Church to continue its important work and reach more people in need.

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  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Nov. 20, 2013 12:04 AM ET USA

    I think the Catholic Church 'can do better' on foreign aid. Instead of wreckovating perfectly fine churches in America, how about sending that money to impoverished churches in third world countries? Any time the secular government partners with the Catholic Church, the Church gets co-opted.

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