There has been communications problems of late between the Vatican, bishops of the United States and the various orders of religious women in the country. Most of us are very familiar about that and it is certainly regrettable when there is a lack of harmony within the community of faith. However, there are bright spots too.
I was very thrilled to see the bishops’ evaluation of Congressman Ryan’s proposed budget and the evaluation of NETWORK, the action arm of religious women in this country. Both of them see Ryan’s proposed budget being blisteringly hard on the poor and the vulnerable and cutting back on resources for internal development of the country and unwisely beneficial to the more wealthy members of our society. Catholic social theory has always taught that the poor always have to be our first concern. I forget which president, I think it was Harry Truman who said, “The wealthy can take care of themselves. I have to be concerned about the poor and the vulnerable in our country.” That is certainly true in keeping with general principle in Catholic social theory.
David Brooks of the New York Times recently wrote a thoughtful, and I think somewhat erroneous column, on the fact that the age of the Welfare State is over. He is certainly right about the fact that we are going through convulsive economic and social changes, but the poor and the vulnerable are still here. If we eliminate the programs that have been set up over the last fifty years to care for the needy in our society, what will happen then? Changing into one international market with less and less need for unskilled labor, we will still have a vast reservoir of people who are unable to function productively in this new economic situation. Today there are tens of millions of them. It is not likely that they will just disappear. I think that the governmental operations will have to continue doing what they have done for the last fifty years for some good time into the future.
We must travel this difficult road together.