Trump’s Budget Cuts Target the Poor and Vulnerable

via the USCCB:

Earlier today, President Trump unveiled a budget plan that calls for a sharp increase in military and immigration enforcement spending and stark cuts across much of the rest of the government including the elimination of dozens of long-standing federal programs that assist the poor and most vulnerable among us….

The cuts could represent the widest swath of reductions in federal programs since the drawdown after World War II.  Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, emphasizes the moral imperatives involved in such decisions and expresses concerns about their impact on the nation’s poor and vulnerable….

“The proposed sharp increases in defense and immigration enforcement spending, coupled with severe reductions to non-defense spending for the poor, is profoundly troubling.  Such spending reductions would have an impact on the vulnerable in every state. Crucial programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides critical nutrition assistance to hungry people, would suffer from deep cuts, and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which gives states and cities more flexibility in how they combat poverty, could be eliminated.  When defense spending, which already exceeds that of the next eight nations combined, is receiving a large increase in funds, it is hard to reconcile the significant cuts that are being made to crucial services such as health care, nutrition, income security and anti-poverty programs.”

Pope Francis Gives Trump Laudato Si, as Big Climate Decision Looms

via Margaret Talev and Lorenzo Totaro:

Pope Francis joined an international chorus urging Donald Trump to meet U.S. commitments on climate change in talks at the Vatican Wednesday.

Francis gave the U.S. president a copy of his 2015 encyclical calling for urgent, drastic cuts in fossil-fuel emissions after a half-hour meeting in his private study.

Francis’s choice of gift suggests he is adding his voice to those pressing Trump not to renege on the Paris accord, which is the cornerstone of global efforts to limit climate change. The Vatican said in a statement that the talks focused on international affairs and the promotion of peace, with particular emphasis on health care, education and immigration.

“Thank you, thank you,” Trump told Francis as they shook hands after the meeting. “I won’t forget what you said.”…

Members of the Trump administration have been deadlocked over whether the U.S. should uphold the pact, brokered by nearly 200 nations in 2015. Leaders from Germany, China and other nations have pushed for America to stay.

Can Catholic Theology Thrive at a Public University?

Millennial writer Nichole Flores has a new article at America:

Moving from Saint Anselm’s college to a public university, I was confronted with questions about how I would teach the Catholic theological tradition in an institution founded, in part, to keep theology on the margins of academic discourse. Thomas Jefferson gave architectural representation to this commitment by replacing the chapel typically located at the center of universities with a library housed inside of the gleaming Rotunda. I faced a barrage of questions from my former colleagues: Why would a Catholic theologian want to work in such an environment? Is it possible to translate the richness of the Catholic tradition without transgressing the boundary between church and state? How can you shed light on the Catholic tradition without stating anything as truth?

I shared their concerns: Could I really teach theology, in its confessional fullness, at a public university?…

But while theologians working in the public university face unique challenges, I have also found they are uniquely positioned to articulate a public theology that can renew the church’s engagement with a religiously and politically diverse world. In a public university, the tradition is exposed to new lines of inquiry and criticism on a daily basis, illuminating new questions and seeing enduring ones in a new light. For example, the concept of human dignity in Catholic theology is robustly communal; human beings are created in the image of a specifically Trinitarian God. Arguing this idea in the public university, one is likely to receive opposition from several religious and philosophical traditions with more individualistic accounts of human identity. In the context of respectful and collegial dialogue, however, this conflict generates an opportunity ask important questions about one’s own tradition and the traditions of others. Does Catholic theology say enough about personal faith and individual rights? Do more individual-centered traditions say enough about social obligations or the necessity of a common good?

And as students bring their perspectives to bear on Catholicism, our theological tradition offers them essential resources for engaged citizenship in the 21st century. Catholic theology offers distinct and identifiable definitions of concepts like dignity, solidarity and mercy. As a global religion with adherents across the world from all walks of life, Catholicism offers a distinctive perspective on our common humanity and the necessity of justice and solidarity for the sake of societal flourishing.

You can read the full article here.

The Case for a Consistent Ethic of Solidarity

In Commonweal, Cardinal Blase Cupich discusses the legacy of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s consistent ethic of life approach and outlines his views of a consistent ethic of solidarity:

…Catholic social teaching would not and could not be fitted into the partisan political framework that governs American public life, then or now.

Yet this also explains the hostility to the consistent-ethic-of-life approach. It asserts that the integrity of Catholic social teaching cannot be contoured to political divides. It asserts that Catholics are called to allegiance to their faith before allegiance to their partisan worldview. And it asserts that the integrity of Catholic teaching must not be undermined by diminishing the importance of key social teachings in political life, even to advance important political goals….

Let me now offer some examples of what an ethic of solidarity consistently applied to the range of issues of our day looks like. The principle of solidarity would critique a narrow approach to the economy that uses a one-dimensional measure of the economic growth of a nation, singularly defined by profits, that promotes policies that maximize the freedom of markets and individual choice, and that believes that market forces left to themselves are the best—indeed, the only—arbiters of economic progress. This narrow approach has produced “an economy that kills,” as Pope Francis has said. In its place, a consistent ethic of solidarity would argue that inclusion and economic security for all are the measures of economic health and the criteria for economic decision-making. Solidarity produces the kind of social-market economy that John Paul II advocated, which involves, as Pope Francis noted, passing from a liquid economy “directed at revenue profiting from speculation and lending at interest, to a social economy that invests in persons creating jobs and providing training.”

Solidarity also challenges a transactional approach to international relations. I have already quoted from John Paul II’s Sollicitudo rei socialis, which called world leaders to recognize the interdependence of all members of the human family and to promote a solidarity that serves peace and human development and unites rich and poor in a relationship that lifts up the most vulnerable….

Surveys show that if you ask the average American how much of our federal budget is spent on international assistance, they answer between 20 and 25 percent. If you ask them, how much the U.S. should spend, they say 10 percent. When they find out that non-military international aid is less than 1 percent, they are incredulous. What would it mean if funding levels actually reflected the values average Americans say they want embodied in our government expenditures?…

The number of abortions has gone down significantly in the United States, but the violence of abortion continues to haunt our society, and there are new pressures to require cooperation with what we believe is the taking of innocent human life. Our nation is still divided about whether decent healthcare is a human right or a commodity that depends on personal resources. In some states assisted suicide is advocated, in the knowledge that the pressures to end life will probably be more severe on the poor, the isolated, those with disabilities, and those without access to palliative care. The question of national priorities continues to haunt us as leaders advocate steep increases in military spending, renewed investment in nuclear arms, and cuts in the safety net at home and in diplomacy and development around the world. And so, again, no one should be surprised if voices are raised in opposition to an ethic of solidarity, for when consistently applied, it will make demands on us all.

You can read the full article here.