Catholic social teaching’s message to the national budget

By Tony Magliano

Thirty plus years ago, the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote a very challenging pastoral letter titled “Economic Justice for All.” In their opening statement they prophetically declared, “Every perspective on economic life that is human, moral and Christian must be shaped by three questions: What does the economy do for people? What does it do to people? And how do people participate in it?”

Unfortunately, most government leaders throughout the world do not seriously consider these highly moral questions when formulating their national budgets. For if they did, world ills like poverty, hunger and homelessness would virtually disappear.

With the world’s largest budget, the United States is a prime example here.

According to the anti-poverty Christian organization Bread for the World (BFW), the U.S. government allocates less than one percent of the federal budget for international poverty-focused development assistance (see: http://www.bread.org/us-federal-budget).

Not only is this amount of aid unjust and seriously lacking in heartfelt compassion, but every year caring individuals and groups like BFW and Catholic Relief Services have to strenuously lobby members of Congress to appropriate at least this relatively small amount to aid the world’s poorest of the poor (see: https://bit.ly/2WjHS5Z).

Recently President Trump presented Congress with his federal budget which according to the international aid organization Oxfam proposes to cut the already relatively small amount of development and economic assistance by 23 percent, and to cut global health aid by 28 percent (see: https://bit.ly/2FjsNKz).

Considering the tragic fact that over 800 million people throughout the world are hungry, over 100 million families lack clean water, and over 2 billion people have no access to safe sanitation (see: https://bit.ly/2YkvkwW) and https://bit.ly/2HLalNS), the proposed budget cuts to international poverty-focused development assistance is unconscionable.

According to the National Priorities Project, as President Trump attempts to slash funding for Veteran Affairs, Department of Education and NASA, he is at the same time urging Congress to increase the military budget by $34 billion – to an astronomical total of $750 billion in fiscal year 2020 (see: https://bit.ly/2Feekkv).

According to Catholic Charities USA, President Trump’s proposed budget also cuts domestic anti-poverty programs including $17 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and $1 billion from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Please email and call your two U.S. senators and representative (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) urging them to reject President Trump’s budget cuts to domestic anti-poverty programs and international poverty-focused development assistance programs. Instead, ask them to robustly increase spending.

In there landmark pastoral letter “Economic Justice for All,” the U.S. bishops listed six moral principles to guide Catholics and all people of good will:

  • “Every economic decision and institution must be judged in light of whether it protects or undermines the dignity of the human person.
  • “Human dignity can be realized and protected only in community.
  • “All people have a right to participate in the economic life of society.
  • “All members of society have a special obligation to the poor and vulnerable.
  • “Human rights are the minimum conditions for life in community.
  • “Society as a whole, acting through public and private institutions, has the moral responsibility to enhance human dignity and protect human rights.”

During Lent please consider prayerfully reading the pastoral letter’s opening section subtitled “Principal Themes of the Pastoral Letter” (see: http://www.usccb.org/upload/economic_justice_for_all.pdf).

Over 30 years ago I read “Economic Justice for All.” And now as I review it, I see clearly that its prophetic wisdom is as challenging and necessary today as it was then.

 

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.


The radical call of Lent

By Tony Magliano

Imagine you’re sitting in front of your doctor, and he says that your health definitely needs to improve.  He then looks you square in the eyes and says, “If you wish to live a healthy long life, you must stop eating junk food and living a sedentary lifestyle, and start eating plenty of healthy foods and exercise every day.”

Your doctor’s wakeup call to you here would demand a radical physical lifestyle change. That is, if you wish to live a healthy long life.

At Lent’s beginning on Ash Wednesday, many of us were signed on our foreheads with a cross of ashes and told to “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

That sign, and those words, from the Divine Physician are a radical spiritual wakeup call to all of us who wish to live healthy spiritual lives now in this world and to prepare well for the next world in eternity.

Being crossed with ashes is meant to alert us that our bodies will soon be much like the ashes on our foreheads. It should be a sober reminder that this life is coming to a quick close and that we have no time to lose in turning away from the evil of sin, that is, all that hurts and separates us from God, others, creation and ourselves. And to be faithful to the Gospel!

In this year’s papal Lenten message (see: https://bit.ly/2EfkGyc), Pope Francis warns us that “Once God’s law, the law of love, is forsaken, then the law of the strong over the weak takes over. The sin that lurks in the human heart (Mk 7:20-23) takes the shape of greed and unbridled pursuit of comfort, lack of concern for the good of others and even of oneself. It leads to the exploitation of creation, both persons and the environment, due to that insatiable covetousness which sees every desire as a right and sooner or later destroys all those in its grip.”

But more than any other time, Lent is the season for conversion – a radical change of mind and heart, a time to walk out of the darkness of sin and into the merciful, peaceful, joyful, loving light of Christ Jesus! And the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) is a wonderful heavenly gift to help us advance along the lifelong process of conversion.

Additionally, the three holy practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving –especially stressed during Lent – are indispensible to our growth in the life of the Spirit – which is the Kingdom of God.

“Fasting,” Pope Francis astutely says, is about “learning to change our attitude towards others and all creation, turning away from the temptation to ‘devour’ everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts.

“Prayer, which teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego, and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and his mercy.

“Almsgiving, whereby we escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves”

Every day several thousand children die from hunger and hunger related diseases. This is completely preventable. The anti-hunger/anti- poverty Christian organization Bread for the World is asking us to email and call (capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) our two U.S. senators and representative urging them to support $250 million for global malnutrition programs.

And please consider a Lenten donation to our starving brothers and sisters in South Sudan (see: https://bit.ly/2H7wt5w).

“Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel!”

 

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.