CINCINNATI — Leaders of 11 Catholic human-services providers from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati are calling on lawmakers to protect the poor from the “fiscal cliff” by safeguarding funding to the programs that serve those in need.
The agencies reminded politicians that “it is through a partnership with an adequate federal safety net that the tireless work of our Catholic and all agencies, volunteers, and contributors can more effectively serve those in crisis.”
The consortium of agencies said it believes the best arrangement is for government and private religious groups to work together so that “we can more confidently guide those who are struggling to become self-sufficient, so everyone may fully realize the human dignity that God has given us all.”
In a policy statement presented at a Dec. 5 news conference, leaders of Catholic social aid groups repeated the call for federal budget discussions to establish a “circle of protection” around poverty aid programs.
In particular, they said, the needs of the poor must be remembered in discussions surrounding the impending “fiscal cliff” that the country will face in the form of automatic spending cuts and tax increases if Congress cannot agree on a deficit reduction plan by the end of the year.
Among the organizations represented in the statement were Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio, the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Cincinnati, St. Joseph Orphanage, Catholic Residential Services and Healthy Moms & Babes.
Led by Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, the Catholic leaders stressed the need for both “personal and social responsibility” in addressing the challenges posed by current levels of poverty and unemployment.
Representatives from the agencies also offered comments on the impact that their organizations — working together with government programs — are able to make by serving those in need, regardless of faith.
These services include crisis counseling, job training, educational programs and mental health services, as well as food, shelter and emergency assistance, migration services and support for difficult pregnancies.
“The programs included in the ‘circle of protection’ are not at odds with good fiscal policy and a strong economy,” said Liz Carter, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul, Cincinnati. “Rather, they are perfectly aligned to the long-term goals that are so important to building strong, vibrant communities and a strong nation.”
With nearly half a million Catholics, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati covers 19 counties and includes 214 parishes and 114 Catholic primary and secondary schools.
“Combined, our Catholic human service agencies served over 415,000 people last year, totaling over $90 million in assistance to those whom Jesus Christ commands us to serve,” the agencies noted in their statement.
However, they stressed, even with this tremendous impact, “(a)ll of our agencies together, even in conjunction with the many other secular and faith-based agencies in our communities, cannot meet the material needs of everyone.”
Therefore, they explained, Catholic assistance groups in the archdiocese act “in partnership with essential government programs that provide a reasonable safety net to those in crisis while they work to get back on their feet.”
“This is particularly important during our lingering economic downturn,” they observed.
The agencies pointed to three principles offered by the U.S. bishops to guide budget decisions.
These include assessing each budget decision by “whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity” and how it affects “the least of these,” making the needs of the poor, unemployed, hungry and homeless a priority.
Furthermore, the bishops have pointed to a “shared responsibility” between government and other institutions to “promote the common good of all,” particularly workers and families struggling to “live in a manner worthy of their dignity in difficult economic times.”
The Catholic agencies echoed the bishops’ acknowledgment that it is in the best interest of the country to “address the impact of long-term deficits on the health of the economy and on future generations,” as well as to efficiently and effectively use the limited resources available.
“However, this important goal must not be achieved at the expense of the dignity of the poor and vulnerable at home and abroad,” they said.