Bishops: Congress has ‘moral obligation’ to unemployed
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a letter today, through the chairman of its Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, telling members of Congress that they have a “moral obligation” to help unemployed workers. In urging that unemployment insurance be extended, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire framed the issue in terms of the right to life. He quoted Pope John Paul II’s 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens:
The obligation to provide unemployment benefits, that is to say, the duty to make suitable grants indispensable for the subsistence of unemployed workers and their families, is a duty springing from the fundamental principle of … the right to life and subsistence.
The letter comes at a time when many members of the House GOP majority are reluctant to extend unemployment, arguing that the benefits encourage people not to work. The House GOP leadership introduced a measure on Friday that would eliminate billions of dollars in benefits to the long-term unemployed by reducing the maximum eligibility from from 99 weeks to 59 weeks. It also opens the way for drug testing of the unemployed.
Once again, the bishops are prodding conservative Republicans in the House toward their “moral obligation” to the poor, telling them that economic justice is a right-to-life issue. Last May, Rep. Paul Ryan responded to another critique from Bishop Blaire by citing John Paul’s writings on welfare dependency. Now, Bishop Blaire has returned the favor with a relevant quote of his own from the late pope.