Moral integrity demands social justice

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Most human beings share a deep concern for the well-being of society’s most vulnerable members, particularly the young. Accordingly, Democrats and Republicans agree that providing protection and care for needy children is an appropriate function of the government. However, there are disagreements about which laws and policies are appropriate methods for accomplishing this universally accepted goal.

Democrats support both strong social programs and a woman’s right to decide when an abortion is in the best interest of her family. Republicans oppose both social spending and abortion rights. For a member of the Roman Catholic Church, neither party has the desired combination of pro-life and economically just policies. On these issues, the positions of Democrats have a higher moral and logical consistency, and thus more effectively serve the interests of the children who need help the most.

For more than 100 years, popes have supported labor movements and political policies designed to improve the plight of the poor and create a more equitable distribution of wealth in capitalist societies. These pursuits have not always been appreciated, and many Catholics have been targets of enmity and violence. In the words of Archbishop Hélder Câmara, “When I feed the poor they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.”

According to Feeding America, more than 3 million children live in U.S. households that regularly endure hunger, skipped meals and a shortage of nutritional food. Severe financial troubles are also hitting public education, and the situation will continue to get worse if economic stimulus funds continue to be diverted elsewhere. These are tragedies even in strictly economic terms. Investing in children makes financial sense because research has shown that kids who go without proper nutrition, medical care or education end up earning less and contributing less to society than their peers. Refusing to invest in the people who will become the future of our economy is not only immoral, it’s illogical.

Our president’s once aggressive campaign for bottom-up economic improvements has been largely derailed by his zealous ideological opponents, who call President Barack Obama a radical socialist and deem his campaign for social justice a threat to the most important values of our country. But if we are not dedicated to helping the poor and their children, then what values do we have? How long can our nation pray at the golden altar of supply-side economics and ignore the ancient call from religion to treat the lowliest among us with love and generosity?

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that economic sacrifice to benefit the poor is one of the most sacred duties of the righteous. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “We cannot remain passive before certain processes of globalization which not infrequently increase the gap between rich and poor worldwide. We must denounce those who squander the earth’s riches, provoking inequalities that cry out to heaven.”

Republicans who truly wish to serve God and their country should look deep inside themselves and decide if they are truly pro-life and pro-children, or only when it is convenient and inexpensive. Although I don’t agree with the Catholic Church denying the right of parents to limit the size of their families using over-the-counter birth control, I respect it because it is accompanied by an unwavering dedication to the promotion of social justice. It is very easy for Republicans to picket with condescending pro-life signs and self-righteously declare their moral superiority and indignation to the world. It is not nearly so easy for them to willingly accept higher taxes, smaller houses, less expensive cars and less exotic vacations. Republicans should choose the more difficult path and admit that there is nothing moral or logical in forcing a woman to have a baby she cannot support and then abandoning them to poverty.

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