Archbishop Schnurr urges protecting programs for poor in fiscal cliff negotiations

CINCINNATI - Cincinnati's archbishop and the area's 11 Catholic human services agencies are joining a nationwide push that urges government leaders to establish a "circle of protection" in federal budget negotiations around programs that help the poor.

President Obama is negotiating with House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester) on a deal to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff."

Unless a deal is reached, all Bush-era tax cuts will expire in January, and there also will be across-the-board reductions to discretionary federal spending – which includes defense and social services.

Cuts totaling $110 billion per year will be applied from 2013 to 2022, split evenly, or $55 billion each, between defense and non-defense discretionary spending.

Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr noted the area's Catholic human service agencies served more than 415,000 people last year, totaling more than $90 million in assistance "to those whom Jesus Christ commands us to serve."

Schnurr's effort is part of a coordinated campaign by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bishops have stated that it is in the nation's best interest to address the impact of long-term deficits on the health of the economy, but the goal must not be achieved "at the expense of the dignity of the poor and vulnerable at home and abroad."

Regional Catholic agencies issued a statement cautioning, "All of our agencies together, even in conjunction with the many other secular and faith-based agencies in our communities, cannot meet the material needs of everyone."

It continued, "Responding to such challenges requires both unwavering personal and social responsibility.  Thus, we conduct our ministries in partnership with essential government programs that provide a reasonable safety net to those in crisis while they work to get back on their feet."

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati is the 38th largest Catholic diocese in the nation, with almost 500,000 Catholics, and has the seventh largest network of Catholic schools in terms of enrollment.

The 19-county territory includes 214 parishes and 114 Catholic primary and secondary schools.

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