Policy Briefs

Social Needs

November 1991

It is the position of the Catholic Church that government should give the needs of the poor and the needy special consideration.

This was stated clearly in “Economic Justice for All,” the U.S. bishops’ 1986 pastoral letter on Catholic social teaching and the U.S. economy.

“All members of society have a special obligation to the poor and vulnerable,” that document insists.

“The obligation to provide justice for all means that the poor have the single most urgent economic claim on the conscience of the nation.”

It speaks of the Church’s and of Christians’ obligation in these words:

“As followers of Christ, we are challenged to make a fundamental “option for the poor” – to speak for the voiceless, to defend the defenseless, to assess life styles, policies and social institutions in terms of their impact on the poor.

“This ‘option for the poor’ does not mean pitting one group against another, but rather strengthening the whole community by assisting those who are most vulnerable.”

It speaks of government’s obligation this way:

“Society as a whole, acting through public and private institutions, has the moral responsibility to enhance human dignity and protect human rights. This does not mean that government has the primary or exclusive role, but it does have a positive moral responsibility in
safeguarding human rights and ensuring that the minimum conditions of human dignity are met for all.”

These words provide us with a standard against which to measure budgetary retrenchments now being carried out in Iowa state government.

The cutbacks are being carried out after the 1991 Legislature and the Governor left many aspects of state government in an underfunded position. The departments of government upon which the needy are most dependent have been cut the most drastically.

Counselors should not be taken away from troubled families. Mothers and children should not find themselves homeless because depleted and demoralized staffs cannot respond to their rightful calls for help in timely fashion.

We call on the Governor and the Legislature to restore staff, funding, and programs to the levels dictated by the real needs. Our government has the means and resources to provide adequately for those among us who require our aid today so that they may have a productive tomorrow. We need legislative and gubernatorial leadership that will enable us to so act.

Treating the poor and needy the “same as everybody else” in these times is not only no excuse, but is contrary to the principles by which we seek to live. The lesson of centuries is clear–only by insuring that the most basic needs of those who must have help are met can we
maintain the health of the whole society.

The Catholic Church of Iowa pledges to renew its commitment to provide a multitude of programs to those in Iowa in need of health care, education, counseling, food, clothing and housing. We also pledge to encourage, exhort, and invite all those of the Catholic faith to offer their time, talent, and money to perform personal works of charity. But, the Church needs the full and active partnership of the State of Iowa to meet the enormous challenges we face together.

November 1991