The US Conference of Catholic Bishops have sent a letter to Congress while it debates the continuing resolution that would fund the federal government, which is now under a partial shutdown due to disagreement between President Barack Obama and Congressional Republicans, urging Congress to fulfill its fundamental role of government and to respond to the challenges that arise, in the country and abroad. 
 
Bishop José H. Gomez  of Los Angeles, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton CA, and Bishop Richard E. Pates  of Des Moines IA, presented the letter to both the House and Senate and cited urgent issues, including: U.S. unemployment, and the welfare of refugees streaming out of Syria.
 
The bishops offered moral criteria to help guide the legislators:
 
“1. Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity. 
 
2. A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Mt 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first. 
 
3. Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, 
especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times. 
 
A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.”
 
Furthermore, wrote the bishops, "the Catholic Bishops of the United States are ready to work with leaders of both parties for a budget that reduces future unsustainable deficits, protects the poor and most vulnerable, advances the common good and promotes human life and dignity".
 
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the proper role of government is to "make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life", including food, clothing, health, education and culture, recall the Bishops. "In our country today, millions of Americans struggle to meet these basic needs, through no fault of their own, as a result of an economy that continues to fail to create sufficient economic opportunities" is what os written in the statement. "
 
Last year, the poverty rate remained at a 20-year high, over 1 in 5 children lived in poverty, and 49 million Americans were food-insecure". The statement adds that there are 23 million Americans unemployed or underemployed.  Also, there are currently some 43 million Americans receiving food stamps: an unprecedented number.

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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