At a time when conservatives are positioning themselves as defenders of the Catholic Church on religious liberties and contraception, they seem to be far off from the Church’s teachings on other public policy issues.
While many conservatives belittle and mock anyone who takes assistance from the government, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a letter to lawmakers this week urging them not to cut funding for social safety net programs that help the poor, many of which have been targeted by Republican lawmakers in their quest to implement austerity to reduce the budget deficit.
“We fear the pressure to cut vital programs that protect the lives and dignity of the poor and vulnerable will increase,” wrote Bishops Stephen Blaire and Richard Pates, the Chairmen of the Committee on Domestic Justice and the Committee on International Justice, respectively.
Specifically, they singled out spending on health care, Pell Grants, affordable housing — which they called “essential for human dignity” — and food stamps. Just today, Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) panel on government oversight held a hearing on food stamp fraud that critics saw as pretense to gin up sentiment in favor of making cuts to the program.
And as many lawmakers are trying to undo the defense cuts contained in the “sequestration” triggered by last summer’s debt ceiling deal, the bishops suggested that defense should not be spared while social programs get cut:
We are also very concerned with proposals to eliminate the “firewall” that currently exists between defense and nondefense spending. Elimination of this firewall would mean that poverty-related domestic and international programs would compete with other more powerful interests and less essential priorities.