House Bill 1385 would deny applicants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program assistance if they fail a drug test.
While drug use may interfere with a parent’s ability to obtain and keep a job, denying the parent needed assistance and returning him or her to the streets benefits neither the individual nor society. It is especially counterproductive and unwise to deny and delay benefits to a parent willing to immediately enter treatment.
As Pope Benedict XVI has reminded us, even government aid programs must be informed by the spirit of charity. This means that we must meet the person’s needs, whether or not we think he or she deserves it.
Contact your Representatives and ask them to vote NO on HB 1385. Drug testing recipients may have a purpose, but it should not be used to refuse a family their basic needs.
Contact by email or phone: 1-888-NDLEGIS (635-3447) or 701-328-3373 (local).
One of the early Christian Church Fathers, Saint John Chrysostom, addressed head-on the tension between our call to care and our human tendency to judge a person’s worthiness. Drawing on Abraham, Paul, and Christ himself, Chrysostom reminded his flock that when it comes to addressing a person’s need, all that matters is that person’s need. To judge a person’s worthiness is not an act of charity. Here’s some of what he said:
“Charity is so called because we give it even to the unworthy.”
“The poor man has one plea, his want and his standing in need: do not require anything else from him; but even if he is the most wicked of all men and is at a loss for his necessary sustenance, let us free him from hunger.”
“For if you wish to show kindness, you must not require an accounting of a person’s life, but merely correct his poverty and fill his need.”
“When you see on earth the man who has encountered the shipwreck of poverty, do not judge him, do not seek an account of his life, but free him from his misfortune.”
“Need alone is the poor man’s worthiness . . .”
“We do not provide for the manners, but for the man.”
“We show mercy on him not because of his virtue but because of his misfortune, in order that we ourselves may receive from the Master His great mercy . . .”
Every public assistance program should be informed by charity and as St. John Chrysostom reminded us as far back as the Fourth Century: “Charity is so called because we give it even to the unworthy.”
On Monday the North Dakota Catholic Conference joined legislators, administrators of social service programs, and child advocates to oppose legislation to mandate drug testing for all applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Christopher Dodson, executive director of the conference stated: “A fundamental criterion for our state’s welfare policy should be protecting human life and human dignity in the spirit of charity. We feel House Bill 1385 fails this test.”
“While drug use may interfere with a parent’s ability to obtain and keep a job, denying the parent needed assistance and returning him or her to the streets benefits neither the individual nor society. It is especially counterproductive and unwise to deny and delay benefits to a parent willing to immediately enter treatment,” Dodson told the House Human Services Committee.
The most important reason to defeat the bill is that it violates the spirit of charity that should guide any public assistance program. Quoting Pope Benedict XVI, Dodson stated: “If any government assistance exists, however, the dignity of the human person requires policies in conformity with principles of charity rather than paternalist social assistance that is demeaning to those in need.”
The North Dakota Catholic Conference testified today against weakening the state’s Sunday Closing Law. HB 1437 would allow political subdivisions to exempt cities and counties from the law.
Christopher Dodson, Executive Director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference defended the existing law stating:
The purpose of the law is to preserve the common good by ensuring that society is not overtaken by work and profit. Humans and communities need periods of rest and free time that allow them to tend to family, cultural, social, and religious life. Only when communities set aside time devoted to these functions can human persons prosper and develop.
Bishop Blaire, Bishop Pates Urge Congress To Protect The Poor, Future Generations As Sequestration Looms
Congress should avoid measures that harm at-risk students, low-income families and people currently benefiting from poverty-focused international assistance, according to a letter from the bishops who oversee the justice and peace efforts of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“As you work to avoid sequestration and enact responsible deficit reduction that protects poor persons from cuts and future generations from unsustainable debts, we hope longstanding moral principles and values will inform your decisions,” wrote Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, in a November 13 letter to the House and Senate. Bishop Blaire and Bishop Pates chair the USCCB Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, respectively.
The bishops said Pope Benedict XVI warns against “downsizing of social security systems” and emphasizes “solidarity with poor countries” and asked Congress to weigh the “human and moral consequences” of numerous policy choices, including:
- Section 8 housing vouchers, the Women, Infant and Children’s (WIC) program and community health centers, which “help to keep children and families with a roof over their heads, with food on the table, and in good health.”
- Title I-A, which supports struggling low-income students, Title II-A, which supports the professional development of teachers, and IDEA, which supports students with disabilities.
- Poverty focused international assistance, which comprise less than one percent of the federal budget and “save lives, treat and prevent disease, make farmers more productive, help orphans, feed victims of disaster, and protect refugees.”
- The Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and Pell Grants, which assist “people living in or near poverty.”
“We have great concerns that sequestration would negatively affect many important domestic programs that meet the basic needs of people and communities in poverty,” the bishops wrote and urged Congress to “act in a bipartisan manner to address the impact of long-term deficits on the health of the economy and on future generations, and to use limited resources efficiently and effectively. However, this important goal must not be achieved at the expense of the dignity of poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad.”
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/sequester-letter-house-2012-11-13.pdf
Bishops Join Catholic Relief Services, National Catholic Rural Life Conference In Voicing Hopes And Concerns On Farm Bill
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), along with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, expressed their concerns for the House Committee on Agriculture’s proposed version of the Farm Bill in a July 10 letter to Representatives Frank D. Lucas and Collin Peterson, the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Committee on Agriculture.
A just Farm Bill “cannot rely on disproportionate cuts to essential services for hungry, poor and vulnerable people,” wrote Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, Carolyn Y. Woo, CRS president, and James F. Ennis, executive director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. They affirmed the need to protect programs that “feed poor and vulnerable people, serve small and moderate-sized family farms, promote stewardship of creation and help rural communities both at home and abroad prosper.”
Bishops Blaire and Pates chair the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the Committee on International Justice and Peace, respectively.
The letter highlighted positive elements in the Committee’s Farm Bill proposal to support international food aid to the poorest countries and to increase funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which will help churches and other charities serve hungry people. The letter expressed concern over more than $16 billion in proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), stating, “To cut programs that feed hungry people in the midst of economic turmoil is unjustified and wrong.”
The letter called a proposal to eliminate direct payments in farm subsidies “a positive step” but said crop insurance should be targeted to help small and medium sized farmers over larger industrial agriculture.
Full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/agriculture/upload/Joint-House-Ag-Comm-Farm-Bill-Ltr-2012-07-10.pdf
WASHINGTON—Congress should assess every budget decision by how it reflects the shared responsibility of the government and other institutions to protect human life and dignity, especially of the poor and vulnerable, said the bishop who chairs the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in a May 8 letter to the House of Representatives.
“The Catholic bishops of the United States recognize the serious deficits our country faces, and we acknowledge that Congress must make difficult decisions about how to allocate burdens and sacrifices and balance resources and needs,” wrote Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, as the House prepared to vote on a reconciliation package for the 2013 budget. “However, deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility efforts must protect and not undermine the needs of poor and vulnerable people. The proposed cuts to programs in the budget reconciliation fail this basic moral test.”
Bishop Blaire singled out an “unfair” proposal to change the Child Tax Credit to exclude children of immigrant families, “the large majority of whom are American citizens,” proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) that would affect all poor families and be “a direct threat to their human dignity,” and the cutting of the Social Services Block Grant, “an important source of funding for programs throughout the country” that serve “the homeless, the elderly, people with disabilities, children living in poverty, and abuse victims.”
The full text of Bishop Blaire’s letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/reconciliation-letter-to-house-2012-05-08.pdf
WASHINGTON—As Congress began working on the FY 2013 budget and spending bills this week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) wrote several letters that repeated and reinforced the bishops’ ongoing call to create a “circle of protection” around poor and vulnerable people and programs that meet their basic needs and protect their lives and dignity. The bishops’ message calls on Congress and the Administration to protect essential help for poor families and vulnerable children and to put the poor first in budget priorities. The bishops’ letters oppose measures that reduce resources for essential safety net programs.
In the letters, Bishops Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, and Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairmen of the Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, respectively, urged Congress to resist proposed cuts in hunger and nutrition programs at home and abroad saying that “a just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons.”
On April 4, Bishop Blaire cautioned that “at a time when the need for assistance from [affordable housing] programs is growing, cutting funds for them could cause thousands of individuals and families to lose their housing and worsen the hardship of thousands more in need of affordable housing.” He also reminded Congress that the Catholic community is one of the largest private, nonprofit providers of affordable housing in the country and is deeply involved in meeting the health housing and nutrition needs of families across the nation.
Bishops Blaire and Pates reaffirmed the “moral criteria to guide these difficult budget decisions” outlined in their March 6 budget letter:
- Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.
- A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.
- 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…
Just solutions, however, must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.
In April 16 and April 17 letters to the House Agriculture Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee addressing cuts required by the budget resolution, Bishop Blaire said “The House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.” Bishop Blaire also wrote that cuts to nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP- food stamps) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) will hurt hungry children, poor families, low-income workers and other vulnerable people. Additionally, he wrote that if cuts to the federal budget need to be made, savings should first be found in programs that target more affluent and powerful interests.
The agricultural spending bill letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/hunger-food-nutrition/upload/Letter-to-House-Committee-on-Agriculture-2012-04-16.pdf
The SNAP/food stamps letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/hunger-food-nutrition/upload/Joint-Letter-to-Senate-2012-04-16.pdf
The Child Tax Credit letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/poverty/domestic/upload/Letter-to-House-Ways-and-Means-on-CTC-2012-04-17.pdf
The March 6 letter on the federal budget is available at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Letter-to-Congress-Federal-Budget-2012-03-06.pdf
Archbishop Dolan Asks Nation’s Clergy To Preach On Poverty, Educate And Advocate For Poor And Jobless
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), urged bishops and other Catholic clergy nationwide to bring the issue of poverty into their homilies.
He also underscored the need for educational and advocacy efforts on behalf of the poor and jobless.
Archbishop Dolan made the appeal in a September 15 letter to the nation’s bishops at the urging of the USCCB Administrative Committee. The Committee oversees USCCB work between plenary sessions and met in Washington, September 13-14.
“Widespread unemployment, underemployment and pervasive poverty are diminishing human lives, undermining human dignity, and hurting children and families,” he wrote. “I hope we can use our opportunities as pastors, teachers, and leaders to focus public attention and priority on the scandal of so much poverty and so many without work in our society.” The entire letter can be found at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/economic-justice-economy/letter-to-bishops-on-economic-situation.cfm
Archbishop Dolan added, “Sixteen million of our children (almost one out of four) are growing up poor.”
“It is especially disheartening that African-Americans and Hispanics live with unemployment and poverty at far higher rates than others. Immigrant workers are especially vulnerable to exploitation and unfair treatment. These realities contradict our national pledge of ‘liberty and justice for all,’” he said. “They also contradict the consistent teaching of our Church. Our Catholic tradition begins with respect for life and the dignity of all, requires a priority concern for poor and vulnerable people, reflects the ties and bonds of solidarity, respects the mutual relationships of subsidiarity, and promotes the dignity of work and protection for workers.”
Bishop Blaire Reflects On The Human Costs And Moral Challenges Of A Broken Economy In U.S. Bishops’ Labor Day Statement
The National Catholic Rural Life Conference is offering a new educational resource titled “Food Security and Economic Justice: A Faith-Based Study Guide on Poverty and Hunger.” The faith-based study guide and companion leader’s guide applies Catholic social teaching to the problems of hunger and poverty in a world of abundance, and how we can act to resolve this contradiction. The Food Security guide is now available online at NCRLC’s website.