Friday, July 22, 2011

Religious leaders to deficit negotiators: Put ‘Circle of protection’ around the vulnerable

A delegation of religious leaders met with President Obama and congressional leaders July 20 to urge that current negotiations on the deficit and debt protect programs for the most vulnerable, including the poor and hungry.

Congress and the Administration, they said, must consider these moral criteria to guide their 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.

Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, representing U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCC), told the President that the bishops are not advocating “a particular plan, but a fundamental moral principle: put the needs of the poor first in allocating scarce resources…The poor have no powerful lobbyists, but they have the most powerful moral claim on this process. Please do all you can to defend the poor and vulnerable in all you say and do at this moment of crisis and the hard days ahead.”

“Your Members of Congress need to hear the same message,” a USCC statement on July 22 said, and described how to reach them through the phone and Internet.

Most delegation members belong to the “Circle of Protection,” a new initiative to spare federal programs for the neediest.

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