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BUDGET-DOLAN (SECOND UPDATE) Apr-17-2012 (980 words) xxxn

House member to Cardinal Dolan: Urge Congress to make poor a priority

By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Catholic Democratic House member has urged New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan to call on Congress to prioritize the needs of poor and vulnerable Americans as the 2013 federal budget is debated.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., ranking Democrat on the labor, health and human services and education subcommittee, suggested in an interview with Catholic News Service April 16 that the U.S. bishops, and Cardinal Dolan in particular, might do well to open a public campaign to protect programs aiding the country's poor.

DeLauro outlined her concerns in an April 13 letter to Cardinal Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The 22-year member of Congress cited the recent passage in the House of Representatives of the 2013 budget resolution that was written by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. She said the plan would be devastating to millions of out-of-work and low-income Americans.

New York archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling told CNS the afternoon of April 17 that Cardinal Dolan had received the letter but had no immediate response.

DeLauro told CNS that the budget deserved as much attention from Cardinal Dolan and the nation's bishops as that being given in a two-week campaign in support of religious freedom June 21-July 4.

The bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty announced the "fortnight for freedom" April 12, saying American Catholics must resist unjust laws "as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith."

The ad hoc committee's statement cited several concerns affecting religious freedom including the Department of Health and Human Services' mandate that most health plans must include contraception, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs free of charge as well as efforts in several states to restrict the rights of churches to practice their faith in areas as diverse as assisting immigrants and the adoption of children.

Budget issues have been addressed several times since early March by the USCCB.

The bishops' basic message has been that Congress should base budget decisions on whether they protect or threaten human life and dignity and if they promote the common good of "workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times." They have called for cuts in military spending to be on the table as well as consideration of new revenue streams to help balance the federal budget.

Letters from the chairmen of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the Committee on International Justice and Peace to various House and Senate committees have addressed preserving funding for food stamps as opposed to farm subsidies to agribusiness and large growers; domestic and international nutrition programs; housing support for the elderly, the disabled, people with AIDS, veterans and homeless people; and leaving in place the child tax credit.

DeLauro told CNS the church's moral standing in society would lend a strong voice as the country weighed its priorities and responsibilities.

"What I am asking for is a campaign for the poor, the hungry, the middle class, the people who are going to be eviscerated by the Ryan budget," DeLauro said.

DeLauro's letter cited her Catholic faith, which she said guided her entry into public life and continues to frame her view on the role of government in society.

"My church, the Catholic Church, needs to speak out loud on this issue," she said.

The budget resolution passed largely along party lines, 228-191. Only 10 Republicans voted against the resolution while no Democrats supported it. Other budget proposals, including those from the White House and Democratic House members, were rejected.

For his part, Ryan has said his budget reduces spending on nonmilitary programs as a step toward significantly reducing the country's $15 trillion budget deficit. The budget also calls for simplifying the tax code by closing loopholes and lowering individual and corporate tax rates. Under the plan the highest tax rates would be set at 25 percent, down from 35 percent.

Actual funding allocations will be set beginning this summer in subcommittee hearings. Fiscal year 2013 begins Oct. 1.

In a March 27 interview, Ryan told CNS that his budget stems from his Catholic faith and is rooted in the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, that is relegating decision-making and action to the most local level. That points to government having a limited role in helping poor and vulnerable people, Ryan said.

"We want a safety net for those who cannot help themselves," Ryan explained. "But programs should not be designed to enable able-bodied people to lapse into complacency and dependence. ... We're saying it's better to circumscribe these programs to be targeted away from people with means to people without means."

Such thinking distorts Catholic social teaching, said a group of 59 Catholic social justice leaders, theologians, religious and clergy.

"Simply put, this budget is morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good. A budget that turns its back on the hungry, the elderly and the sick while giving more tax breaks to the wealthiest few can't be justified in Christian terms," the group said in a statement hours before DeLauro released her letter to Cardinal Dolan.

Citing the bishops' March 6 letter, the group asked Ryan to "refrain from distorting church teaching to give moral cover to a budget that fails to live up to our nation's best values and highest ideals.

Among the signers were Nicholas P. Cafardi, law professor at Duquesne University; Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International; Francis X. Doyle, retired associate general secretary of the USCCB, Sister Mary Ann Hinsdale, an Immaculate Heart of Mary sister and associate professor of theology at Boston College; Jesuit Father John F. Kavanaugh, professor of philosophy at St. Louis University; Daniel C. Maguire, professor of moral theology at Marquette University; and Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America.


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