The former head of the US bishops decried President Trump’s budget plan, claiming its cuts to social services conflict with both the Catholic faith and American principles.
“Whether through Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps or foreign aid, our nation has recognized that our worth is judged by how we treat the most vulnerable among us,” Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky said in a May 24 article published by Courier-Journal.
“The concept is shared by many religions and has become part of the ethos of the United States.”
President Trump issued 2018’s budget proposal, “The New Foundation for American Greatness,” on Tuesday. The proposal would defund many aid programs benefiting the poor, the environment, and the foreign aid, drawing outcry from organizations like Catholic Charities and Catholic relief services.
The budget proposes 4.1 trillion dollars for 2018, with budget cuts expected to affect nearly $19 billion in global aid according to Reuters.
Catholic leaders have applauded that federal funding will be redirected from Planned Parenthood to women’s health centers that do not perform abortions. But they lament the decrease in funding to US charitable programs.
“Our church has always said that we fulfill our responsibility to the poor not only through personal charity, but also through our support for just governmental policies,” Archbishop Kurtz said.
“The work of these agencies to serve the most vulnerable people depends on both private contributions and public support.”
Archbishop Kurtz, who served as president of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference from 2013-2016, discussed the benefits of foreign aid, especially to schools which provide both food and education.
“Right now in many developing countries, hundreds of thousands of kids get a nutritional meal every day at school … Sometimes that’s the reason they go to school. It’s a win-win situation: They get fed, and they get educated. They benefit. Their country benefits.”
He continued to give the example of Thomas Awiapo, who went to school solely because he was hungry. Receiving an education, he now works at Catholic Relief Services providing similar relief to other children.
After his father died, Awiapo was forced to live with his extended family. The family was already struggling with food, including family members who died from malnutrition. He then saw his friend returning from school with sorghum, a grain often used to feed US cattle. Attending school, he worked was able to receive food and education, and eventually he received his master’s in public administration.
The programs not only work, said the archbishop, but are part of U.S. history and serve to affirm the inherit dignity of the person. He expressed hopes that Congress would consider this and reject the proposal.
The budget cut would affect both Catholic Relief Services, an international aid program established in 1943, and Catholic Charities, a national relief program established in 1910. The programs rely on funding from private and public donations.
A budget cut for the next 10 years will decrease funding to national welfare programs by over $270 billion and $72 billion to disability programs in order to prepare for the increase in national defense.
Included in the proposal is an additional $54 billion to US military funding and $2.7 billion to immigration control. Military funding will have a total of $639 billion. Over $44 billion will go towards the Department of Homeland Security and nearly $28 billion to the Department of Justice.