WASHINGTON (July 26, 2001) -- The U.S. Bishops recently welcomed House passage of legislation on faith-based initiatives and called on the Senate to look beyond partisan politics in its work on companion legislation.
"We hope that the debate over this proposal in the Senate can be conducted on a more bipartisan basis that focuses on our shared concerns about the scandal of so much poverty in our country. We must not allow partisanship and ideological polarization to keep us from pursuing creative solutions that have the potential to help real people gain independence from violence, addiction and poverty," the bishops said in a July 23 letter signed by Cardinal Roger Mahony, Chairman of the Bishops' Domestic Policy Committee.
The letter was sent to Senators Joseph Lieberman and Rick Santorum, authors of Senate legislation on the tax components of the faith-based initiative proposal, and Majority Leader Thomas Daschle and Minority Leader Trent Lott.
"The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops supports President Bush's Faith-Based and Community Initiatives proposal and legislation to advance its goals, because we believe they will put new tools in the hands of those struggling daily to overcome poverty and address the problems in their neighborhoods," the letter said. "We welcome the passage by the House of Representatives of H.R. 7, the Community Solutions Act, as a significant step forward," they said, and offered "support and assistance in passing similar legislation in the Senate."
The letter outlined the USCCB rationale.
"In many communities where disinvestment and discrimination exacerbate the problems of addiction, family disintegration, and violence, churches and community-based charities are often the only institutions still there and able to address the pervasive poverty of their neighbors," the letter said. "The faith-based initiatives proposal recognizes that religious groups can be effective partners with government and community organizations in providing social services, without jeopardizing their identity and integrity or undermining the rights and dignity of those in need.
"It is also important to acknowledge that the work of faith-based and community groups, though important, cannot substitute for just public policy and the responsibilities of the larger society, including the federal government. They cannot replace needed government action to address the more than 40 million Americans without health care, the many children who go to bed hungry and the millions of families who work every day but cannot provide a decent future for their children. Our nation still needs significant public investments in health care, nutrition, child care and housing, and the government has an indispensable role in assuring that the basic needs of the American people are met.
"We have long worked with you and your colleagues in the Senate to ensure that the needs of our most vulnerable citizens are met, and will continue to do so. As a part of that joint effort, we look forward now to working with you to develop and pass legislation advancing the faith-based initiatives proposal."