$50,000 a year for the next 10 years. That’s how much each church in the United States would have to spend in order to replace the Ryan budget’s $133 billion in cuts to nutrition programs for struggling families. (That’s not counting the additional $33 billion proposed by the House Agriculture Committee).
This finding comes from a new campaign by anti-hunger group Bread for the World to protect funding for food assistance programs that save lives and keep families afloat in these perilous economic times. The statistic stands in sharp contrast to the all-too-common conservative argument that churches and private charity will “pick up the slack” created by draconian budget cuts to safety net programs.
The reality, of course, is that charities are already stretched to their limits. The scope of need in America is just too large for them to handle on their own. In fact, pastors across the country have spoken out about how they can’t do it alone and are eager to partner with federal programs that provide.
Clergy echoed this message again on a Bread for the World conference call last week:
“You can’t get blood from a turnip,” said the Rev. Barb Hobe, pastor of Bethany United Church of Christ in Lebanon, Ohio. “My congregation numbers less than 50 people, and most are in the last third of their lives. We’re already reaching out to the poorest of the poor.”
Politicians who cut necessary safety net programs to pay for tax cuts for the rich and wasteful, unwanted military spending are doing religious communities no favors, regardless of how innocuous their rhetoric sounds.
In a letter released Thursday, Cardinal Dolan and New York State’s bishops express concern that “it is becoming increasingly difficult for the working poor of our state to make ends meet.”
Our sustained recession and painfully slow recovery have left many [full time, minimum wage] workers — often people of color and frequently the newest immigrants to our shores who therefore have the fewest support systems — on the brink of homelessness, with not enough in their paychecks to pay for the most basic of necessities, like food, medicine or clothing for their children.
The debate over minimum wage has intensified over the past few weeks, with the Republican-controlled Senate refusing to even consider the bill. The bishops, however, have made their position clear:
It is our hope and our prayer that the two sides could come together for some sort of action to address the grave problems facing the lowest-wage earners in our state. We believe an increase in the minimum wage is a matter of fairness and justice, and we hope it can be addressed soon.
One of the less visible dangers of rapidly increasing levels of student debt is the way that it limitsthe career options of young people entering the work force. Saddled with debt, graduates who feel called to pursue lower-paying non-profit and service jobs find themselves barred from doing so.
A story at MSNBC points out that this problem is affecting religious vocations too:
Nicole Ferko’s $60,000 in student loans made her put off her dream of becoming a nun for a decade.
Ferko, who lives in Grand Prairie, Texas, graduated from a private Ohio Catholic university in 2002 and walked away with a huge loan burden.
“I knew I wanted to give my life to God, but I expected after college I’d go right in and work toward becoming a sister,” she said. But she discovered that individuals looking to become priests or nuns need to be debt free.
It took her until late last year to pay off her loans because she was unable to find many good-paying jobs and ended up racking up $20,000 in credit card debt. With the loans and credit cards paid off, Ferko, 32, is now on track to become a sister with The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, but she won’t reach her ultimate goal of donning a nun’s habit until she’s 39 because the process takes that long.
Given the glaring shortage of clergy of all kinds in America right now, we don’t need more structural disincentives to lives of service.
In his speech at Georgetown University today, Paul Ryan opened by addressing a letter sent to him from nearly 90 faculty members critiquing his use of Catholic teaching to justify the GOP budget. Ryan’s response? “We just have to agree to disagree:”
I suppose there are some Catholics who for a long time have thought they had a monopoly of sorts… not exactly on heaven, but on the social teaching of our Church. Of course there can be differences among faithful Catholics on this.
The work I do as a Catholic holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it. What I have to say about the social doctrine of the Church is from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding to the problems of the day.
It’s certainly well within his right both as a legislator and an individual Catholic to do so, but he should really stop expressing surprise or outrage that his views are far outside the mainstream of Catholic teaching on economic justice.