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Catholic Bishops Weigh Into Budget Debate

“We strongly support restoring the Mexico City Policy against funding groups that perform or promote abortion, and denying funding to the U.N.
Population Fund.”

As Congress struggles to balance our out-of-control federal
budget, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has
officially put its oar into the debate. In an open letter to congress,
the USCCB (along with Catholic Relief Services), told federal
budget-crunchers exactly what programs they thought should be sliced
from the budget. And, (surprise surprise) they are the same programs
that we at PRI recommend cutting.

The letter was specifically addressed to the ponderously-titled
Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, which
is essentially the group of lawmakers who decide how to spend our
foreign aid dollars. In the letter, the USCCB gave a ringing
endorsement to the Mexico City Policy, the Helms Amendment, and the
Kemp-Kasten amendment, saying:

As you consider appropriations language, we strongly
support restoring the Mexico City Policy against funding groups that
perform or promote abortion, and denying funding to the U.N.
Population Fund which supports a program of coerced abortion and
involuntary sterilization in China.

It is also important to preserve the Helms Amendment, prohibiting
U.S. funding for abortion, and the Kemp-Kasten provision, prohibiting
support of organizations involved in programs of coercive abortion or
involuntary sterilization.

Why does the Catholic leadership recommend these policy adjustments
so forthrightly? Aren’t policy matters supposed to be prudential
concerns, decided by the state and left alone by the Church?

Yes and no. Obviously, the Catholic Bishops Conference has no
legislative authority. But when it comes to issues like abortion, the
Church has always taken an unequivocal stance against the practice and
has strongly opposed spending public money on it. And as such, it is
well within the Church’s rights to make public recommendations based
on these views.

Which is exactly what they did, by unequivocally supporting
legislation that restricts or prohibits the use of federal money to
fund abortion. By doing this, the Church made it abundantly clear
that, while it supports many of the activities that federal foreign
aid dollars go toward, it will never, ever bend on the issue of

That being said, the letter makes positive recommendations as
well. According to the USCCB, when not being lavished on abortion and
other destructive measures, American foreign aid funds are actually a
very good thing. As such, the budget shouldn’t simply be haphazardly
sliced, but should be trimmed in such a way that its positive programs
can continue to do their important work.

“We welcome appropriate efforts to reduce our nation’s
deficit and debt,” the letter says, “but we urge the
Subcommittee to work with other members of Congress to be fiscally
responsible in morally appropriate ways.”

And what, according to the Bishops, count as a “morally
appropriate” way to control the budget? By prioritizing the
dollars the way the Church has always requested they be prioritized:
placing the poorest, the most vulnerable, and the weakest at the head
of the line. The letter charges the Committee to “give priority
to those who are poor and vulnerable at home and abroad” and to
“cut with great care, eliminating only those expenses unrelated
to basic human needs and development.”

This is a stinging blow in the face of all of those who claim that
the Catholic Church is willing to cut an indiscriminate swathe through
American aid services, so long as abortion is kept out of the picture.
The very opposite is the case. The Church recognizes that its
commitment to taking a stand against abortion comes with a very
positive responsibility: a responsibility to provide real aid and
succor to the poor and needy. This is why the Church supports many
legitimate American aid projects.

And this is why the Church supports policies like the Mexico City
Policy and others that protect life from conception. We couldn’t agree
more. Stand with us, and the Catholic Bishops. Sign
our petition
to bring back the Mexico City policy.

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