Catholic Bishops Wade Into Budget Debate


As Congress struggles to balance our out-of-control federal budget, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has officially put its oar into the debate. In an open letter to congress, the USCCB (along with Catholic Relief Services), told federal budget-crunchers exactly what programs they thought should be sliced from the budget. And, (surprise surprise) they are the same programs that we at PRI recommend cutting.

The letter was specifically addressed to the ponderously-titled Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, which is essentially the group of lawmakers who decide how to spend our foreign aid dollars. In the letter, the USCCB gave a ringing endorsement to the Mexico City Policy, the Helms Amendment, and the Kemp-Kasten amendment, saying:

As you consider appropriations language, we strongly support restoring the Mexico City Policy against funding groups that perform or promote abortion, and denying funding to the U.N. Population Fund which supports a program of coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization in China.

It is also important to preserve the Helms Amendment, prohibiting U.S. funding for abortion, and the Kemp-Kasten provision, prohibiting support of organizations involved in programs of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.

Why does the Catholic leadership recommend these policy adjustments so forthrightly? Aren’t policy matters supposed to be prudential concerns, decided by the state and left alone by the Church?

Yes and no. Obviously, the Catholic Bishops Conference has no legislative authority. But when it comes to issues like abortion, the Church has always taken an unequivocal stance against the practice and has strongly opposed spending public money on it. And as such, it is well within the Church’s rights to make public recommendations based on these views.

Which is exactly what they did, by unequivocally supporting legislation that restricts or prohibits the use of federal money to fund abortion. By doing this, the Church made it abundantly clear that, while it supports many of the activities that federal foreign aid dollars go toward, it will never, ever bend on the issue of abortion.

That being said, the letter makes positive recommendations as well. According to the USCCB, when not being lavished on abortion and other destructive measures, American foreign aid funds are actually a very good thing. As such, the budget shouldn’t simply be haphazardly sliced, but should be trimmed in such a way that its positive programs can continue to do their important work.

“We welcome appropriate efforts to reduce our nation’s deficit and debt,” the letter says, “but we urge the Subcommittee to work with other members of Congress to be fiscally responsible in morally appropriate ways.”

And what, according to the Bishops, count as a “morally appropriate” way to control the budget? By prioritizing the dollars the way the Church has always requested they be prioritized: placing the poorest, the most vulnerable, and the weakest at the head of the line. The letter charges the Committee to “give priority to those who are poor and vulnerable at home and abroad” and to “cut with great care, eliminating only those expenses unrelated to basic human needs and development.”

This is a stinging blow in the face of all of those who claim that the Catholic Church is willing to cut an indiscriminate swathe through American aid services, so long as abortion is kept out of the picture. The very opposite is the case. The Church recognizes that its commitment to taking a stand against abortion comes with a very positive responsibility: a responsibility to provide real aid and succor to the poor and needy. This is why the Church supports many legitimate American aid projects.

And this is why the Church supports policies like the Mexico City Policy and others that protect life from conception. We couldn’t agree more. Stand with us, and the Catholic Bishops. Sign our petition to bring back the Mexico City policy.


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  • noelfitz

    Thank you. Mr Mason, for a great article.

    I like the ending:
    “The Church recognizes that its commitment to taking a stand against abortion comes with a very positive responsibility: a responsibility to provide real aid and succor to the poor and needy. This is why the Church supports many legitimate American aid projects.”

    The Church is more than an anti-abortion lobby group, and being pro-life is more than being anti-abortion.

    I also like the support of bishops in this article. We should hang together, lest we hang separately.

    Ant suggestions, anyone? I would like replies.

  • goral

    “cut with great care, eliminating only those expenses unrelated to basic human needs and development.”

    Rain with great care and rain only when the conditions do not in any way adversely affect human needs and development.

    With those two statements we will never see cuts nor will we ever see rain again.

  • noelfitz

    Thanks for your comments, Goral. I like to hear your views, as you are consistent, and I do not always agree with you.

    In these difficult times I need to cut my expenses, but only those which are not vital.

    I am reminded of Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. People should be able to live in decent and frugal comfort.

    In it I see:
    The Church “makes men supply for the lack of means through economy, teaching them to be content with frugal living”.

    “[W]ages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner.”

  • goral

    My ways are not your ways, Noelfitz, and God’s ways are different still. We would do well to remember that as we contend with our fellow man.
    The bishops and the politicians also have their own reality as they live a different life.
    I will consistently defend what I know to be right because I always pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit.

    Do I not have the right to protect my income and my family from the free-loaders who are pillaging the national treasury?
    Is my charity to be decided by those who cultivate a system that has ruined communities and nations?
    Am I required to support a financial arrangement that is taking out a “reverse mortgage” on our children’s future?

    Common sense tells us that we can’t sustain an ever increasing welfare state. We must cut, must!
    The whole mess has come to a head in my state and others and it is boiling over nationally. There has not been an ex-cathedra pronouncement but the sensible bishops see it too.

    Permanent, open-ended and institutionalized help is nothing short of evil as it demoralizes, debilitates and destroys both the giver and the receiver.

  • noelfitz


    thanks for your reply.

    You are fortunate that the Holy Spirit directs you and you do not need bishops or politicians, whom you claim “live a different life”. Does that mean you ignore what the pope, bishops and Church says?

    It is of interest to see what happened in the early Church.

    One reads:
    Let a widow be put on the list if she is not less than sixty years old and has been married only once (1 Tim 5:9)
    Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food (Acts 6:1)

    This implies that in the early Church those who needed support was given it.

  • goral

    Anyone can have the same fortune, Noelfitz. I don’t think I get more attention from the Holy Spirit than any other praying soul.
    Yes, people in different positions have a different lifestyle which greatly influences the way they look at things.
    No, I don’t ignore bishops and especially the one in Rome because my faith won’t let me.
    I don’t ignore politicians either, because they won’t let me.

    In fact I can’t even ignore your bible quote and comment that equates the help that the church gives to widows with the welfare that the state provides to single women who continue to have children out of wedlock just to get bennies. These hapless offspring the gov’t then continues to support in jails and in other unfortunate places.

    Here’s one “Hellenist” who looks at all the subsidies of sin that you call “widows” and says:
    What the hell!