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Charitable giving honorable, but not the government’s duty

Photo courtesy of MCT.

A group of more than 70 Catholic university professors, priests and sisters sent a letter Wednesday to House Speaker John Boehner, calling him one of the worst in Congress at helping the poor.

It was in retaliation of Boehner’s support of budget cuts and reduction of government spending, some of which goes to welfare programs.

“From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor,” the letter read.

The letter was sent prior to Boehner’s commencement address at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

While it was directed to Boehner specifically, its message was more an example of the Catholic Church flexing its political strong arm. As a Catholic, I often prefer when this arm is sleeved.

The issue of government spending, particularly entitlement spending, often gets reduced to the concept of compassion. Lawmakers who support high levels of entitlement spending are often deemed compassionate. Those who oppose are ruthless, cold-hearted and cruel. In other words, it is noble to take money from people who have earned it and give it to those who haven’t.

However, true compassion is expressed by people who give of their money and time unprompted. Being forced to pay taxes is not compassionate. Neither is giving away other people’s money. For Catholic leaders to imply that charitable giving requires an even bigger government is not echoing the voice of God, but rather is endorsing a statement that is purely political.

It is honorable for us as human beings to give generously to those among us who need it most. It is not, however, the government’s duty to create cradle-to-grave entitlement programs on the backs of society’s earners and wealth generators.

Forging ahead on our path of uncontrollable government spending will, in the long run, do more to harm the poor than will reducing funding for some of these programs now.

Such irresponsibility is not only hurting us in the present day but is also harming the future generations that will be forced to pay for this in some form or another. This includes the unborn, which the Catholic Church rightly defends.

This certainly is a moral issue, but the message in the letter to Speaker Boehner was not written to uphold religious values. It was written to push a political agenda.

This was not the first time the Church has voiced its political opinions, however. In 2008, the Council of European Bishops, which represents Roman Catholic leaders in Europe, supported a blatantly political call to action regarding global warming. It supported an effort by the World Council of Churches to ring their bells 350 times to symbolize the 350 parts per million that marks the supposedly safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

I now urge Catholic Churches across the United States to ring their bells 14.3 trillion times to symbolize the national debt, which is another serious and, yes, moral problem facing our country.

I might even write them a letter.


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