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Bishops praise budget resolution’s pro-life measures, lament cuts to the poor

Catholic World News - February 16, 2011

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are urging Congress not to slash international poverty assistance.

“The proposed Continuing Resolution makes over 26% in cuts for poverty-focused international assistance, but only 2.6% in cuts overall,” said Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, chairman of the USCCB committee on international justice and peace, and CRS President Ken Hackett in a February 14 letter. “Shared sacrifice is one thing; it is another to make disproportionate cuts in programs that serve the most vulnerable. It is morally unacceptable for our nation to balance its budget on the backs of the poor at home and abroad.”

Bishop Hubbard and the CRS president added:

These priority programs support a wide range of life-saving and dignity-preserving activities, including: agricultural assistance to poor farmers; drugs for people living with HIV and tuberculosis; cost-effective vaccines for preventable diseases; assistance to orphans and vulnerable children; mosquito nets to prevent malaria; food aid for famines, emergencies, and development; emergency health care, shelter, and reconstruction in disaster-devastated places like Haiti; peacekeepers to protect innocent civilians such as in Sudan and the Congo; assistance to migrants and refugees fleeing conflict or persecution; and debt relief for poor nations.

Cuts at the level being considered will result in the loss of innocent lives: persons with HIV no longer able to access life-saving anti-retroviral medications; refugees and victims of natural disaster succumbing to starvation and hunger-related illnesses; and poor families unable to grow what they need to survive. These funding reductions will also disrupt existing programs mid-stream, which undermines the impact of the program, the capacity of local partners, and ultimately the moral credibility of United States.

Bishop Hubbard and Hackett welcomed the pro-life provisions of the bill. “We do strongly approve of this bill’s restoration of the Mexico City Policy against funding groups that perform or promote abortion, and its denial of funding to the U.N. Population Fund which supports a program of coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization in China.”

“Unfortunately, the Continuing Resolution also makes dramatic cuts that are life-threatening.”

In a separate letter, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, chairman of the USCCB committee on domestic justice and human development, expressed concern about proposed domestic budget cuts to community health, housing, job training, and refugee assistance programs. Bishop Blaire praised the bill’s “retention of all appropriations riders against abortion funding, and its restoration of a consistent ban on such funding in the District of Columbia.”

Federal budget revenues for the current fiscal year are an estimated $2.17 trillion; expenses total an estimated $3.82 trillion, for a $1.65 trillion budget deficit. The national debt stood at $13.56 trillion at the beginning of the current fiscal year.

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