The Catholic Democrats have joined forces with religious leaders across the country in calling on Congress to turn back from pending legislation meant to punish the poor in America for the costs of the pending Gulf Coast reconstruction. Rep. Roy Blunt and nearly 200 of his Republican colleagues in the House have indicated their willingness to gut Medicare (health care for the elderly and disabled) and Medicaid (care for the poor), food stamps, and student loan programs in order to pay for more than $100 billion of new tax cuts and the ongoing budgetary black hole of the war in Iraq. The House leadership sought to bypass the normal deliberative process and to rush through these devastating and immoral budget cuts, but were forced to postpone voting due to universal Democratic opposition.
Religious leaders across the country have reacted with outrage. Presiding Episcopal Bishop Frank Griswold issued a statement: "Congress and the President must come together and focus on poverty that exists across the nation, and not exacerbate poverty…Nothing could be clearer in the Gospel than Jesus' identification with the poor. 'When I was hungry you gave me food. When I was naked you clothed me, sick you cared for me, truly I tell you, what you did for the least of these, you did (it) for me.' And so for a nation to declare itself under God and neglect the poor in its midst is tantamount in my mind to blasphemy." At its recent meeting, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church in America passed a resolution calling on Congress "to pass a budget that does not pit one group in need against another and calls for more money overall to care for the country's most vulnerable residents."
The National Council of Churches, representing Baptists, Friends, Evangelical Lutherans, Greek Orthodox, and Presbyterians among others, issued a statement: "As leaders of America's major faith communities, we write to you at a moment of great moral urgency for our nation when hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable citizens are at risk. We urge you to put aside partisan politics and pass a federal budget that reflects the moral priorities of the wide majority of Americans. We urge you to work for, not against, the common good of all of America's citizens and not just a privileged few."
At a time when the Bush Administration is making threatening statements against Iran and Syria, failing to offer any reassurance that they do not intend permanent military occupation of Iraq, and initiating new programs for the renewal of nuclear testing and the weaponization of space, the idea of stealing funds from poor Americans to pay for all this militarism is the height of immorality. As Catholics, in support of our Church’s significant contributions to care for the poor in America, we denounce efforts in Congress to rush through legislation that mendaciously exploits the Gulf Coast hurricanes to cut the social safety net for all those who have been confined to or pushed into poverty by the economic policies of the current administration.