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John and Maureen Sheehan: Catholic values and US budget

• Every budget decision should be assessed by whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.

• A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.

• Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times.

The bishops’ letter states that the House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.

Our local church leaders have spoken out strongly on artificial contraception and the Death with Dignity Act, but have chosen to avoid talking about how our political leaders treat the poor.

Despite these clear moral guidelines, former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has been pushing a federal budget which will drive the poor deeper into poverty. Former Gov. Mitt Romney agrees with the Ryan budget, which includes $5.3 trillion in non-defense budget cuts over the next decade. Sixty-two percent of his proposed cuts come from programs assisting people of low incomes.

Ryan says his proposed cuts are based on his Catholic faith and Catholic social teaching.

But the Georgetown University faculty has challenged the Ryan budget, saying that he misuses Catholic social teaching to justify his proposals. They criticize Ryan’s “continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few.”

The Georgetown faculty presented Ryan with a copy of “The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” with a letter stating, “Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love.”

Maureen and John Sheehan live in Southampton.

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