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Letter: Shared Responsibility To Protect Poor

To the Editor:

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli recently made a public complaint regarding the Catholic church’s advocacy for some of the most vulnerable in our society. He did this in his Nov. 29, 2012 speech given at the Christian Life Summit in Ashburn, Va.

I do not question Mr. Cuccinelli’s right to express his opinion regarding any matter he wishes to opine upon. However, I do question the honoring of Mr. Cuccinelli by the Catholic church and the omission of the Catholic press in bringing his critique of the church, namely the Catholic bishops in the church, to the attention of the faithful in northern Virginia.

I say this in light of his position in state government and the past honor bestowed on him by the Brent Society, a society that assures Catholics that: “The Brent Society is loyal to the Vicar of Christ, obedient to the authentic teaching magisterium of the church. . . . Our mission is to . . . promote authentic Christian life . . . ”

What is the attorney general’s complaint against the bishops? He said this: “They’ve [the Catholic bishops] helped create a culture of dependency on government, not God.” This Catholic politician recently honored by the Brent Society contends that providing a “safety net” for the impoverished and vulnerable in our society is the responsibility of the church, not the state: the church should “be the primary institution in a society that is responsible for service to the poor.”

The facts are these: One in six Americans currently lives in poverty, and one in five children. That totals about 46 million people. The household income for a family of four that is less than $22,314 is considered to be living in poverty.

From a practical perspective, it would be impossible for the Catholic church to provide a “safety net” for that many people, although the church does a stellar job in helping the poor via Catholic Charities. From a faith perspective, the attorney general is articulating a message that is not in agreement with Catholic social teaching and the authentic teachers of the faith.

As Bishop Stephen Blair noted in writing (Nov. 13, 2012) to both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, in the name of the U.S. Catholic bishops:

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

  2. A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.

  3. 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 a manner worthy of their dignity in difficult economic times.

What Bishop Blair said articulates authentic Catholic teaching. What Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said is not rooted in the Catholic social teaching tradition of the church. Mr. Cuccinelli should not be receiving recognition in the future by any group (e.g., Brent Society) affiliated with the Catholic church as someone considered “obedient to the authentic teaching magisterium of the church.”

John Horejsi

Vienna