Religious leaders decry rhetoric against poor people

October 3, 2012 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Charging that “there is too much finger pointing and not enough joining hands,” New York City’s two most prominent Catholic Church leaders decried what they termed is political rhetoric against the poor.

In a move timed to coincide with the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul, the celebration in tribute to the patron saint of charity, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, leader of the Diocese of Brooklyn, and Timothy Cardinal Dolan, leader of the Archdiocese of New York, issued a joint statement on Sept. 27 in which they came out against any cuts in government aid to the underprivileged and called for a more civil discourse in the political arena.

“Government programs provide enormous support to poor Americans.  In addition generous Americans contribute billions to charities each year.  And so there is much to be grateful for,” the joint statement reads.

But the Catholic leaders also stressed that acts of charity by organizations and individuals are not enough to insure that needy families can live a good quality of life.

“Even with the generosity of the American people, and the work of groups like the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and so many others, much more needs to be done, and not just by private charity.  The government must continue to play its part as well,” DiMarzio and Dolan stated.

While the statement did not mention either President Barack Obama or Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by name, it could be interpreted as a warning from the Catholic leaders to the candidates not to cut funding to the poor.

The two religious leaders stated that they are troubled and disheartened by political talk about the underprivileged. “Too much rhetoric in the country portrays poor people in a very negative way,” the men stated.

“There is too much finger pointing and not enough joining hands.  Solidarity is critical to ensure the dignity of all,” the leaders stated.

In their joint statement,  DiMarzio and Dolan pointed to troubling statistics on unemployment and poverty rates in New York. Both Brooklyn and the Bronx (which is part of the Archdiocese of New York) have unemployment above 13 percent, according to the New York Times. Twenty-one percent of New York City residents live below the poverty line and more than 1 million New Yorkers rely on food stamps to fee their families.

The statistics “sadly remind that today the poor do need a champion,” the DiMarzio and Dolan stated.

“As the church celebrates the feast of St. Vincent DePaul, we affirm that the poor must receive our special attention to ensure that they have basic necessities of life,” the religious leaders stated.

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