Archbishop Dolan Asks Bishops to Speak Out on the Economic Crisis
“Widespread unemployment, underemployment and pervasive poverty are diminishing human lives, undermining human dignity, and hurting children and families,” the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, said in a Sept. 15 letter to all U.S. bishops.
The letter came in the wake of a U.S. Census Bureau report showing that median household incomes declined in 2010, while the poverty rate rose. The report, showing that some 46 million Americans lived in poverty last year, was released just as the Sept. 13-14 meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Administrative Committee got under way in Washington.
The committee discussed how best to respond to the “urgent pastoral challenge” reflected in the Census Bureau report, Archbishop Dolan said. The committee asked him to write to the nation’s bishops, asking them to do all they can “to lift up the human, moral and spiritual dimensions of the ongoing economic crisis.”
The bishops’ conference will provide resources to bishops, diocesan staffs and other leaders “for preaching, educating the faithful and advocating on behalf of the poor and jobless,” Archbishop Dolan said. 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.”
“Christ’s love calls us to care for those left behind in this broken economy,” said the archbishop.
Last week in this space I discussed the Census Bureau report and why its findings so greatly concern church leaders. Declining household incomes, increased poverty and unemployment are considered moral matters, I wrote, “and not only because they involve human survival needs” for couples, families and others, but because in the face of such problems people “often find over time that their hope in the future diminishes.”
The current “economic turmoil” is taking a “terrible toll” on families and communities, Archbishop Dolan wrote. In this atmosphere of unemployment and poverty, the common good, economic security and individual initiative are placed at risk, he suggested. He insisted that “the best way out of poverty is to work at a living wage.”
Archbishop Dolan called it “especially disheartening” to know that “African-Americans and Hispanics live with unemployment and poverty at far higher rates than others.” Immigrant workers, he continued, “are especially vulnerable to exploitation and unfair treatment.”
Those realities contradict not only the “national pledge of ‘liberty and justice for all,’” but the church’s “consistent teaching” too, he said.
He noted also that “16 million of our children (almost one out of four) are growing up poor.”
Yet, the present moment is not the time to give in to discouragement, Archbishop Dolan concluded. He invited people to view this moment as “a time for faith, hope and love.” Faith, he explained, offers “moral principles to guide us,” while “Christian hope gives us strength.”