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Catholic leaders urge Congress to reduce spending wisely

.- Governmental budget cuts should not interfere with aid to the world’s poorest people, the U.S. bishops and Catholic Relief Services said in a letter to the House of Representatives.

“The United States has a moral imperative to maintain its commitment to assist the poorest people in the poorest places on earth as they face the global impacts of the economic downturn, climate change, and food crisis,” said Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, in a July 5 letter co-authored with Catholic Relief Services President Ken Hackett.

On July 6, the House Appropriations Committee released its proposed 2012 budget for the legislative branch of the U.S. government. The committee chairman said he wants Congress to set an example of reducing government spending, to help bring the nation's budget under control.
 
“Congress has asked every agency in the federal government to rein in spending and do more with less, and we should do the same,” said House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.).
 
But the U.S. bishops, motivated by Catholic social teachings including solidarity and the preferential option for the poor, remain concerned about the effects of the spending cuts at home and abroad – particularly in the area of humanitarian foreign aid.
 
Hackett and Bishop Hubbard urged the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs to be “fiscally responsible in morally appropriate ways” when working with Congress.

They asked that the House allocate funds in a balanced manner, and give appropriate priority to those most in need.
 
“The subcommittee must cut with great care, eliminating only those expenses unrelated to basic human needs and development,” said Hacket and Bishop Hubbard.

They expressed concern about the proposed repetition of last year's Foreign Affairs budget cut, noting that “life-saving programs” lost 8.4 percent of their funding from 2010 to 2011. They said further cuts “would be disproportionate and life-threatening to the world’s poorest people.”
 
Other critical programs said to be at stake in the budget reductions include medical and emergency care programs, agricultural assistance, and civilian protection. The bishops and Catholic Relief Services have identified these programs as “critical,” “poverty-focused,” and in need of “robust funding.”
 
However, the authors of the letter acknowledged room for cuts to the programs, saying Congress should “subject poverty-focused services to careful scrutiny so as to eliminate waste and duplication.”
 
The U.S. bishops and Catholic Relief Services said they were “ready to work with leaders of both parties for a budget that reduces future deficits, protects poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad, advances the common good, and promotes human life and dignity.”


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