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A Nun and a Policy Analyst Discuss the House Proposed Budget and Catholic Social teaching

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Amelia Kegan (left) and Sister Mary Margaret Kimmins (right) together at the Bread for the World Washington, DC office. Photo by Jeannie Choi.

At Bread for the World, we employ a diverse group of individuals from various backgrounds. Often, this creates cause for robust dialogue on current events. We thought we’d let you  peek into one of these very exchanges – this time between Amelia Kegan, senior policy analyst in our government relations department, and Sister Margaret Mary Kimmins, OSF who manages Bread’s relations with Catholic churches in our church relations department. The two discussed the recent comments made by Rep. Paul Ryan about the House proposed budget, Catholic social teaching, and its implications on U.S. budget policy.

Check out their exchange below, and weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments section!

Amelia: Last month, the House of Representatives passed a budget resolution, and its author, Congressman Ryan, recently spoke about how that budget fits with Catholic social teaching. At Bread, we’ve been pretty critical of that budget because it has some fairly extreme cuts to programs to poor and vulnerable populations and fails to create a circle of protection around those programs. Sister Margaret, how does Catholic social teaching inform your view of this budget? How and why is it different from Chairman Ryan’s view?

Sister Margaret Mary: Catholic social teaching is integral to how we act on our values and on our mission. One of the basic principles of Catholic social teaching is the principle of human dignity. Every person, regardless of race, sex, age, religion, health, or other differences is worthy of respect. It’s not what you do or what you have that establishes this respect. It’s simply by being human that establishes this dignity. It’s the Catholic view that human dignity is not a means. It’s always an end. So we don’t separate any group from what they need to live.

Amelia: So, how does the House proposed budget violate some of the basic concepts of Catholic social teaching?

Sister Margaret Mary: There are two significant pieces of Catholic social teaching: charity and justice. Everyone is deserving of both. In the House passed budget, it explains the concept of charity without the concept of justice. Neither one — charity or justice — is the total responsibility of the church. This budget seems to put everything of the charity on the churches.

Congressman Ryan talks about subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is certainly a part of Catholic social teaching that teaches us how we need to act. But solidarity is being at one with all of humanity, and needs to go hand-in-hand with Catholic social teaching. That’s the principle of human equality, and is part of what we teach our children—to be fair.

Amelia: Should our governmental leaders take cues from Catholic Social teaching when they are not even Catholics?

Sister Margaret Mary: Catholic social teaching is for everyone. It comes from scripture and tradition, but it’s broader than that. Fairness and human dignity are values that everyone has; they’re not exclusively Catholic. Catholic social teaching shows us that each one of us is sacred. We carry the spirit of Jesus within us. The principle of the common good requires establishing social structures that preserve the good of the community. Absence of any concern for or sensitivity of the common good is a sure sign of a society in need of help.

Some in Congress talk about how programs like SNAP (formerly food stamps), unemployment insurance, the EITC, and WIC other similar programs create government dependence, but a community is interdependent. We’re not looking at independence or dependence. We’re related to each other and interdependent in the human community. In this budget, the House of Representatives seems to be legislating for some small percentage of abuse. We shouldn’t be legislating for abuse; it’s morally wrong. We should be legislating for dignity.

Amelia: At Bread, we recognize that our long-term deficit situation is of serious concern. Congress must put the country on a fiscally sustainable path. Those in Congress who support the House passed budget argue that these cuts are necessary to address our deficits, while we at Bread have argued for a more balanced approach. What does the Catholic faith have to teach us about these types of decisions?

Sister Margaret Mary: Catholic Social teaching includes the principle of preferential treatment for the poor and vulnerable, and we must adhere to that principle if the good of all is to prevail. We are called to political responsibility as faithful citizens.

What do you think about these decisions, Amelia?

Amelia: Most economists and most in Congress agree about the need to address our long-term deficits and debt and that doing so will require some very tough decisions. However, whether to cut programs for the poor should not be a tough decision. I’m mystified that we’re even having these conversations about whether we should cut SNAP by $133 billion and potentially throw 8 to 10 million people off the program. I’m amazed that when the House Agriculture Committee is asked to find an additional $33 billion in savings, they take every penny of it from SNAP. I’m astounded that the Ways and Means Committee just passed recommendations that would mean one million families could no longer claim the Child Tax Credit, affecting millions of children primarily in low-income immigrant families. And we’re hearing all of these attacks upon poor and vulnerable families struggling to put food on the table at a time when we have 2.8 million children living on less than $2 a day. I often ask myself, how can this be? How can we amplify the level of outrage about the fact that these cuts are even on the table?

Sister Margaret Mary: I agree with you. I would like Congress to take 30 minutes or an hour of quiet and imagine having little or no access to food or health care or transportation, education, housing. If you don’t have access to what you need to live in dignity and if you don’t have access to the funds that enable you to live, it’s frightening. What we’re lacking is imagination to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes. How many people have said to members of Congress, this is not right? We have a poverty of imagination. We have to act together in this. We have to act together in faith.

Amelia: Thanks for this conversation, Sister Margaret.

Sister Margaret Mary: My pleasure!

Amelia Kegan is senior policy advisor at Bread for the World, and Sister Margaret Mary Kimmins, OSF is Catholic Church relations person at Bread for the World.

 

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Comments

I am honored to have met Sister Margaret and share her comments about Catholic social teachings. How can we put in perspective that amid all this technological prosperity, we have children that go to bed hungry? If we were as agressive in declaring war against hunger as we are fighting in other countries, we could eliminate hunger in the world!. Our compassion and priorities at a national and international level are skewed. There is something anyone can do, pray and let your voice be heard anytime you can.

RE: APPLICATION FOR PARTNERSHIP, FINANCIAL, MATERIAL SUPPORT AND VOLUNTEER


Dear Friend

On behalf of Care for African Kids (CFAK), management and staff
allow me to introduce to you our organization, it was established in
2008 with 4 children in our late beloved father estate in Kampala
Uganda E-Africa with support of David and Pool and now we directly
take care of 165 children at the orphanage center in Wakiso, we are
conducting health and education programs at the orphanage center for
empowering and improvement of child care (Vulnerable people we take
care of are those affected and infected with HIV/AIDS, orphans,
widows, youth, disabled and the elderly) to attain sustainable live
hoods development through accessing basic needs, CFAK also aims at
preventing child abuse and violence, the spread of HIV/AIDS and
mitigate in CFAK Constitution. CFAK is a Non-Government Organization
(NGO) registered as a Company Limited by guarantee without Share
capital under the laws of Uganda, with certificate of incorporation
and CBO. This enable individuals and communities to provide support
towards children`s shelter, education, medication, clothing and food
needs.

The purpose of writing to you is to request you kindly to partner with
CFAK and seek for assistance for the program mes above and
implementation of various projects in order to achieve our objectives
and goals of fair and developed world we started for by empowering the
vulnerable groups and rural regions.
We are looking forward for your favorable consideration in which way
possible even if it is by spreading news about us, these people are
suffering yet they did nothing wrong to live a bad life and to us it
is just luck to be what we are, nothing good we did to deserve it .
Here at the Orphanage center we love you and pray for you day and
night as we expect you to visit us and see what your help has done in
our life soon.

I contacted Sam Edwards CEO of One Voice For the Kids and who is
organizing Worldwide Peace full protest of which we are going to be
part of.

Yours faithfull
Robert Pool
Director
CARE FOR AFRICAN KIDS (CFAK)
P O BOX 26489 KAMPALA UGANDA E-AFRICA
Email: [email protected]
WEB: www.careforafricankids.org
www.careforafricankidsuganda.weebly.com

OUR PARTNERS:

1.Global giving (America)

2.Lift the children (Canada)

3.Global unity harmony (UK)

4.One Voice for the Kids (UK)

5 Local Partners (Uganda)

6.Loving catholics network (USA)

"robust dialogue"? That would have been legitimate "dialogue" if Rep. Ryan had been included in the conversation.

I believe that the Holy Spirit can work in Paul Ryan as well as Sister Margeret and Ms Kegan. I think it healthy for all of us to ponder that so long as we can expose facts and express opinion we "should let our voice be heard". We might best resist questioning elected official's motives, such as the "absence of concern for...the common good", when elected and representing a people.

I'm not sure we should be should be "legislating for dignity", as much as not allowing government to discourage it.

And as we continue our efforts to "amplify the level of outrage about the fact that these cuts are even on the table?", have we considered that the pool that we draw that water to refresh, may indeed be unsustainable, and even if sustained by some miraculous economic recovery, already promised to help some other segment of people in need?


Thank you Sr. Margaret for being a spokesperson for so many of us Catholics. I also agree with Sara Kelly's post on April 26th. Our voices need to be heard.

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