WHAT IS THE ISSUE?
Poverty-focused international assistance saves lives and changes lives. It supports vaccinations for children who would otherwise die from preventable diseases. It ensures that people have access to clean water and sanitation so that they can live and stay healthy. It provides education to children who would otherwise remain illiterate. It responds to the basic needs of people-food, water and shelter-during catastrophic events.
Much of the funding for poverty-focused international assistance is not given to foreign governments, but rather to organizations such as Catholic Relief Services that work directly with poor and vulnerable communities. Charities like CRS match private funds with U.S. government funding to create far-reaching, effective programs that save lives, promote human dignity, foster peace, and build a sustainable future for people in poverty.
But this lifesaving assistance, which makes up less than 1% of our nation’s budget, is threatened by significant cuts that some in Congress are proposing to address our budget deficit. Balancing the budget is important but it requires shared sacrifice, not disproportionate cuts that will undermine our values, jeopardize the lives of our brothers and sisters living in poverty around the world, and further destabilize fragile societies.
WHY SHOULD PEOPLE OF FAITH CARE?
As Catholics, we are called to protect our brothers and sisters living in poverty overseas.
And as a blessed country, America has a special leadership role to protect the life and dignity of those most in need. We can’t abandon our brothers and sisters living in poverty now.
Our Church’s teaching emphasizes that the life and dignity of the human person is paramount. One value that expresses this teaching is that of solidarity: the belief that we are all one human family and that our fates are linked to each other. What happens to my brothers and sisters around the world has an affect on me and you.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church also calls on us to promote the common good by making “accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on.” (#1908) “It is the role of the state to defend and promote the common good of civil society, its citizens, and intermediate bodies.” (#1910)
That is why the Church has extensive experience helping our brothers and sisters in need throughout the world operating many missions, schools, health structures and humanitarian groups such as Catholic Relief Services. That is also why CRS and USCCB support robust U.S. poverty-focused international assistance. It helps poor and vulnerable communities worldwide thrive. Balancing the budget on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable people would be a grave injustice that would take generations to rectify.
Bill O’Keefe, Vice President for Government Relations and Advocacy, CRS
WHAT RESPONSE IS NEEDED?
In a time of austerity and fiscal restraints, we must give moral priority to programs that help poor and vulnerable people, both at home and abroad. Add your voice to the Catholics Confront Global Poverty initiative by urging policymakers to:
Preserve funding for poverty-focused international assistance that saves lives and reduces crushing poverty.
Protect those programs that serve the poorest and most vulnerable and make cuts in programs that do not serve the poorest communities if cuts are mandated in the broader international assistance budget.
Make reforms to our nation’s international assistance program and increase our commitment to poverty reduction by ensuring that sufficient resources are available to meet long-term development needs and address emerging and unanticipated humanitarian needs. USCCB and CRS also affirm strong support for restoring the Mexico City Policy against funding groups that perform or promote abortion.
Fiscal responsibility is important and requires bipartisan, balanced actions to address future unsustainable deficits. Additional revenues, cuts to defense and other unnecessary spending, and just and fair entitlement reform should be considered rather than disproportionate cuts to programs that serve poor and vulnerable people here at home and overseas.