Bringing Good News to a Broken World: The "Least of These" Cannot Be Left Behind
|In times of terror and war, of global insecurity and economic uncertainty, of disrespect for human life and human dignity, we need to return to basic moral principles. Politics cannot be merely about ideological conflict, the search for partisan advantage, or political contributions. It should be about fundamental moral choices. How do we protect human life and dignity? How do we fairly share the blessings and burdens of the challenges we face? What kind of nation do we want to be? What kind of world do we want to shape?
Catholic leaders from around the country come to Washington to speak for "the least of these" (Matthew 25) at home and abroad. We seek to recommit our nation to overcoming poverty and seeking peace. In our country, too many families are still left behind and suffer the consequences of unemployment and poverty. Our world is broken by violence. We come to our nation's capital to seek policies that protect human life and dignity and build justice and peace on the Gulf Coast, across our nation and around the world.
For us, the test for this Congress will be how its choices touch the lives and dignity of all, especially the voiceless and vulnerable in the United States and around the world. As Catholic leaders, we bring to Capitol Hill our moral convictions and everyday experience in serving those in need. Around the world, our Catholic relief and mission organizations know the pain and suffering caused by armed conflict, crushing poverty, disease, and famine. We support measures to make our country and the world not only safer places, but better places.
We stand together against the fundamental denial of human life by abortion and the assault on human dignity by poverty. In a time of budget deficits, we call on Congress to address first the needs of the least and the forgotten at home and abroad. In a time of war and terror, we urge a civil dialogue and a responsible transition in Iraq and greater investment in hope and development around the world. We ask our leaders to protect the dignity of all and to promote authentic development around the world as an essential strategy in the struggle against terrorism. At a time of massive deficits, the Congress faces difficult fiscal choices, but poor children and families should not bear the greatest burdens and sacrifices.
A fundamental moral measure of our nation's budget policy is whether it enhances or undermines the lives and dignity of the most vulnerable people at home and abroad. Budget choices are moral choices. Spending decisions and tax policies should reflect a priority for the poor and the need for resources to meet basic human needs. We continue to urge Congress to adequately fund essential investments to overcome poverty and hunger and provide decent health care and housing in our nation. We urge Congress to fully fund and build upon the Administration's commitments to debt relief, development assistance and addressing HIV/AIDS and other deadly diseases for the world's poorest of the poor. We come to Capitol Hill to urge priority action in four key areas:
Our immigration system is broken. Eleven million undocumented persons reside in the United States. Most of these people work in industries vital to the U.S. economy. But their undocumented status leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination. Most immigrants seek a better life for themselves and their families. They contribute to the U.S. economy and their communities. We oppose punitive measures which will do little to fix a broken immigration policy. The Catholic community urges support of important and useful reforms in the U.S. legal immigration system including:
- a temporary worker program with appropriate protections for both U.S. and foreign workers;
- a broad-based, earned legalization for the undocumented who have proof of U.S. employment and a proficiency in English;
- reduced waiting times for family reunification; and
- restoration of fundamental due process for immigrants.
Catholic teaching on the use of the death penalty is clear: "If non-lethal means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity with the dignity of the human person" (Catechism of the Catholic Church). As part of the U.S. Catholic bishops' Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty, we urge Congress to resist efforts to make it easier to put people to death by streamlining "habeas corpus" procedures. Specifically, we urge Congress to reject S. 1088. This legislation removes basic Constitutional protections for those condemned to die. We also oppose efforts to use the Patriot Act to expand the categories of crimes subject to the death penalty.
Foreign Aid/Development Assistance
Poverty, hunger and disease devastate the lives and dignity of our brothers and sisters across the world. Nearly three billion struggle on less than $2 per day. Health crises such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria threaten the future of whole generations. Fighting poverty, hunger and disease is not just a policy option. It is a moral choice that builds solidarity, enhances national security, and protects the lives and dignity of the poorest people on earth.
We urge Congress to allocate adequate resources to offer hope and help to "the least of these" in our world and support:
- at least $5 billion for development and humanitarian assistance for poor countries, especially those in Africa and Latin America, including $150 million for basic needs of the Palestinians, primarily through appropriate NGOs;
- at least $2 billion for Title II Food for Peace and authorizing up to 25% for local purchase of food;
- least $4 billion for morally appropriate programs to combat HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, including 15 targeted countries and others facing AIDS crises, notably in Africa;
- at least $1.1 billion to fulfill the US promise to cancel debt owed to the World Bank and US;
- 3 billion for the Millennium Challenge Account and giving priority to the poorest countries; and
- the "Mexico City policy" to prevent foreign aid from being used by organizations that promote abortion, and the Kemp-Kasten amendment to prohibit funding coercive population programs.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for a "serious and civil" dialogue to bring about a "responsible transition" in Iraq. "[W]e need a forthright discussion that begins with an honest assessment of the situation in Iraq and acknowledges both the mistakes that have been made and the signs of hope that have appeared. Our nation's military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as it takes for a responsible transition, leaving sooner rather than later." We urge Congress to support these benchmarks for a "responsible transition":
- achieving adequate levels of security and establishing the rule of law;
- promoting economic reconstruction; and
- supporting political structures to advance stability, political participation, and respect for religious freedom and human rights.
- confronting terrorism without using excessive military force that endangers civilians or abuses prisoners, and without relying solely on military methods to combat terrorism;
- protecting religious liberty in Iraq, especially for Christians and other religious minorities;
- providing more support for Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers; and
- resisting the temptation to ignore other pressing needs, especially the poor at home and abroad.
|We renew our call for a new kind of politics--focused on moral principles not on the latest polls, on the needs of the poor and vulnerable not the contributions of the rich and powerful, and on the pursuit of the common good not the demands of special interests.
Faithful Citizenship, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Administrative Committee
For more information contact:
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Department of Social Development & World Peace
(202) 431-3180 or firstname.lastname@example.org