"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, vulnerable and at risk, without work or in poverty should come first," the six chairmen said.
They pointed out that the 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 letter said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops supports the goal of reducing future unsustainable deficits and believes the country has an obligation to address their impact on the health of the economy but that a "just framework for the federal budget cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons."
They also warned that cuts to domestic and international poverty-reducing and refugee-assisting programs would "result in millions of people being put in harm's way, denying access to life-saving and life-affirming services."
The bishops said they have devoted their efforts to addressing the "morally problematic features of health care reform while insuring that people have access to health care coverage."
They noted that the Catholic Church -- in its work across the country caring for the poor, homeless, the sick and refugees -- often partners with the government. "Our combined resources allow us to reach further and help more," they said.
The bishops urged federal lawmakers to recognize that the "moral measure of the federal budget is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless, exploited, poor, unborn or undocumented are treated."
"Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources," they said.
The letter was signed by: New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, chairman of the Committee on Communications; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace; Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education; and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration.
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