With Maryland’s new legislative session opening today, Jan. 11,, the state’s Catholic bishops are reminding lawmakers of the devastating impact that hunger, homelessness and unemployment have on individuals and families.
In a statement released Jan. 9, the bishops ask Catholics to urge legislators to apply principles of justice to public spending.
“Loving those among us who are struggling, poor, unemployed or homeless is not merely something that we do out of the goodness of our own hearts. Rather, it is an obligation and a requirement of true justice,” they wrote.
Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly, Washington Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl and Baltimore’s Apostolic Administrator Cardinal-elect Edwin F. O’Brien all signed the joint statement called “When Did We See You Hungry?”
It was released by the Maryland Catholic Conference (MCC), which advocates for the church’s public policy positions before the state’s General Assembly and other officials.
“The principle of Catholic social teaching … instructs that we cannot wash our hands of the work of caring for the poor by simply asking the government to do it,” the bishops’ statement says. “However, the government has a crucial role to play; and part of our responsibility is to be sure that our leaders take action when they must.”
The bishops noted that Catholics, parishes and institutions such as Catholic Charities and Catholic hospitals take seriously their responsibilities “to empower and uplift those in need.”
Last year, Catholic Charities of Baltimore and Washington served more than 265,000 individuals and families.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Wilmington served 120,000 people in fiscal year 2011.
Maryland’s six Catholic hospitals in 2010 provided more than $62 million in charity care to the uninsured and underinsured.
The bishops call on Catholics to “urge our lawmakers to apply the principles of justice … [to] how the state prioritizes public spending. … Housing should be made accessible to all, including those who use rental assistance and federal housing vouchers to afford housing.”
“We must all do our part,” they wrote “and put our faith into action, remembering that we meet Christ in each encounter we have with the poor.”
Copies of the complete statement in English and Spanish may be found atwww.mdcathcon.org/bishopsstatements.
The MCC is also urging Maryland Catholics to attend Catholic Lobby Night in Annapolis on Feb. 20 to urge lawmakers to support just legislation that helps the poor.
Visit mdcathcon.org/lobbynight or call 410-269-1155 to register.
The MCC represents all three dioceses with territory in the state – the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.