Thursday, June 2, 2011

Archbishop Nienstedt: Budgeting with Common Good in Mind

Editors' Note: Despite our disagreement at times with Archbishop John Nienstedt, we appreciate his latest Catholic Spirit column in which he urges the Minnesota Legislature to consider and advocate for those who are most negatively impacted by our economic system. Following is this particular column by the Archbishop.

As I sit down to write this article, our state House and Senate stand ready to pass a budget for next year that the governor is sure to veto. The same kind of impasse is also being experienced in Washington, D.C., with no less willingness on the part of legislators to reach agreement on the fiscal year 2012 federal budget.

Obviously, both sides of the aisle face very difficult choices about how to balance needs and resources as well as how to allocate burdens and sacrifices. It is absolutely necessary for our nation to address the long-term impact of deficits on the health and stability of the economy, but how we do that is equally important.

Principles to follow

The “common good” would include such considerations as: fulfilling the demands of justice and moral obligations to future generations, controlling future debt and deficits, and protecting the lives and dignity of those who are poor and vulnerable.

Catholic moral teachings inspire the following principles that should serve as a guide for our input in discussing difficult budgetary decisions:

1) Human life and dignity: Every budget decision should be assessed as to whether or not it protects or threatens human life and the dignity of persons;

2) Priority for the poor: A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” brothers and sisters (Matthew 25). The needs of the hungry, the homeless, the disabled and the unemployed should be primary in our considerations;

3) The common good: Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all members of our society, especially families who struggle to live with dignity during difficult economic times.

Armed with these principles, we must seek to find a just framework for a budget that does not rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. Those of us who are able must be willing to make shared sacrifices, including the raising of adequate revenues to pay our bills, eliminating unnecessary military expenses, and addressing in a fair, effective and realistic way the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.

On the other hand, those who receive benefits from the commonwealth must not forget their responsibility to society in return.

Doing better

I encourage our readers to study the present issues in light of the principles set forth by our Catholic faith, and then to contact their elected representatives on both the state and federal levels, encouraging them to craft budgets that are just and fair, especially to the most vulnerable among us.

In a meeting this week with Tim Marx, our new archdiocesan CEO of Catholic Charities, I learned of another compelling reason for not fixing the budget on the backs of the poor — which is that habitual and widespread poverty is bad fiscal policy and bad economic policy.

A failure to address the basic needs in housing, food, health care as well as the need for children to begin life with a healthy start will, in the long-run, require more costs in services as well as result in reduced productivity.

I know we can do better. I pray that all parties can come together to make the right decisions to steer us on a course, as a state and as a nation, of which we can all be proud.

God love you!

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt is the 11th Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. View the Archbishop's full bio and calendar.

1 comment:

  1. There seems to be a lot of buzz around Archbishops Nienstedt’s letter to Governor Mark Dayton about the budget situation in Minnesota and the response he received from Senator David Hann. Some comments have been fair and honest, but most of them have been extremely one sided or another. First of all, to set the record straight, my political leaning is that of an asparagus. I have no political party, and I think that all politicians act pretty much the same way. When you hang out with other politicians all day long you tend to talk and act like a politician. Also, I am not pro or anti-catholic. I believe what I believe and you believe what you believe; no harm no foul. However, I do believe that different groups can learn from each other if they just take the time to listen.

    When it comes to activities at the capital, Archbishop Nienstedt represents another constituency working to gain the ear of government. Whether or not you agree with whom or what he represents is a whole different issue entirely; he represents another constituency. Now that’s not good or bad, it just is what it is. Now, the Archbishop is appealing to the government on behalf of the human services that he represents to ensure that their state dollars aren’t taken away. No problem, everyone does that it’s all part of politics and government. However, when the Archbishop writes his appeal to a democratic governor, ignores a republican held congress, and adds comments like “spending reductions, program delivery reform and increased revenue should all be on the table” he begins to walk, talk, and act like a Democrat. The Archbishop stepped across the fine line of a religious leader and stepped into the land of politics and chose to put on the robes of a democrat. So, he’ll get what he gets when someone responds like Senator Hann. Like he might have expected something else?

    However, Senator Hann isn’t clean as the proverbial bishop’s robe either. In his response to the Archbishop he reacted as any politician would react to a letter that leans toward the other side of the political aisle. He went over the top and started spouting off platitudes about “socialist fiction” and “moral claims on someone else’s property” and might have popped a blood vessel in the process (this is not confirmed at all but merely speculation on my part). However, whatever the normal political lingo that occurs at the capital between Senators and Representatives, he should never treat any citizenry the way that he treated the Archbishop, irregardless of how much he deserved it.

    The Archbishop stepped into the world of politics and got just what we would expect from politics, a instant attack on his beliefs and views; politics as usual. Senator Hann went over the top in his response to the Archbishop as any politician would. Both sides attacked this issue poorly and both sides get attacked from both sides. However, at least the rest of us can should recognize the situation for what it is instead of jumping to one side or the other and making this out to be something bigger than it is. But hopefully we can learn the lesson about the flaws in the religious side as well as the nature of politicians in all of this and work to change both sides. Oh well, all of this at least reaffirms my belief in the separation of church and state.