Catholic bishops were quick to respond to Republican welfare reform proposals. In a statement to key congressional committees, Auxiliary Bishop John H. Ricard of Baltimore, chair of the U.S. Catholic Conference (USCC) Domestic Policy Committee, wrote that the USCC urges "welfare reform that attacks poverty, not poor families."
"Our society needs both more personal responsibility and broader social responsibility to reduce poverty in the United States," said the letter.
"However, private and religious efforts to serve those in need are being severely stretched. They cannot-and should not-be seen as a substitute for wise public policy that promotes effective public/private partnerships in overcoming poverty and dependency. The national government cannot simply leave to others the task of overcoming poverty which touches a fifth of our children and more than 30 million Americans of all ages," he declared.
"Our measure of welfare reform is whether it will enhance the lives and dignity of poor children and their families. Reform should serve the human needs of poor children, not just the political needs of public officials."
At their annual meeting in November, the bishops insisted that their criticism of the Republicans' welfare reform proposals is not motivated by partisan politics, but by the gospel mandate to serve the poor.
"We believe our society will be measured by how 'the least of these' are faring," Bishop Ricard said. "Welfare reform will be a clear test of our nation's values."