Church leaders in New York called for continued efforts by both government and private charities to address high levels of poverty while respecting the human dignity of the poor.
“As the Church celebrates the feast of St. Vincent DePaul, we affirm that the poor must receive our special attention to ensure that they have basic necessities of life,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn.
In a joint statement issued Sept. 27, the bishops pointed to the example of St. Vincent de Paul, the 17th century saint known for his concern for the poor and the society in his name that continues the work of bringing charitable aid to those in need.
Such charitable effort, along with government aid, are important in relieving those suffering from the greatest poverty, they said.
Through soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other family and youth services, Catholics Charities in New York serves “literally hundreds of thousands of people each year – the neglected child, the homeless family, the hungry senior, the new immigrant to our shores,” they noted.
In addition to this important work, government “must continue to play its part as well,” they said.
The prelates pointed to recent statistics indicating that “a shocking number” of Americans are currently in poverty, and “recovery is nowhere in sight.”
With income declining and poverty on the rise, they observed, the current statistics “are overwhelming.”
“The basics human needs of good jobs, food, and housing continue to challenge tens of millions throughout this country,” they said.
The combination of a “persistent sluggish economic and slow pace of recovery” fails to provide the jobs for those in poverty to support themselves and offers fewer resources “for government to do its part for Americans in need,” they added.
“This is creating a situation that is devastating to struggling families throughout the country,” they warned.
But despite these ongoing struggles for people across the country, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop DiMarzio said, “we are fortunate that as a society we do try to provide for those struggling.”
“Government programs provide enormous support to poor Americans,” they noted. “In addition generous Americans contribute billions to charities each year.”
However, despite this generosity, “much more needs to be done” by both private charities and the government, they said.
“Throughout the history of the Church there has always been a preferential option for the poor,” the prelates explained.
They noted that “the commitment of the Church to the poor comes directly from Jesus and was first formally recognized by the appointment of deacons to cares for the Greek speaking widows.”
“This commitment and dedication continues and grows today throughout Catholic hospitals, charities and educational institutions,” they said. “All of these in their own way make service to the poor the hallmark of their work in building the common good.”
In addition, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop DiMarzio warned of rhetoric that “portrays poor people in a very negative way.”
“There is too much finger pointing and not enough joining hands,” they said. “Solidarity is critical to ensure the dignity of all.”